Common Problems With Renting

Here's what you need to know when you have problems with your student renting.

Many students in private rented accommodation encounter problems with the condition of their accommodation or getting landlords to deal with repairs.

This page highlights what you and the landlord are responsible for and what options are open to you, if your landlord fails to deal with repairs.

What should I check first?

If you're rent furnished accommodation, your landlord must ensure that your home is fit to be lived in on the day they let it to you. This would also apply where the problem isn’t obvious when you first move in, but it becomes apparent during your tenancy. Examples of a property being unfit to live in may include:

  • Unsafe - if your rented property is deemed as unsafe
  • Infestation - if the property is infested with pests
  • Drainage - having defective drainage or sewerage systems, or an inadequate water supply

In practice, the best time to resolve any issues about repairs and the condition of a property, is before you sign the tenancy agreement. If work is required, it's best to get your landlord's agreement to this in writing.

What am I responsible for?

As a tenant, you are responsible for a number of things.

Looking after your home by using it in a tenant-like way

Using your home in a tenant like way generally means doing minor repairs yourself, keeping your home reasonably clean, not causing any damage to the property and using any fixtures and fittings properly.

Telling your landlord about the repairs that are needed

In most cases, your landlord isn’t responsible for repair work until they know about it, so it’s up to you to tell your landlord about any repairs that are needed. Reporting repairs is often a term in tenancy agreements too.

Providing access to have any repair work done

Your landlord or their agent, has the right to access your home to see what repair work is needed and to carry out the repairs. However, unless it’s an emergency, they must give you at least 24 hours' notice in writing.

Having a duty of care to your visitors

You must do what you can to make sure that your visitors and their belongings are reasonably safe when in your home. This only applies if you invited or allowed the visitor into your home.

What repair work is your landlord responsible for?

Your landlord is responsible for most repair work because the law, section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, implies it into every tenancy agreement, even if the agreement is not in writing. It means that your landlord is responsible for repairing:

  • The structure and exterior of your home, for example, the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors
  • Basins, sinks, baths, toilets and their pipework
  • Water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters

Safety in your home

Your landlord also has specific responsibilities for gas and electrical safety, furnishings and asbestos.

How quickly does the landlord have to do repairs?

Your landlord has reasonable time to carry out the work. There is no definition of what a reasonable time is, but things that can be taken into account include:

  • How serious the disrepair is
  • Whether someone is living in the property
  • The availability of replacement parts

What about appliances?

If your landlord supplied any electrical appliances, they're responsible for maintaining them and your tenancy agreement may give more information about this. You are responsible for repairing any of your own appliances. Your landlord is also responsible for ensuring that any gas appliances which they supplied are safe, for example, a fitted gas fire.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

A HMO generally covers houses divided into bedsitting rooms with shared facilities or shared houses and flats. They accommodate more than one household. If you live in an HMO, your landlord has extra legal responsibilities on fire and general safety, water supply and drainage, gas and electricity, waste disposal, and general upkeep of the HMO. Some HMOs also need a license.

What if my landlord didn't do repair work?

If your landlord told you that they'd do certain repairs or redecoration before you moved in, but didn't, it may be difficult to do anything about it. The only action you may be able to take is if the repair work falls within something that the landlord is responsible for anyway.

If you have something in writing from your landlord confirming they would do certain repairs or redecoration before you moved in, that effectively becomes a term of the tenancy. If they fail to do what they agreed to, you may be able to take action against them for breaching your tenancy agreement. However, there are some risks involved and it's best to speak to an adviser before doing anything.

What if your landlord doesn’t do anything about the repairs?

If your landlord hasn't done anything after you’ve reported the repair problem, you may decide to take other action. However, many tenants in private rented accommodation are assured shorthold tenants and can be evicted easily, after 6 months, without the landlord having to show any reason or ‘grounds’ for doing so. You should think about this before you take any action on disrepair.

Options for taking further action

The options open to students who are private rented tenants when dealing with disrepair are asking the local authority for help. If your landlord has failed to have repairs carried out, the Environmental Health department of the local authority can inspect your home. They may be able to force your landlord to take action.  If there's a statutory nuisance, that is: your home is in such a state that it's harmful to your health or is a nuisance, or there's a hazard in your home which is a risk to your health, then an inspection or an assessment by the cocuncil Environmental officer should be done.

Withholding your rent because of disrepair

This can be very risky and a certain procedure must be carefully followed if you do decide to use your rent to pay for repairs.

  • Offsetting your rent arrears because of disrepair. This is when your landlord is takes possession proceedings against you because of rent arrears, and there is disrepair in your home. You may be able to argue that the rent arrears should be off-set against the damages for disrepair. Other things you can do are:
  • Apply as homeless because of disrepair
  • Move out because of disrepair
  • Take court action because of disrepair

If you want to take further action about disrepair it's always useful to keep records and gather evidence of the repairs and any contact with your landlord. For details about moving out because of disrepair, please click here.