Housing Health & Safety Repairs Grant

Housing Repairs – Repairs in Private Rented Properties

Repairs: rights and responsibilities

Reporting repairs and getting them done can cause problems between private tenants and their landlords.

Step 1 – Finding out who is responsible

Generally, you must carry out repairs which you have agreed to in your tenancy agreement.  However, by law there are certain repairs that are always the landlord’s responsibility.

As a rule, landlords are responsible for most repairs, except damage caused by tenants, or minor repairs like tap washers and electric fuses.

Landlords usually must put right the following sorts of problems:

  • The structure and exterior of your home, e.g. walls, floors, windows, doors, drains, gutters and outside pipes
  • Anything used for the supply of water; gas, electricity and sanitation, e.g. sink, bath, toilet, water pipes, water tank heaters, and water heaters, e.g. gas fire, central heating boiler
  • The property should meet minimum health and safety standards

Landlords also must make sure that every tenant is able to “quietly enjoy” their home, without discomfort and nuisance caused by disrepair.

Everything provided as part of the tenancy, i.e. fridge, chairs, cupboards, should be kept in good working order by the landlord.

Note: exactly what your landlord is responsible for will depend on your type of tenancy.  Landlords do have a right to check the condition of their properties, but a tenant must be given reasonable notice of this – at least 24 hours’ notice – and the landlord must come at an agreed time – as quickly as possible if it is an emergency.

Remember that no-one has the right to enter your home without your permission.

Step 2 – Checking what type of tenancy you have

It is always important to check your rights to stay before you contact your landlord about repairs.  This is because some tenancies can be ended quite easily.  You must consider whether the action that you take may result in your landlord asking you to leave.  Talk to a Housing Advisor about this.

Step 3 – Tell the landlord

Landlords are only liable to carry out repairs when they are aware of the problems.  It is always a good idea to give details in writing.  You should date the letter and keep a copy.  It’s a good idea to collect photos or other evidence of the disrepair or damage.

If you don’t know who your landlord is, check your tenancy agreement or ask your agent or, whoever you pay the rent to.  If this does not work contact the Housing Advice Service.  Tenants do have the right to know the name and address of their landlord.

Do not stop paying rent as a protest.

This could make it very easy for your landlord to evict you legally and may weaken your case if you need to take legal action against the landlord.

Step 4 – Contact the Environmental Health or the Housing Advice Service

Environmental Health action may include:

  • Asking your landlord to put things right if your property is in disrepair, or if there are health and safety risks such as poor means of escape in a fire, lack of fire precautions, dangerous gas appliances or leaking roof and dampness
  • Visiting your home to look at the conditions
  • Assessing properties using a risk assessment tool called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) for up to 29 prescribed hazards (e.g. damp & mould; excess cold; crowding & space; electrical hazards…)

HHSRS identifies and evaluates the potential risks to health and safety to occupants and visitors that are caused by defects or deficiencies in any dwelling.

An officer will assess how likely it is that an incident causing harm will occur, and the severity of the harm that might be caused. 

This assessment gives a score, which if over 1000 means the hazard is serious (category 1), or, if less than 1000, less serious (category 2).

For example, if a staircase is very steep, in disrepair – perhaps with some broken steps and loose or frayed carpet, with no handrails, and perhaps the hallway light does not work.  The likelihood of someone falling and injuring themselves on these stairs would be much higher than in an average house of a similar type.  If there are sharp objects such as a radiator or a glass door at the foot of the stairs, any fall could result in even more severe injury.

This could result in a high hazard rating score and therefore a category 1 hazard being identified.

If the staircase is very steep, but in reasonably good repair, with only one handrail, a fall may be less likely but still slightly higher than average, and an assessment might identify this as a category 2 hazard.

What action will we take?

It is important to understand that the Council may not always act following a hazard assessment.

Council’s have a duty to act when category 1 hazards are identified.  When the less serious, category 2 hazards are identified they do not have a duty to act, but they do have the powers to do so.

In Reading, the Council will only act on category 2 hazards in exceptional circumstances.  Such circumstances might be where the hazard score is over 500, the occupants are particularly vulnerable to the hazard(s) identified, or where there are particular local issues identified such as excess cold or entry by intruders.

Officers will usually try to deal with problems informally at first, but if enforcement action is necessary there are several options available, such as serving a notice requiring repairs to be carried out, prohibiting the use of the property or limiting the number of occupants, or serving a notice to advise of the presence of the hazard.  Emergency action will be taken where there is imminent risk to the occupiers.

In some cases, the Council can carry out the work and charge the landlord.

These processes can be quite slow as the proper legal steps need to be followed.

If the disrepair is an urgent health and safety risk, for example a dangerous gas fire, Environmental Health Officers have powers to speed up the process so that works must be done more quickly.

Housing Advice

The Housing Advice service can:

  • Check your rights to stay and your rights to have repairs carried out
  • Contact your landlord to clarify both your own and the landlord’s rights and responsibilities
  • Advice the landlord of what action you could take
  • Negotiate with your landlord on your behalf