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Which repairs are landlords or tenants responsible for?

This page explains who is responsible for repairs in council and housing association tenancies.

What are my landlord's responsibilities?

In general, your landlord will be responsible for major repairs to the structure and installations, while you will be responsible for minor interior repairs and decoration. Your tenancy agreement should set out exactly who is responsible for what.

Your landlord is not required to fix any damage caused by you or a member of your household or guest, either accidentally or on purpose.

What condition should the property be in?

Before you move in, your landlord should check that the property is wind and watertight and fit for you to live in without endangering your health. While you are living there, it is your landlord's responsibility to ensure your home remains in this condition.

Your home may not be fit to live in if it doesn't meet a basic level of repair known as the 'tolerable standard'. Your home may not meet the tolerable standard if it:

  • has a bad problem with rising or penetrating damp
  • is not structurally stable, for example it's subsiding
  • doesn't have adequate ventilation, natural and artificial light or heating
  • doesn't have an adequate supply of fresh water
  • doesn't have a sink with hot and cold water
  • doesn't have an indoor toilet
  • doesn't have a fixed bath or shower and wash basin with hot and cold water
  • doesn't have a good drainage and sewerage system
  • doesn't have satisfactory cooking facilities (this doesn't mean your landlord has to provide you with a cooker, but there must be somewhere suitable for you to install your own cooking facilities)
  • doesn't have an adequate entrance.

What if my home isn't fit to live in?

Speak to the council immediately if you are in this situation. The council must bring your home up to standard, and you may be entitled to a reduction in your rent to compensate for the problems.

What does my landlord have to repair?

Your landlord is responsible for repairs relating to the following.

Structure and exterior

To keep your home wind and watertight, your landlord must repair damage to any part of the structure which might let in wind or rain, including:

  • the roof
  • chimneys
  • gutters and external pipes
  • walls (such as brick and plasterwork)
  • windows and doors
  • drains.

Your landlord is also responsible for repairing:

  • the TV aerial, if it is a communal aerial provided by the council or housing association
  • fences or boundary walls around your home - but only if the disrepair affects your use of the home or could be dangerous.

Dampness and water penetration

Your landlord is also responsible for carrying out repairs related to water penetration and dampness, including rising damp and condensation.

They must ensure that the property is adequately insulated, so that you can keep your home warm and free from damp and mould without running up unreasonably large heating bills. As a guide, you shouldn't have to spend more than ten percent of your family income on heating. With proper insulation and a good heating system, you should spend much less than this.

If dampness or condensation in your home is caused by a structural defect (such as a lack of damp-proof course, poor ventilation, an inadequate heating system or a hole in the roof) your landlord must put this right within a reasonable amount of time.

However, dampness can also be caused by condensation produced by drying clothes indoors or the heating system not being used effectively, in which case your landlord may claim this is your fault.

Pipes, drains, gas, electricity and heating

Your landlord should also be responsible for fixing installations, such as:

  • appliances for space heating (for example, a central heating system or gas fire) including fireplaces, flues and chimneys
  • appliances for heating water (for example, a boiler)
  • water and gas pipes
  • flues and ventilation
  • electrical wiring
  • basins, sinks, toilets and baths.

This doesn't include fixtures, fittings and appliances for using the water, gas or electricity which belong to you, or which you have installed. Check your tenancy agreement to find out who is responsible for these.

Remember, it's up to you to take care of the installations. For example, your landlord may want you to empty the water tank and turn off the water in winter if you are going away, to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting.

Appliances

Your landlord is only responsible for maintaining electrical appliances which have been supplied with the property, for example a cooker, fridge or washing machine. They are not responsible for repairing any appliances that belong to you or which you have had installed (for example, if you have bought a dishwasher or tumble drier and had it installed, you will be responsible for its upkeep). Your tenancy agreement should list the appliances your landlord must maintain.

Your landlord is also responsible for the safety of any gas appliances provided.

Common areas

Your landlord is responsible for repairs to areas that are shared with other people, such as hallways, stairs, or lifts.

Gardens

Your tenancy agreement should say who has responsibility for the upkeep of your garden. It is often the tenant's responsibility, although this doesn't mean that you will have to improve the garden if it is in a mess. If the garden is shared with other tenants, you may all be responsible for the upkeep, unless one tenant has agreed to take it on. If your tenancy agreement doesn't mention the garden, your landlord is likely to be responsible unless you agree otherwise.

Internal decorations

Tenants are usually responsible for minor repairs to the internal decorations. This applies unless these are:

  • caused by disrepair or dampness that is the landlord's responsibility
  • due to normal wear and tear.

Your tenancy agreement should state who is responsible for decorating the home and maintaining the internal decorations. If you want to redecorate your accommodation or carry out any improvements to the property, you'll need to get your landlord's agreement, and you may not be able to do exactly what you want.

Furniture and equipment

Most council and housing association properties in Scotland are rented unfurnished. However, if your home is furnished, you will probably be responsible for keeping the furniture and equipment in good condition, although you won't be expected to repair 'fair wear and tear'. Your tenancy agreement should set out your rights and responsibilities relating to furniture. Remember, your landlord is not responsible for repairing anything that belongs to you.

What are my responsibilities as a tenant? 

As a tenant you have three main areas of responsibility in relation to repairs.

Take good care of the property

You need to look after the property, avoiding causing any damage wherever possible. This involves:

  • cleanliness - your home should be kept reasonably clean
  • keeping furniture provided in good condition - allowing for normal wear and tear
  • carrying out minor maintenance - for example, checking smoke alarm batteries and changing light bulbs
  • keeping your home reasonably well heated - particularly in winter so that you don't let the pipes freeze up and burst

Report repairs as soon as possible

It's your responsibility to let your landlord know about any repair work that needs done. For example, if there's a damp patch on the wall or a crack in the ceiling, you should report the problem to your landlord as soon as possible, even if you're not that bothered about getting it fixed. Don't wait until the problem gets really bad - this could end up costing your landlord more to fix.

Repairs need to be reported even if you, or anyone else in your home, has caused the damage, either accidentally or on purpose. Your landlord should arrange for this to be fixed and will then charge you for the cost of the repairs.

Allow your landlord access

You must also allow your landlord access to the property to assess and carry out repairs at reasonable times of the day. Your landlord or anyone acting on their behalf should give you at least 24 hours' notice in writing before coming round. They don't need to give you notice to check or make repairs to communal areas such as the hall or roof if you live in a flat.

If your landlord needs to get access to your home in an emergency, they are entitled to break in if necessary (for example, if a pipe bursts in your home while you're away and water is leaking into other properties nearby). However, your landlord will have to repair any damage caused by a forced entry.

Although your landlord should arrange for repairs to be done, they will probably expect you to be at home to let in any contractors. Your tenants' handbook should explain your landlord's procedure

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

The important points

  • Report repairs as soon as possible.
  • Allow your reasonable landlord access.
  • Your home should be fit to live in.
  • You’re responsible for minor repairs to the internal decorations.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us

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