Who is responsible for repairs?
Find out which types of repairs private landlords are responsible for and which are the tenant's responsibility. Your landlord must keep your home up to a level of repair known as the 'repairing standard'.
Who Fixes What? A guide to repairs
Now and again, our homes need a bit of maintenance. But when it comes to repairs, when does a private tenant need to hand over the responsibility to their landlord? Find out in this handy guide, and avoid any more confusion!
What are my landlord's responsibilities?
In general, your landlord is responsible for major repairs to the structure and installations, while you're responsible for minor interior repairs and decoration. Your tenancy agreement should say who is responsible for what.
Your landlord can't get out of their responsibilities by adding a clause into the tenancy agreement that says they don't need to carry out repairs, or that you will have to pay for any repairs that need done. These are unfair terms, and will not be legally binding. You can find out more about unfair terms and how to complain about them at the GOV.UK website.
Likewise, if your tenancy agreement doesn't mention repairs, you will still have legal rights to get certain repairs done.
The repairing standard
Your landlord must make sure your home reaches a standard level of repair called the 'repairing standard'.
To meet the repairing standard:
the property must be wind and watertight
the property must be fit for you to live in, meeting the 'tolerable standard'
the structure and exterior of the property (for example, the walls and roof) must be in a reasonable condition
the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, and for sanitation, space heating and heating water must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order (these include external installations such as drains)
any fixtures, fittings or appliances provided by the landlord (such as carpets, light fittings, white goods and household equipment) must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order
any furnishings provided by the landlord must be capable of being used safely for the purpose for which they are designed
the property must have suitable smoke/fire detectors - they should be mains powered or lithium battery powered, check our fire safety page for more information
the property must have suitable provision for for giving warning if the carbon monoxide levels are hazardous to a person's heath.
If your home doesn't reach this standard and your landlord refuses to carry out the necessary work, you can report them to the Housing and Property Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal.
If you're moving into a new home, your landlord must make sure that the property meets this standard before you move in. If it does not, and they need to carry out repair work to bring it up to this standard, they must let you know about this before your tenancy starts.
The tolerable standard
Your home must also meet a basic level of repair called the 'tolerable standard' if it's to be fit for you to live in. Your home may not be fit to live in if:
it has a bad problem with rising or penetrating damp
it is not structurally stable, for example it's subsiding
it doesn't have adequate ventilation, natural and artificial light or heating
it doesn't have adequate thermal insulation
it doesn't have an adequate supply of fresh water
it doesn't have a sink with hot and cold water
it doesn't have an indoor toilet
it doesn't have a fixed bath or shower and wash basin with hot and cold water
it doesn't have a good drainage and sewerage system
if there is a electric supply and it doesn't meet the relevant safety regulations
there are no 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)
it doesn't have a proper entrance.
Structure and exterior
Your landlord must make sure that the property is wind and watertight when you move in, and that it continues to be so while you're living there. This means that they are responsible for repairing damage to any part of the structure which might let in wind or rain, including:
gutters and external pipes
walls (such as brick and plasterwork)
windows and doors
The property should also be adequately insulated, so that you can keep your home warm without running up unreasonably large heating bills. As a guide, you shouldn't have to spend more than 10% of your family income on heating. With a good heating system, you should spend much less than this.
Your landlord must provide you with an energy report, which gives the property an energy efficiency rating. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the home is, and the lower the fuel bills are likely to be.
If dampness 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 will probably be responsible for putting this right. You may need to show that the dampness is affecting your health in order to force your landlord to do any work.
It's also up to your landlord to ensure that the property has a heating system that will enable you to keep your home free of damp and condensation without running up huge gas or electricity bills.
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) or heating water (for example, a boiler)
water and gas pipes
flues and ventilation
basins, sinks, toilets and baths.
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.
Common areas and gardens
Repairs to areas that are shared with other people, such as hallways, stairs, or lifts, are the responsibility of the landlord. They must ensure that common areas can be used and are safe. If there are other flats in the building that your landlord doesn't own, the responsibility for common areas may be shared by your landlord with other owners.
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 you don't have a tenancy agreement or your tenancy agreement doesn't mention the garden, your landlord is likely to be responsible unless you agree otherwise.
Furniture and equipment
From 1 December 2015 landlords must carry out an inspection of all installations, fixtures and fittings in a property. Landlords also have to give a copy of the most recent inspection report to the tenant before the tenancy begins.
After the initial inspection, any property that is rented out will have to have a further inspection carried out at least once every five years.
This new requirement applies to any new tenancy that begins on or after 1 December 2015. For existing tenancies landlords have up to 1 December 2016 to carry out an inspection.
Remember, your landlord is not responsible for repairing anything that belongs to you. The page on furniture and equipment has more information.
Tenants are usually responsible for minor repairs to the internal decorations. This applies unless the disrepair is:
caused by disrepair or dampness that is the landlord's responsibility
due to normal wear and tear
caused by repair work your landlord has carried out.
Check your tenancy agreement to see who is responsible for decorating the home and maintaining the internal decoration. If you want to redecorate check your tenancy agreement first - you normally need your landlord's agreement, and you may not be able to do exactly what you want. You should not have to redecorate before you leave unless your tenancy agreement says so, or you have damaged the decoration.
What is my landlord not responsible for?
Your landlord is not required to fix any damage caused by:
you or a member of your household
an 'act of God' such as freak storms or flooding
a third party, for example if your home is vandalised.
This doesn't mean that repairs won't get carried out in these situations. For example, your landlord should be insured against damage caused by storms or burglars, so may well decide to do the repair work anyway.
What are my responsibilities as a tenant?
You have three main areas of responsibility:
Take good care of the property
You need to look after the property and avoid 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
If you cause any damage to the property or the furniture, either accidentally or on purpose, your landlord is entitled to make you pay for the damage, even if it is their responsibility to fix it. In some cases, your landlord may ask you to carry out the repair work yourself. If you have contents insurance, it may cover the cost.
Report repairs as soon as possible
You are responsible for letting your landlord know about any repair work that needs done. Your landlord can't be responsible for putting right problems they don't know exist. If you notice anything wrong with the property, for example, a damp patch on the wall or a crack in the ceiling, it's important you 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 has become really bad - this could end up costing your landlord more to put right, and they may claim the extra money as a deduction from your deposit.
See the page on getting repairs carried out for more information.
Your landlord should give you reasonable notice, 24 hours if you are an short assured/assured tenant or 48 hours if you have a private residential tenancy, before coming round. You can refuse your landlord access to the property, if the time they want to come round is unsuitable. However, if they are coming round to fix repairs it might be best to let them in to complete the repairs.
If your landlord wants to inspect the property or carry out repairs that that will bring the property up to the repairing standard and you can't agree an access date. Then your landlord can apply to the The Housing and Property Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal to assist in arranging a suitable for access to the property.
Last updated: 23 April 2019
Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.