What does housing disrepair mean?

Housing disrepair refers to a property that is in need of repair in order for it to be safe and meet adequate living standards for tenants to live in. In a house where repairs or remedial works are needed, if the landlord fails to carry out the work within a reasonable amount of time after the issues are reported, this could be considered to be housing disrepair.

In some cases, tenants can make a compensation claim for housing disrepair damages that cause health issues, directly put anyone in the household at risk or harm, or cause high and sustained levels of stress and suffering.


What counts as housing disrepair?

There are many different issues in a property that could count as housing disrepair if the landlord does not fix the problems within a reasonable amount of time after they are reported. These disrepair issues can include:

  • A faulty boiler or heating system
  • A faulty gas, electricity or water supply
  • Damp issues caused by penetrating damp
  • Damp issues caused by rising damp
  • Vegetation growth/build-up on the building’s exterior
  • A faulty toilet, bath, shower or sinks
  • Broken or faulty guttering, downpipes or drainage
  • Damaged or worn brickwork resulting in damp or leaks
  • Unsafe flooring
  • An unsafe staircase


When should I report disrepair to my landlord?

You should report any type of repair issues in your home as soon as possible to your landlord. If you don’t report issues promptly, it can result in further damage to the property if problems are not fixed quickly.

If you don’t report the issue then your landlord does not have a duty to make the necessary repairs. Put simply, if they don’t know about it, they can’t fix it. This can include situations where you have complained about an issue previously, the landlord has fixed the problem, but it has come back e.g. damp. You will need to report the disrepair again if your landlord has not adequately resolved the problem.

It is helpful for tenants to keep evidence of what issues, and when, they have reported to their landlord, and any action that has been taken as a result. This could include the names of people you registered the complaint with, copies of all letters, email correspondence, social media complaints, texts or other messages between you and your landlord, images or video footage taken of the disrepair and any calling or appointment cards you have from the landlord or tradespeople they have asked to look into the problem.

Tenants are sometimes hesitant when it comes to reporting repair issues to their landlord, but it is their responsibility to fix these problems, and the sooner they know about repairs that need to be made, the sooner they can take place.

If, after reporting problems to your landlord, they do not make the necessary repairs to your home within a reasonable timeframe, you may be eligible for housing disrepair compensation.


How long does a landlord have to fix something?

Under current law, there is no set time frame in which a landlord must make repairs to your home; just that things should be fixed within a ‘reasonable’ period. If your landlord is your local authority or a housing association, they often have their own policies or Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in place which specify the timeframe for various different types of repairs e.g. boiler or heating repairs must be done within 48 hours during the winter.

Contact your landlord to see if they have repair SLAs in place to carry out the necessary works. If they do not seem to be taking steps to make repairs within a reasonable timeframe, and someone in your household has suffered as a result, you may be eligible for compensation.


How long does my landlord have to fix my boiler?

You landlord does not legally have to fix your boiler or heating system within a certain timeframe, as long as they do fix the problem within a period that is considered ‘reasonable’. Some landlords have policies in place, in which they promise to fix boilers, heating or hot water systems within a certain number of days, especially during the colder months. When you report the problem to your landlord, you can ask if they have any such policy in place.

If your boiler or heating has been broken for a while and your landlord is not taking the steps necessary to fix the problem, you may be eligible for compensation if you, or anyone in your family, has suffered as a result.


How to complain about housing disrepair

If you’re a tenant and something in your house needs repairing, you should report the problem to your landlord as soon as possible. If, after a reasonable period of time, they have not fixed the issue or made the necessary repairs, you can contact your landlord to complain. If you don’t report a problem to them, they are not under any obligation to make repairs.

You should keep a record, or diary, of your complaint(s), which should include the names and dates of people you have spoken to or contacted, how many times you have complained and what your landlord has done in response (if anything). This should also include copies of any letters, emails, text messages, social media or any other types of correspondence between you and your landlord about the issue(s).

It may be the case that you complained about a disrepair issue, your landlord sorted the problem but further down the line the issue has come back. You will need to make sure that you report the problem again in order for your landlord to fix it.

If they still don’t attempt to repair the issues in your home after you have complained, and you, or anyone else who lives there, has suffered as a result, you might be eligible to claim housing disrepair compensation. You can contact a specialist disrepair law firm to look into your case and help you collect the evidence to back up your claim.


What are the responsibilities of a landlord?

A landlord is responsible for making sure that the structure and exterior of their property is in good repair, when letting it out to a tenant. Their responsibilities for repair include the roof, chimney stack (if present), guttering and drainage, walls and essential sanitation, such as toilets and baths or showers. Landlords are also responsible for ensuring a safe supply of water, electricity and gas to the property.

There may also be some internal repairs that are the landlord’s responsibility, such as fixing unsafe flooring, unsafe staircases or rectifying penetrative or rising damp issues.


What are landlords responsible for fixing?

Landlords are responsible for keeping the exterior and structure of their property in a good state of repair. They are also responsible for some of the interior fixtures and fittings too. The areas of the property that landlords are responsible for fixing include:

  • Boilers and heating systems
  • Gas, electricity or water supply problems
  • Damp issues that are caused by penetrating or rising damp
  • Build-up of vegetation on the building’s exterior e.g. chimney stack
  • Faulty sanitary essentials, such as toilets, baths and sinks
  • Damaged guttering, downpipes and drainage
  • Worn or damaged brickwork that results in damp
  • Flooring that is unsafe
  • Staircases that are unsafe e.g. missing or broken bannister.


How much compensation for housing disrepair?

In order to be eligible for compensation for housing disrepair, the problems in your home must have remained unfixed for some time and have caused a level of suffering and inconvenience to members of your household. The amount of compensation that you could receive depends on a wide number of factors, including:

  • The nature and severity of the problem/disrepair
  • The number of rooms in your home that are affected
  • The impact that the disrepair has had (or is having) on your daily life
  • Any risks to health that the disrepair poses
  • Whether any of your personal belongings have been damaged by the disrepair
  • The length of time that you’ve been waiting for the repairs to be made

As there are so many variables, it’s not possible to provide a set figure for housing disrepair claims. However, for serious cases of long-standing disrepair, the compensation amount, if your claim is successful, could reach several thousands of pounds.

Compensation can include tenants being reimbursed for any losses they have suffered as a result of the disrepair. This could be anything from personal belongings, clothing and furniture, to painting and redecorating areas of the property that have been affected to. This is easier to claim for if the tenant has proof of purchase or receipts for any items that were damaged, or images of the damage to prove that things need to be replaced.

To discuss your case with a specialist housing disrepair solicitors, who can provide an estimate of how much your disrepair claim is worth, based on the details you provide, contact CEL Solicitors today.


Can I get evicted if I complain about disrepair?

The short answer is no; you can’t be evicted, blacklisted or get into trouble with your landlord for complaining about an issue that they are responsible for fixing. Tenants have a right to live in a safe home, in a good state of repair, and if that isn’t the case with your house then your landlord has a duty to fix the problems and is not legally allowed to evict you for complaining about these issues.

If your landlord does attempt to evict you after a complaint or uses the threat of eviction against you, this is something that a specialist housing disrepair solicitor can deal with on your behalf.


Will I get charged for making a housing disrepair claim?

An experienced specialist housing disrepair solicitor will usually work on a no win, no fee basis, so you will not be charged anything if your claim is not successful. If your claim is successful then your solicitors may deduct up to 25% of the damages awarded to cover their fees and the work they have done on your claim.