Repair Obligations in Housing Association and Local Authority Homes: Tenants or Landlords?
If you live in social housing, your rights and responsibilities as a tenant likely differ from if you lived in private rented housing.
One grey area which tenants tend to lack knowledge in is who pays for property repairs and maintenance in social housing, especially if the damage is not the tenant’s fault.
Do the repair obligations in housing association and local authority homes fall to the tenant or the landlord? The answer is – it depends.
Sometimes it is clear cut that the tenant is responsible for a repair, and sometimes it’s obvious that the landlord should pay up, but what happens when it isn’t so black and white? Or, what happens if a housing association neglects their repair obligations and leaves their tenant living in disrepair?
This guide intends to help you establish if your social housing landlord is trying to shirk their responsibility onto you and what to do about it if they are.
If you live in social or council housing and your landlord is refusing to make necessary repairs, we can help.
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Repairs and Maintenance in Social Housing: Housing Association Responsibilities to Tenants
Although it is hard to establish what the repair obligations of a housing association or local authority are, in general, social housing landlords are usually responsible for repairs and maintenance.
When you first move in, your landlord should make sure that the property:
- Is clean and fit to live in
- Has been repaired (if necessary)
- Has safe, functional gas, electrical and plumbing
- Has safe and secure windows and doors which work properly
Your local authority or housing association will likely have a repairs and maintenance policy, so it’s a good idea to request a copy of this when you move in. This way, if anything does need repairing during your tenancy you have a point of reference to know if the obligation lies with you or your landlord.
One thing is for sure across all rented housing: if your home is damaged, then is damaged further by repair and maintenance work organised by your landlord, then they are responsible for rectifying and paying for repairs.
Additionally, if you’re prevented from using all or part of your home because of repair work, it is possible to ask for a reduction in rent for the time you are affected.
Is this landlord failing to provide you with a safe and fit living area?
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Housing Association Repairs and Maintenance Policy and Health and Safety Standards
There are certain health and safety standards which apply to rented homes. By law, your home must be safe and fit to live in when your tenancy starts and this must continue throughout the tenancy.
From the beginning to the end of your tenancy, your housing association has obligations to repair and maintain safety of:
- The gas supply and gas appliances they provide
- Electrical wiring and electrical appliances they provide
Condensation, damp and mould are also common problems which you may come across. You should report problems with this to your landlord immediately.
Every landlord, whether they are a local authority or a housing association, has obligations to repair damp and mould, as well as to identify the cause of the problem.
After you’ve reported the problem, an inspection and repairs they are responsible for should be carried out. For example, if the condensation has happened due to a failing to provide adequate ventilation on their part, it’s their job to resolve the ventilation issue.
Damp, mould and condensation can pose a serious risk to health, causing respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis, especially in young children. This is why it is essential that you report it to your landlord, and that they sort it out as quickly as possible.
Everyone deserves a safe home. Are features of your home unsafe, and has your social housing landlord failed to make the necessary repairs?
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Housing Association Repair Obligations and Requirements
Although as a tenant you do have a certain amount of responsibility to keep where you live clean, safe and tidy, your local authority or housing association also has a lot of repair and maintenance obligations.
Social housing landlords are responsible for most repairs in your home, including any damage or disrepair affecting:
- the structure/exterior of the building i.e. the roof, walls, windows and external doors
- central heating, gas fires, fireplaces, flues, ventilation and chimneys
- water supply, pipes, sinks, toilets and baths
- external drains and guttering
- gas pipes, electrical wiring and any appliances provided i.e. if a washing machine is provided the landlord is likely responsible if it breaks
- common areas like lifts and entrances
If you live in a house of multiple occupation or an HMO, your landlord has even more responsibilities for fire and general safety, water supply and drainage, gas and electricity and waste disposal.
These should be detailed in your tenancy agreement, which our housing disrepair solicitors can help you understand if you feel like you have the right to claim against your landlord or social housing association.
We can send someone over to check the damage to your house to help us assess if you can make a claim.
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Housing Association Tenant Responsibilities and Repair Obligations
As a housing association tenant, you have a range of repair and maintenance obligations, primarily for features inside your property.
For example, if you or someone visiting your home accidentally or deliberately causes damage, you’ll be the one responsible for repairing it.
If something happens and repair work is needed then you should tell your landlord as soon as possible.
They may agree to carry out property repair and maintenance themselves and then recharge the cost to you, or they may agree to you fixing it.
By law, in every tenancy agreement it will state that you must give access for repair work: your landlord or their agent has the right to access your home as long as they give you at least twenty-four hours notice.
In an emergency, for example if a pipe has burst, and they can’t contact you then they hold the right to enter the property without your permission.
You are responsible for using your home in a “tenant-like” way, which generally means:
- Carrying out minor repairs yourself i.e. changing fuses and light bulbs
- Keeping your home reasonably clean
- Not causing damage to the property – including visitors
- Using any fixtures and fittings properly, for example, not blocking a toilet by flushing something unsuitable down it
It is very important to note that at no point during the tenancy do you have the right to stop paying or refuse to pay rent.
Even if your landlord has failed to carry out repairs, you must continue to pay rent until the end of the tenancy.
If you believe you should not have to pay the full amount, you can form a complaint with the landlord in which you can state your reasons.
Right to Repair Scheme
This scheme allows housing association tenants to have urgent, minor disrepair which negatively impacts their health and safety resolved quickly and at no cost to them.
It also provides for tenants to be compensated where repairs have not been completed within a prescribed period, which is usually 30 days.
The Right to Repair scheme is specific to certain housing associations and it is not a legal requirement.
However, many social housing landlords have schemes in place which operate in a very similar way to Right to Repair.
If you are unsure whether you have access to the Right to Repair scheme or a similar scheme then you should check your tenancy agreement, tenant handbook or ask your landlord if they have something in place.
What Qualifies for the Right to Repair Scheme?
It is important to note that only certain types of repairs – called qualifying repairs – are covered under the Right to Repair scheme, and that the scheme only applies to tenants renting from housing associations.
Qualifying repairs include repairs on insecure windows and doors, unsafe power sockets or electrical fittings, leaking roofs and broken entry phone systems.
A repair won’t qualify for the scheme if:
- The estimated cost is more than £250, or
- your local branch of Housing Association has fewer than 100 properties, or
- the landlord isn’t responsible for the repair
When you report a qualifying repair, your landlord has to issue a repair notice to a contractor and should send you a copy with information on how the scheme works.
There will be a time limit for the work to be done by which will depend on the repair needed – more complex repairs will understandably take longer.
What Happens if the Work Isn’t Done in Time?
If the repair work isn’t done within the time limit, you should tell your landlord and ask for another contractor to carry out the repair.
Ultimately, if the necessary repairs aren’t carried out, then your housing association has neglected to adhere to their repair obligations, so you could pursue a legal claim against them.
Note: if you aren’t at home to let the contractor in as arranged, your use of the scheme may be deemed as invalid.
The Decent Homes Standard in England
By law, accommodation owned by social housing landlords must meet the Decent Homes Standard in England.
A ‘Decent Home’ must:
- Be free of Category 1 hazards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System
- Be in a reasonable state of repair
- Have reasonably modern facilities
- Provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
Is the home you are currently living in not meeting these standards?
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If your housing association or other social housing landlord is neglecting their repair obligations, you may be able to claim compensation for financial losses.
It is possible to take your landlord to court, although obviously this should be treated as a very last resort.
Before deciding whether or not to take legal action against your landlord for disrepair you should:
- Check your landlord is actually responsible for the repairs
- Ensure that you’ve reported the problem at least once
- Have given your landlord a reasonable amount of time to do the repairs
- Consider whether you’ve explored other options to resolve the problem yourself
- Look at any evidence you have to help support your case
If you do claim against your social housing landlord, the court can make your landlord do the repair work, and also has the power to make a declaration that you can do the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from future rent you are legally obliged to pay.
If your landlord still doesn’t complete the property repairs and maintenance work specified in the order or injunction, they can be fined or imprisoned.
Compensation for Failed Property Repairs and Maintenance
If they find the landlord at fault, the court can also award you compensation called damages, which put you back in the financial position you would have been in had it not been for the disrepair.
You can get damages if:
- You’ve been injured or fallen ill
- Your possessions have been damaged or destroyed
- You’ve been inconvenienced and unable to use your home in the way you normally would
You should note that you can initiate court action to claim compensation during your tenancy or up to six years after the time your landlord should have done completed repair.
If you think that taking court action is the next step for you, our housing disrepair specialists can help you.
We Can Help
If you rent through a local authority or housing association and believe that they are neglecting their maintenance and repair obligations, you may be able to claim for compensation and for the necessary work to be carried out.
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