How long do landlords have to fix problems in the UK?
Landlords must be aware of their responsibilities when it comes to fixing disrepair in their properties. When a landlord is informed of a disrepair issue, they must fix the problem within a reasonable timeframe or face serious consequences, including potential legal action. Below, we explain how long landlords have to fix problems in the UK and what happens if they do not meet these requirements.
Repairing problems in a rented property is among the most important of a landlord's responsibilities. While fixing certain aspects of wear and tear or making minor repairs are not the landlord’s responsibility, there are lots of types of disrepair that a landlord must address.
Both landlords and tenants have a role to play in the upkeep of a safe, habitable home. A tenant's responsibilities include informing their landlord as soon as possible when an issue arises. Likewise, the landlord must endeavour to fix the problem at the earliest opportunity, and within the reasonable time required by law.
In this short guide, the experts at Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors detail how long landlords have to fix problems in the UK, when certain issues need to be fixed more quickly, and what happens if a landlord refuses to repair a problem.
If you have any questions we have not answered, our specialist landlord solicitors are happy to speak to you regarding your landlord query. You can contact us by completing the enquiry form below or by calling 0151 666 9090.
How long do landlords have to fix problems in the UK?
In the UK, a landlord is responsible for keeping any properties they rent out in good repair and ensuring they meet safety standards. However, they are not liable to carry out repairs until a tenant informs them of the disrepair. After they are informed of the issues and have established that the disrepair is their responsibility (rather than the tenants), landlords must act quickly and carry out any necessary repairs within “a reasonable timeframe”.
Landlords may be held responsible for repairs to the heating and hot water system, water leaks, and electrical appliances, and for ensuring gas safety. The specific division of responsibility between a landlord and a tenant may be specified in a tenancy agreement, or you can seek legal help to understand your obligations more specifically. The landlord will need to fix any problems with these utilities within a reasonable period after they learn of the issue, although as we will explain below, some problems may demand more urgent repairs.
This reasonable timeframe is not defined by law, and the timescales will depend on how serious the problem is. There is very little guidance on this, which makes it difficult for landlords to understand when they are failing in their legal responsibility. Ultimately, it is advisable for a landlord to act as quickly as possible to ensure they meet their obligations to their tenant.
It is a good idea to keep tenants informed about your efforts to address the disrepair issues they are facing. This includes letting them know if you have contacted someone to carry out repairs, even if you are yet to find out when they are available to work on the property. Letting tenants know that you are working on the problem can help keep the relationship cordial and reassure them that you will make repairs at the earliest opportunity.
What about issues that affect health and safety?
For most disrepair issues, the Deregulation Act 2015 allows landlords a reasonable repair time provided they respond to a tenant's complaint within 14 days. However, in addition, the legislation introduced requirements designed to protect tenants from issues that may affect their health, which demand more urgent repairs.
This means that major problems - those that pose a threat to a tenant’s health and safety - must be fixed within two weeks. Potential problems like this include:
- A dangerous or broken boiler
- Faulty electrical wiring or loose sockets
- No running water
- Broken locks or other security flaws
- Faulty smoke alarms or carbon monoxide sensors
A private landlord is responsible for meeting the required safety standards for their property. As a result, the landlord should remain aware of any risks that could result in a disrepair issue or affect the property's safety for tenants to occupy.
Can a landlord enter a property without permission to fix disrepair?
Tenants must allow access to their home at reasonable times if the landlord (or someone acting for the landlord) wants to inspect or repair the property. Tenants are entitled to 24 hours’ written notice before an inspection.
If the tenant denies the landlord access to carry out the necessary repairs, they would be in breach of their tenancy agreement and could risk being evicted. The landlord may be able to enter the property without giving notice if they need to make emergency repairs, but should seek advice from housing disrepair solicitors before doing so.
Can a tenant seek legal advice if the landlord doesn’t make repairs in a reasonable time?
If a tenant believes their landlord is taking too long to repair an issue in their home, there are several actions they might consider. The tenant could:
- Send a formal complaint to the environmental health department of their local council
- Withhold rent payments
- Use rent to pay for the repairs themselves
- Lodge a housing disrepair compensation claim
While it may seem like the best way to spur a landlord into action, it is illegal to withhold rent in this scenario. However, it is perfectly legal to deduct money from rent to cover repairs if the landlord has not acted soon enough, provided the tenant has followed the right procedures when making their complaint. As a tenant, you should seek legal help if your landlord refuses to make necessary repairs, fails to respond within 14 days or delays the process in a way that you feel is unreasonable.
To defend themselves against legal action, a landlord should keep tenants up-to-date on ongoing repair requests, and keep copies of any correspondence, both with the tenant and with any professionals they contact about making repairs. Should the case go to court, you can demonstrate that you worked to fix the problem as soon as possible.
If you lose a housing disrepair claim, you could be liable to pay your tenant compensation. This may include payments for loss of possessions if the tenant's personal belongings were damaged, personal injury compensation if the tenant suffered an injury or illness, and compensation relating to general inconvenience.
How Can Percy Hughes & Roberts Help?
Landlords must adhere to the reasonable time requirement when they are informed about disrepair in a property. Exactly how long a “reasonable timeframe” is will depend on a number of factors. Our landlord solicitors can advise you on your legal responsibilities as a private landlord and help with any legal disputes you have with your tenant about fixing problems in the property.
Our specialist landlord team, based in Birkenhead, has delivered the highest quality legal services for clients across the Wirral, Merseyside and the North West for more than 100 years. We understand that problems with fixing disrepair in your property can be stressful and time-consuming. We can provide expert legal advice and instruct you on your next steps if your tenant lodges a complaint or threatens legal action.
Our residential landlord solicitors can help you with a range of issues relating to landlords and tenants and represent numerous residential landlords in the North West. For more information on our landlord services, do not hesitate to contact our expert solicitors today. Call us on 0151 666 9090, or send us your query by email by filling in our online contact form.