Disrepair - Bradford

Reasonable expectations on the repair of a property

Your landlord/agent is only legally obliged to repair the property and maintain it to a safe standard. They do not have to make improvements unless they are written into the contract.

Your rights to repair will differ if you live in a property with the owner or if you rent from a landlord/agent and have exclusive possession of the property.

Renting from a landlord/agent

This is where you have signed a contract either direct with the landlord or via an agency. If it is the latter, it is important to remember that both landlord and the agent who represents them, have equal responsibilities for ensuring repairs are carried out. So the agent cannot refuse to undertake essential repairs by simply saying that the landlord will not authorise the works to be done.

You have a legal right to live in a property that is safe and well maintained. The landlord/agent has a legal responsibility to:

  • maintain the structure and exterior of the house. This includes, roofs, guttering, windows, drains and garden walls
  • have all gas appliances serviced and checked every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer (see gas safety information)
  • Automatically provide a copy of the gas service record to tenants when they move in/or have one displayed in the property
  • keep in working order the installations for the supply of gas, electricity, water and sanitation. This includes pipes to and from the house
  • repair the sinks, WC, hot water, space heaters and gas appliances
  • repair and maintain any appliances that are in the property when you move in. This includes cooker, fridge, freezer, burglar alarm and fire detection systems. The landlord is not responsible for any appliance that you take into the house, e.g. television or microwave.
  • provide adequate bathroom and kitchen facilities
  • make good any damage to the decoration of the property caused by the repairs and clean up afterwards.
  • cover reasonable costs for alternative accommodation if you need to move out during repairs.

The landlord/agent can not pass on responsibility for these legal obligations by putting clauses in your contract. For example, making you responsible for maintenance of drains or gas fires where central heating has been installed.

Repair and living with the owner

If you live with an owner you have fewer rights to repair, unless your contract is specific about what repairs the owner has agreed to cover. If your contract is not specific, but the disrepair is likely to endanger the health and safety of the household or members of the public, the local environmental health department can request essential works are carried out. This could cover gas safety and damage to the structure of the building.

Repair and the tenant's responsibilities

You should always treat the property in a ‘tenant like manner’. This means:

  • report all disrepair promptly. If further damage is caused because a repair was not reported at the time a problem occurred or was spotted (e.g. a leak from the roof that damages the ceiling and/or walls), the landlord/agent may charge the household for any excess damage.
  • take all reasonable steps to ensure that you and your guests do not damage the property
  • undertake minor day to day maintenance, for example unblocking sinks and replacing light bulbs
  • keep the property clean, including the cooker, fridge and freezer, toilet, bath/shower area.
  • protect the property during periods of absence. If you have a burglar alarm, make sure you use it and that all doors/windows are secure when you leave the property.
  • In the winter ensure that the heating is kept on a low heat to prevent the pipes from freezing.
  • keep the garden and bin areas clean and tidy. All rubbish should be carefully bagged and put in the rubbish bins provided. The local environmental health department has the power to fine residents for untidy garden/bin areas. If you have excess rubbish contact your local council cleansing department who may remove it free of charge (number at the end of this booklet)
  • stick to the terms of your tenancy agreement. This includes not smoking in the house if stated in your contract
  • do not tamper with equipment in the house, particularly smoke detectors and fire doors. They have been fitted for your own safety.

Take steps to prevent condensation

Condensation is caused when moisture meets a cold surface (such as a window) or a surface that gets little air (e.g. behind a wardrobe) and water droplets are formed. The water then seeps into windows and/or runs down the walls, which in turn can cause wallpaper/paint to peel and create mould patches. It is your responsibility to prevent it. This can be done by:

  • closing the kitchen door when cooking and, if possible, keeping a window open. Use extractor fans where provided
  • covering pans when boiling
  • keeping the door shut, when having a bath/shower. Open a window/use extractor fan (if provided) and keep the bathroom door shut when you have finished
  • drying clothes outside or in a room with a window open
  • keeping heating on a low constant temperature, increasing the heat as and when required. This will eliminate the cold surfaces. This would not necessary increase your bills because a room is more expensive to heat from cold.
  • moving large items away from walls, e.g. beds/wardrobes.

Help available from agencies in the event of poor property repair and landlord response

All local authorities have an environmental health department, which have considerable powers. Environmental health officers will investigate complaints of disrepair, including in relation to:

  • gas safety
  • electrical safety
  • fire safety and means of escape
  • problems of damp.

They also deal with complaints about:

  • overcrowding
  • noise problems
  • pests.

Environmental health officers have the power to serve legal notices on the owner, requiring works to be carried out within certain time limits. They can also prosecute the owner, if the works are not done. Bear in mind though that the process they have to work to is not always quick, unless there is an immediate risk to the health/safety of the household. Always contact the owner or their agent to get repairs done before involving environmental health. Keep the authorities in reserve for  the eventiality of the owner refusing or failing to undertake repairs.

You can arrange for an inspection by contacting an environmental health officer, giving them a brief description of the disrepair. They will then arrange a date and time to visit. The service is free of charge.

Gas safety

It is a criminal offence for a landlord/agent not to have all gas appliances serviced and checked every 12 months, or for them to use someone who is not a Gas Safe registered engineer. The service record should either be given to you when you move in or displayed in the property.

If the landlord/agent refuses to have the gas appliances serviced, or they do not act on concerns that you raise, contact environmental health. They will check the appliances are safe and can then serve legal notices on the landlord/agent to have a full service carried out. They can also report them to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for not carrying out their legal obligations. The HSE have the power to instigate criminal proceedings against the landlord/agent.

In the case of a gas leak, contact Transco. If there is a fault, they may make the appliance safe by disconnecting the service, but they have no power to request that the landlord/agent carries out repairs.

All registered engineers should have an ID card, with a photograph, their name and business details. On the back of the card will be a list of the types of work that they are competent. Ask to see this identification card before any work is carried out. If you are unsure whether they are a Gas Safe registered engineer, check with Gas Safe. You will need to give the engineer's name and business details and registration number (if available).

Check Out The Gas Safe Register's Student Guide.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas that is highly dangerous to people and animals, and is produced by appliances that burn fossil fuels such as gas or coal. Even an appliance that has been serviced regularly can produce carbon monoxide.

Never cover or block air vents.

What are the warning signs?

The warning signs that carbon monoxide is being produced in your home environment are not always obvious:

  • the fire may be less efficient and go out more frequently
  • there may be stains or discolouring around the top of the fire
  • there may be only flickering yellows/orange flames instead of blue, yellow/orange
  • you may feel drowsy, have more headaches or feel dizziness when getting up
  • you may have slight palpitations, stomach pains or diarrhoea.

If you have any doubts or experience any of the physical symptoms, stop using the appliance immediately and open windows to allow fresh air to circulate. Contact the landlord/agent to request that the appliance be checked. It is important to note that faults can occur at any time. So even if the appliance has recently been checked, always act on your concerns.

British Standard audio carbon monoxide alarms cost around £30. If your landlord has not supplied an alarm, you could purchase one with your housemates and take it with you when you leave.

Electrical safety

Dangerous electrical appliances or damaged sockets can cause fire or serious injury. Although there is no legal requirement for the landlord/agent to carry out regular checks, they are responsible for ensuring that the installations and appliances are safe to use. However, landlord/agents who have signed up to the Unipol Code are required to carry out a five-year check.

What Are The Warning Signs?

  • broken plug sockets
  • plugs that get hot when they are used
  • sparks from electrical appliances/sockets
  • fuses which continually blow
  • loose switches
  • exposed wiring

Note that frequently having to replace light bulbs is not necessarily a sign of problem wiring. Try a different make of light bulb ( perhaps more expensive) before reporting the problem.

Fire safety

All soft furnishings such as sofas, armchairs, cushions and bedroom furniture must comply with fire safety standards and be made from fire resistant materials.

Most new furniture should have a permanent label to show that it meets with the Fire Safety Regulations. If your furniture does have the necessary labels, check with the landlord/agent. If you have any concerns, contact Trading Standards who have the power to enforce the legislation.

A landlord/agent may ask you to remove furniture you bring from home, if it does not meet with the standards.

Points of safety

Landlord/agents put in fire detection systems for your safety and the protection of their property.

So please

  • do not remove the self closing mechanisms on fire doors
  • do not prop fire doors open
  • never cover up or remove batteries from smoke or heat detectors. If a fire breaks out you risk death or serious injury to yourself or other tenants. The landlord/agent could sue for damage caused to their property. Usually if the battery detector bleeps, the battery needs changing.
  • always put candles on a protected surface.
  • never leave a candle lit when you go to sleep or leave the room.
  • test smoke alarms once a week.

Inform the landlord/agent immediately, if the fire extinguisher or fire blanket has been used. If either are used inappropriately, the household could be charged for a replacement.

Pest control

The Pest Control Service at the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council charges for dealing with all pests (rats, mice, wasps, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches, ants, pharaoh ants, cluster flies and moles).

Mice can be attracted to a property because of overflowing bins and food scraps and fleas can be brought into the house if you have pets. If this is the case, any charge incurred by the landlord/agent can be passed on to you. You should contact your landlord, if the property you are staying in is affected by any of these pests.

The Unipol Code

Unipol operates an accreditation scheme that goes beyond the basic legal requirements. It includes:

  • time limits for getting repairs done
  • the relationship between tenant and owner/agent
  • recovering of deposits
  • fire and electrical safety
  • security.

If your landlord/agent is a member of the Unipol Code, you, as a tenant, are entitled to raise a complaint against them under the Code provisions, if the necessity arises. If you feel that your owner/agent is not complying with the Code, please raise this with them. If you do not get a satisfactory response, you can make a complaint to the Unipol Code Officer.

Copies of the terms of the Code and complaint forms are available on this website or from Unipol Student Homes.

Getting your landlord to do repairs

Report all repairs immediately. The owner’s responsibility for repairs goes from when they are aware, or could reasonably be expected to know, of the disrepair. If you wish to move out because of disrepair, you are strongly advised to seek advice first as you could still be liable for the rent.

Always report repairs in writing (see sample letter A). Problems can occur when you just report disrepair over the phone: you may speak to the wrong person; the message may be lost; or the incorrect details could be taken down. If you later want to claim a rent rebate because of disrepair, you will need some proof as to when the disrepair was first reported.

If an owner has their own repair forms, make sure you use them, but always ask for a photocopy of any forms you complete. Be specific: state the exact problem, which room and what the effects of the disrepair are.

Ideally, the landlord/agent should arrange a suitable time and date with you. Access should not be given to workmen without your prior agreement unless the repair is an emergency. Workmen should always secure the property when leaving and should clean up after they have finished. If you have any problems whilst work is being carried out, raise them with the landlord/agent.

Always give the landlord/agent a reasonable timescale to work to. The following set of priorities represents what we consider to be good practice:

Priority One: emergency repairs - within 24 hours

Any repairs required in order to avoid a danger to health, risk to the safety of residents or serious damage to buildings or residents' belongings. For example: gas appliances, no hot water, broken WC, external door locks.

Priority Two: urgent repairs - within five working days

Repairs to defects that materially affect the comfort or convenience of the residents. For example: leaking roofs, minor mice infestation or minor cracks in windows.

Priority Three: non-urgent day-to-day repairs - within 28 days

Repairs that are not covered by the above two categories. For example, guttering, replacing window frames.

Course of action if the repairs are not carried out

If your landlord fails to undertake a repair, once reported, send a follow up letter (see sample letter B), stating that repairs are still outstanding. Depending on the nature of the disrepair, give the landlord/agent between 24 hours and 36 hours to respond.

If the landlord/agent does not respond to you regarding a repair that they are legally responsible to make, you may wish to go ahead and do the works and withhold rent on account. You have to be careful about how you do this. Legally, you must do the following:

  • inform the landlord/agent of your intention to get the works done and deduct the expense from future rent
  • allow a further period for the landlord to do the works
  • obtain three estimates, send copies to the landlord/agent with a final warning
  • choose the person submitting the cheapest estimate to do the work
  • send a copy of the invoice to the landlord and ask for reimbursement or recoup the cost from your rent.

You need to do this carefully as the landlord/owner has mandatory grounds for repossession, i.e. can take steps to try and evict you if the rent is two months or eight weeks in arrears. It is safer to pay rent and claim damages.

Making a compensation claim for a landlord's failure to carry out a repair

If you have suffered financial loss, inconvenience or damage to your property as a result of disrepair, you may have a case to claim a rent rebate from the landlord/agent. Examples include: loss of cooking facilities for more than 24 hours; having to move out of your bedroom or having lost the use of the lounge as a result of serious or extensive disrepair; and loss of facilities such as a shower, bath or hot water.

Discuss the issue of a rent rebate with the landlord/agent first. You need to  state clearly why you feel compensation is warranted, giving specific examples. If an agreement cannot be reached, you could deduct the money from your rent. However, you must be aware that if the landlord/agent disagrees with your claim, they could take the money from your deposit or take action in the small claims court to recover any shortfall in rent. Seek advice before taking the step of deducting rent.

Click here for local sources of help and advice on repair and safety issues.

Bradford Metropolitan Borough Council

  • reporting disrepair and noise problems
  • Environmental Health Department Tel: 01274 436466
  • Rubbish Collection Cleansing Department Tel: 01274 436466
  • pest control Tel: 01274 433926

Trading Standards

  • Checking furniture meets with fire safety regulations Tel: 08454 04 05 06

Gas Safe

  • Gas leaks Tel: 0800 4085500
  • Gas Safe Register - Student Guide