By Bea Patel, Director of Shop for an Agent The estate agent comparison site
Following last week’s article on Tips for moving in to private rented property, this week is about things you need to consider while living in your privately rented property. It’s fair to assume that anything can go wrong in the property, and you should be clear on who is responsible for what. Keep in mind the following tips:
Make sure the property meets the minimum standards
The property should meet the minimum standards. It should be safe to live in and free from health and safety threats. If you’re worried about the property at any stage of your tenancy, your local council can check it and take action against your landlord if needed.
Some problems that can make a property unsafe to live in include:
• Gas appliances not maintained causing carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Leaking roof, dampness, or blocked/leaking pipes or gutters.
• Mould, rotten or broken windows.
• Vermin or pests.
• No hot water or a lack of water supply.
• Damaged or dangerous electrical wires.
Landlords are liable to carry out repairs and you should inform them of any issues as soon as you’re aware of them. They also have a legal duty to have gas appliances checked every 12 months, and make sure all electrical equipment is safe. If necessary, they can take extra precautions such as installing smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors.
Check who is responsible for doing the repairs
Your landlord has a legal responsibility for repairs on:
• The structure and exterior of the property, for example external windows and doors, the roof and walls, and hot water and heating.
• Gas appliances, ventilation and pipes.
• Electrical wiring and drains.
• Baths, showers, sinks and toilets.
• Damage to the internal property caused while work is done.
• Appliances and any items provided at the start of your tenancy agreement, for example the dishwasher, washing machine, fridge or freezer.
As a tenant, you’re also responsible for minor maintenance. This can include:
• Keeping the property clean and not damaging it.
• Checking and changing batteries on a smoke alarm.
• Using the heating correctly and taking precautions to prevent blocking ventilation or flues.
• Any responsibilities outlined in your tenancy agreement, for example maintaining the garden or communal stairs.
It’s important to know that if your tenancy agreement says that you have to repair something that is the legal responsibility of the landlord, then this part of the agreement wouldn’t be valid and it’s still the landlord’s responsibility.
What to do if the landlord refuses to do the work
If you find any repairs that need doing, you should inform your landlord as soon as you’re aware of the problem. You should give your landlord a reasonable amount of time to start the work. If this time lapses and you haven’t had a response from your landlord, you should contact them again. It’s best to write or email your landlord so you have a record of all communication.
If your landlord still refuses to make contact or fix any problems, you can contact your local council for advice and help. They can check your property to make sure it’s safe for you to live in – and you should inform your landlord you are doing this.
You should also keep a record of any communication you make with your landlord. Make a note of dates you send any letters or emails and make copies of them. Record dates of any calls between you and your landlord. It’s also beneficial to take photographs of any damage or problems with the property, and keep receipts of any items you may have had to buy because of the damage caused. If you suffered any harm from the damage or it has affected your health, get your GP’s notes about this. All this information will build your evidence when taking this further.
Your local council is a good starting point to get advice. And to protect yourself, you should continue to pay your rent, as if you don’t, your landlord may try to evict you. If it comes to taking legal action against your landlord for failure to do repairs, you should seek legal advice about this.
In the third part of this four part series, I’ll cover some key points about knowing your rights as a tenant.