Reporting problems and getting things fixed
The success of most tenancies will come down to the working relationship between landlord and tenant. It is important to remember that it is a professional contractual relationship and not a friendship. Most problems occur when there is a breakdown in communication. So if you are able to maintain an open and transparent working relationship you are less likely to experience problems and, if you do, they are more likely to be satisfactorily resolved.
If the landlord is failing to repair something in the property or ignoring requests to do so, you should ensure all the contact that you make is recorded in some way.
Any notification of a repair that is due should be sent in writing so it may be evidenced later down the line and you should give the landlord adequate time to arrange repairs before threatening any further action.
If the property is in an unsafe condition you can contact the local authority who have the powers to force landlords to remedy health and safety hazards.
Take a look at the section on tenant rights and responsibilities for more information.
Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
On 20 March 2019, a new law came into force to make sure that rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’, which means that they are safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 applies to all new tenancies lasting up to seven years granted on or after 20th March 2019, as well as existing tenancies that go periodic on or after the same date.
The new law is an update of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and means renters can go to the courts if a property is deemed unfit for living.
Under the new rules, your landlord is in breach of the new law if there are serious defects in any of the following areas:
- The building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
- The building is unstable
- There’s a serious problem with damp
- It has an unsafe layout
- There’s not enough natural light
- There’s not enough ventilation
- There is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
- There are problems with the drainage or the lavatories
- It’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
For more information, visit the Government’s official site.
During your tenancy, your landlord or agent should provide you with contact details including a 24-hour contact for emergencies.
Increasingly managing repairs and maintenance is done online and communicating via email is a good way to keep track of progress. Whilst it is important to get repairs completed quickly, you should also be realistic about timescales. Some repairs may not be immediate, especially if replacement parts have to be ordered, but having a contractor attend within 24 hours to diagnose the problem is not an unreasonable expectation.
Most landlords and agents will hold a set of keys in order gain access to the property for repairs (it’s also useful if you lose your keys) but you should expect them to always confirm the access with you in advance before attending and give you the option to attend should you wish. If the contractor is attending alone, make sure that they are properly vetted and are insured to be able to collect keys and have unsupervised access
Property Managers are employed as agents for the landlord and, depending on the contract that they have with a landlord, they may be limited in what they can arrange without explicit consent from the owner. Although employed by the landlord they still have a duty of care to you as the tenant and to ensure that you are kept free from any danger. Most property managers will hold some money on account to cover the cost of emergency repairs but regular maintenance will need confirmation to proceed.
Emergency repairs are generally specific to power and water and most contractors that attend to these sort of problems (power failures, major leaks and flooding) will do the minimum overnight to stem the problem and then re-attend the next day when they will cause less disruption to other residents, be working in daylight and on normal rates.
If you have an emergency you should also take what reasonable precautions you can to prevent any damage, including switching off electric or water supplies or trying to contact your neighbour if there is a leak coming from their property.
Unless specifically agreed with the landlord and agent you should not try to undertake any repair works yourself, even if you are qualified to do so. Some works may potentially cause you harm, cause additional damage to the property or possibly invalidate the landlord’s insurance. If this happens the landlord could reasonably look to you to cover the cost of the damage if they did not give consent for work to be undertaken.
Rent payment problems
If your circumstances change and you can no longer afford to make rent payments your best option is to be as transparent as possible with the landlord and agent and not assume that they won’t try to help you if they can.
Going through a legal process for rent arrears can be tough for both landlords and tenants and, if an agreeable settlement can be reached, both parties are normally better off.
If, however, the issue cannot be resolved there is a due legal process that would need to be followed and the landlord would need to secure a court order before being able to take the property back.
Complaints procedures and redress schemes
If you are in the unfortunate position of needing to make a complaint, your agent should have a published complaints process which you should follow. This will explain each of the steps you can escalate your complaint through until the process has been exhausted. In the event that your complaint remains unresolved to your satisfaction at the end of the process, you can refer your complaint to the redress scheme that the agent belongs to.
If you are dealing with your landlord directly there may not be a published complaints procedure and you should put your complaint in writing so that it is recorded. If sending a written complaint, you should include a summary of the incident, clarify why you are making a complaint, explain how you would consider the matter best resolved, what is your desired outcome and suggest a time frame in which this should be done. You should try and make the complaint as concise as possible and ideally avoid any personal, emotional or defamatory remarks.
If you are unable to resolve your complaint directly, you should speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau who may be able to help by writing on your behalf or by directing you to the relevant professional service to assist.
If the property you are renting is in Wales, you should also consider the Rent Smart Wales scheme.