Before taking action
There are at least two steps that should initially be taken when dealing with disrepair.
When there is a problem with disrepair, the golden rule is to inform the landlord. Ideally this notification should be in writing (with a copy kept) and sent by recorded delivery. However in an emergency this may be impracticable. Where there is an ongoing problem, notification may be constructive.  In one case it was held that the landlord had received adequate notification when he was served with a repairs notice by the local authority. Notification can also be carried out by telling the landlord's agent or employee. The important thing is that the landlord is told of the problem.
Reasonable time to repair
The landlord's duty is to carry out repairs within a reasonable period of time having become aware of the need for them. S/he is not in breach of his duty to repair 'until the defect is brought to his notice and he failed to remedy it'. 
What is a reasonable time will depend on the nature of the repair required and all other circumstances. Some local authorities and housing associations have repair guidelines indicating what are considered urgent repairs and giving a time frame in which they should be carried out. There is some case law on what a reasonable period might be. In one case nine months to repair a defective ceiling was considered unreasonable,  whilst in another case the Court of Appeal held that two months from notification of the repair required was a reasonable period of time. 
Last updated: 29 December 2014