Many of the repair problems in a social home are the responsibility of the landlord or housing association, although not all of them may respond positively to your repair requests. Knowing your tenant rights and responsibilities is crucial if you want to ensure that your home is safe and free from any disrepair issues.
Obligations for repairs are indicated in the tenancy agreement that your landlord provides you. Although they differ slightly from those of private rental tenants’, there are details spelt out in relation to your responsibilities and your landlord’s responsibilities. There should be information including within this agreement about what the correct steps are when disrepair problems occur.
To help you understand social housing, your landlord’s responsibilities, and your rights as a tenant, here are some questions and answers that can serve as your guide. If there are any questions we haven’t answered, or you want to bring forward a disrepair claim against your landlord, please get in touch.
Social housing, also known as council housing, revolves around two major purposes: to provide homes that are more affordable than private rentals, and to offer more secure and long-term tenancies.
Social homes are lower-cost housing alternatives offered by a housing association or a local council. The association and the council assume the responsibilities of a landlord. The rent is determined according to local income levels. These homes are let on the basis of need and funding is supported by the government. As such, priority is given to those residing in unsuitable or unsatisfactory homes, those who are relocating for medical or welfare reasons, and those who are legally considered homeless or threatened with homelessness.
Generally speaking, social housing tenants do not need to worry about increasing housing costs and out-pricing because housing associations and councils have a set rate for the rent. Additionally, social homes can be part-rented and part-sold as shared ownership.
Tenants renting from a housing association are offered Assured Tenancy Agreements. As such, they are legally allowed to stay in their rented home for the remainder of their lives. They also have the right to buy, repair, or have their home traded into another property.
Housing associations are not-for-profit organisations. All the homes they rent, and occasionally sell, are always affordable. Likewise, they offer additional services like laundry machines and storage.
Housing association profits are channelled back into their properties and services. Some of them rent out their homes through local councils in their area.
Council housing, on the other hand, offers a Secure Tenancy Agreement. This allows tenants to enjoy the benefits of a secure, long-term tenancy. They can live in the property for as long as they want to, provided that they do not violate any of the rules of the contract. If there is a violation, a tenant can be evicted from the agreement.
Council housing tenants can pass on their tenancy to a family member or to their spouse, in case of their death. They can also buy the property using their Right to Buy privilege.
Aspiring social housing tenants need to apply and submit the necessary requirements and information. Typical information needed includes current income, current residence or address, and current health status. These will then be verified and assessed to determine the priority level.
Proof of the high demand for social housing is the long waiting lists of individuals and families hoping to be rewarded with a secure, decent, and affordable home.
Aside from housing associations and local councils, ALMOs (arm’s-length management organisations, housing trusts), TMOs (tenant management organisations), local authorities, and housing co-operatives are also considered social housing landlords.
Interestingly, the concept of social housing started hundreds of years ago, back in medieval times.
Those days, there were charitable housing providers and almshouses (low-cost, self-sufficient community housing) that provided homes for the less fortunate, the sick, and the elderly. However, the first housing associations were established by Joseph Rowntree and George Peabody, respected philanthropists of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
In 1919, the Housing and Town Planning Act of Christopher Addison paved the way for the building of the first council housing.
A surge in council homes began after World War II; the 1950s saw a significant rise in social housing with nearly 150,000 homes built every year. By the 1960s, social housing became mainstream with a quarter of the country’s housing population occupied by council housing.
Today, some experts suggest the waiting list for social housing tops 1.6 million.
A rented home is said to have housing disrepair issues if it has mould and damp problems, if there is rodent infestation, plumbing issues keep recurring, its living condition has deteriorated and there is major general disrepair within the property.
Housing disrepair is a condition where the rented property—whether obtained through a private landlord or social housing - is not fit for human habitation anymore. The property may be in a poor living condition because the common parts and some structural elements of the house have deteriorated over time and have not been addressed.
The effects that disrepair in a home can have on tenants is not limited to physical damage, though. Any problem that can cause physical or mental harm, as well as negative effects to one’s health, can be considered housing disrepair.
A rented home that is unfit for human habitation has the following disrepair issues:
In the tenancy agreement, tenants are provided a list of the landlord’s repair obligations. The tenant’s responsibilities are outlined in the contract as well.
If the reason for the disrepair falls under the obligations of the landlord, the tenant has a legal right to file a housing disrepair compensation claim.
A successful housing disrepair claim will not only force your landlord to fix the disrepair issues, but will also entitle you to deserved compensation for any pain and suffering caused by the problems, as well as compensation for damaged belongings.
The compensation amount is influenced by factors like the inconvenience caused by the disrepair, the cost of restoring the property or parts of it, and the rent. The compensation amount typically ranges from anywhere between £1,000 to £20,000. Rates are higher for cases where the tenant was injured.
Tenants are required to inform their landlord about the disrepair right away. Communication should be documented via text, audio, or video format, with the best method used normally being through email and photos of the disrepair. This sort of asset will be useful as evidence in case the solicitor asks for them.
It is also important for tenants to know what their landlord’s obligations are.
Like tenants, social housing landlords have to adhere to the rights and obligations stated in the tenancy agreement. Repair responsibilities should all be listed in the contract and landlords are not allowed to remove or change anything in the agreement once it has been signed unless they write to you to request a change. In most circumstances of disrepair, passing on the expense to tenants is not allowed, particularly for repairs that are under the landlords’ responsibilities.
The following are the social housing landlords’ responsibilities:
For social housing tenancies that commenced on or after January 15th, 1989, the repair responsibilities also cover common building parts such as the stairs, lifts, and halls.
Aside from the aforementioned repairs, the landlord is also responsible for ensuring the rented home is fit for human habitation. It is their responsibility to make sure the house has proper ventilation, is free from rodent infestation, has a safe water supply, and does not have damp and mould. There shouldn’t be any disrepair issues at the start and for the duration of the tenancy.
Landlords are also responsible for the following:
Disrepair that results from the tenants’ actions is not the obligation of the landlords. Common examples for this are fires that were caused by candles left burning overnight or broken appliances after misuse.
If the tenant immediately informs the landlord about the disrepair, the landlord is expected to carry out the repairs as soon as possible. If the landlord or housing association continues ignoring repair requests, they are exhibiting negligent behaviour. Landlord’s negligence can cause damage and injury to tenants and their belongings.
Landlords are expected to address all issues that affect a tenant’s use and enjoyment of the property. This is called “private nuisance” and can occur if landlords neglect property maintenance and the pipes in the building suddenly start leaking, causing water to permeate into the tenant’s home.
Tenants may also be subjected to “statutory nuisance”, which occurs when a landlord’s negligent action harms the tenant’s health. For example, when there is damp and mould growth in a home and the landlord neglects requests to repair the problem, the tenant may develop allergies, respiratory problems, and depression and anxiety.
Landlord negligence and private and statutory nuisances are considered strong grounds for tenants to file a housing disrepair claim. Statutory nuisance, however, is often addressed by local authorities.
Under the Defective Premises Act 1972, it is the landlord’s obligation to prevent damage or personal injury and carry out regular maintenance and repairs. Gas, asbestos, and electrical safety are the landlord’s responsibilities as well.
Tenants are also obligated to keep their rented homes in a good and safe condition.
In the tenancy agreement, tenants are provided all the information they need about their tenancy. This includes the kind and length of tenancy they have agreed to, the rent rate, the rent payment schedule, when eviction is considered legal, and when rent can be increased. It also indicates in detail the tenant’s rights and responsibilities and repair obligations.
The basic conditions of a tenancy agreement cannot be altered unless the landlord asks for a written agreement from the tenant.
For repair issues in social homes, the landlord carries out most of the responsibilities. However, tenants also have obligations to follow to keep their rented home in a good state of repair.
Social housing tenants are responsible for:
Landlords are only responsible for repairs once the tenant has reported the issues to them. Without information and evidence from the tenant, landlords cannot be obligated to carry out any repair work. Therefore, tenants should immediately inform their landlord about the required repairs as soon as they are detected.
Tenants are expected to cooperate with the landlord and allow access to the property so the repair work can be carried out. However, it is important to remind landlords that notice for the visit and repairs must be given to the tenant at least 24 hours before the schedule. Additionally, the schedule should be appropriate and convenient. Tenants and landlords must agree on a date and time that is suitable for both parties.
Although a tenant can refuse access to their home, this will mean breaking the tenancy agreement terms. As such, the landlord can get a court order so they can be granted access. A judge will review the request and decide if it is reasonable. Breaking tenancy agreement terms will not cancel the agreement, but if the court grants the landlord’s request, the tenant will have to follow the law.
In addition, landlords have the option to file for possession of property in court if the tenants break a tenancy agreement term. They can decide to end the tenancy earlier than scheduled, but the landlords will have to send tenants a written notice and get a court to agree that the eviction is a lawful decision.
For emergency cases, such as when the water pipe inside the rented home is leaking, landlords are allowed to force entry into the property if the tenant is not around. Damage caused by breaking into the home will be shouldered by the landlords.
For repairs in communal areas like the stairs or entrance hall, the landlord does not need to get the permission of or send a notification to the tenant to get repair work done.
The tenancy agreement requires tenants to take care of their rented home in a tenant-like manner. This means:
Again, landlords are not allowed to change any of the terms in the tenancy agreement within getting prior consent, nor are they allowed to pass on major repair responsibilities to the tenants.
Taking care of their visitors is another responsibility tenants should take note of. Visitors should be safe and comfortable, and their belongings must be secure. This applies only to visitors who are invited to stay or go inside the home.
If a visitor causes damage, either deliberately or accidentally, repair responsibility falls on the tenant. Nevertheless, the landlord must be informed about the damage and repair work needed.
Lastly, appliance repairs are the obligation of the tenant unless it was installed or provided by the landlord. If a tenant installed a shower and it needs repair, it is their obligation to have it fixed. If the landlord provided a washing machine for the property, they are obliged to have the appliance repaired if it breaks down.
The standards for landlords vary according to the social housing property location. These standards are what you need to understand to determine your options for repairs.
In England, the Regulator of Social Housing has certain rules that social housing landlords are expected to follow. Repairs and maintenance standards are one of those indicated in the guidelines.
Social housing tenants in England are ensured that repairs and maintenance are carried out according to their needs and the available options. The Decent Homes Standard provides the requirements for a decent home and landlords are expected to abide by it. Tenants should be given:
In Wales, housing associations are known as RSLs or Registered Social Landlords. They follow housing standards set in place by the Welsh government. The standards indicate what landlords are obligated to do to ensure that efficient maintenance and repairs are provided according to the tenants’ needs.
Here are a few of the things that a social housing tenant can do when requesting for repairs:
If you need repair work done, the first step that you need to do is inform your landlord about the situation. If your landlord is not informed about the repair work needed, you cannot take any action against them. It is crucial for your landlord to first know about the disrepair. The minute that you have verified the issue, you should set out to inform your landlord.
If you are thinking of filing a disrepair complaint or legal action against your landlord, gathering evidence, and keeping a record of the damage, repairs (if there are any), and conversation/communication with the landlord is essential. These should be in the form of photographs, videos, emails, and audio recordings (for conversations), medical tests and receipts (in case of injuries), and evidence from an expert (i.e. an Environmental Health Officer).
These documents will be useful if you have plans of pursuing further action later on.
If your social housing landlord fails to respond to your complaint, there are several options you can consider:
Housing Ombudsman complaints may take time, but landlords are more likely to take the findings seriously. Once the findings are final, the Ombudsman can require the landlord to act on the following:
Social housing landlords go through more checks and balances compared to private landlords, so you do not have to worry about getting evicted just because you filed a disrepair complaint.
While you have several options for doing so, filing a disrepair complaint can be quite challenging. It is important to find experts who are knowledgeable and experienced, who know the process. The DisrepairClaim.co.uk team has been in the housing disrepair industry for years, so they know what to do to win compensation claims. Getting expert advice from our panel of solicitors will help improve your chances of getting the disrepair in your home fixed and being awarded some deserved compensation.
As has been repeated in this guide, a tenant should report repairs to their landlord immediately after discovery. Even if they are minor repairs, they still have to be reported right away. This is indicated in the tenancy agreement, so ignoring this rule will only worsen your situation.
The best way to inform your landlord about the disrepair in your home is to meet with them in person or to talk to them by phone. After the initial talk, be sure to do a follow-up in writing.
Make a copy of all the reports and correspondence with your landlord. If they refuse to do the repair work, these documents will be evidence that you informed them about the problem.
Once your landlord agrees to do the repair work, they should come up with a schedule of when this will be carried out. You must be given notice at least 24 hours before the repair work schedule. The notice must be done in writing.
The length of the repair work will depend on the level of disrepair and the kind of repair required. There are no set time limits in the tenancy agreement, but your landlord is expected to assure you that the work will be completed on time or within a reasonable time frame.
Emergency repairs such as broken water pipes or leaking gas must be handled as soon as possible.
If the landlord refuses to take any action on the repairs, the ideal thing to do is file a housing disrepair compensation claim.
Tenants under a local authority are entitled to use the Right to Repair Scheme if their requests for repair have fallen on deaf ears.
The Right to Repair Scheme is required of all local authorities, but other social housing landlords may have a similar scheme as well.
The scheme is particularly intended for small repair works that can be completed quickly. For the repair to qualify, it must not cost more than £250, the local authority should have over 100 properties under its care, and they must be responsible for the repair. The landlord must inspect the disrepair issue to determine whether it qualifies or not. If it does not fall under the category, the landlord has to inform the tenant in writing that the scheme cannot be applied to the repair.
If the repair qualifies, the landlord will send a repair notice to a contractor. The tenant is also provided a copy detailing the Right to Repair Scheme process. The contractor is expected to complete the repair according to a set schedule, which is dependent on the kind of work needed. If the contractor does not finish on time, the tenant can request the landlord to find another contractor. The landlord can choose only contractors that are on their list.
If the second contractor still fails to finish on schedule, the tenant can claim for compensation. The initial compensation is £10, and every succeeding day that the tenant waits is an additional £2. The maximum compensation tenants can get is £50.
Tenants can come up with an agreement with their landlord to use the compensation as payment for rent arrears.
Once the schedule is set for the repair work, the tenant must be home to allow the contractor entry into the property. If the tenant isn’t home, the scheme will be automatically invalidated.
Some examples of small repairs that are eligible for the Right to Repair Scheme are leaking pipes, roofs, cisterns, or tanks; unsafe electrical wirings or plugs; blocked toilets or sinks; and blocked boilers.
If you have reported and requested for repairs to be carried out multiple times but your landlord continues to ignore them, you will want to do something that can correct it right away. For some tenants, the solution is to withhold their rent.
While continuing to pay your rent despite your landlord’s neglect of the disrepair in your home doesn’t feel right, refusing to pay rent is not the best solution for you. Yes, your landlord may finally pay attention to you, but there will be consequences.
Even if your landlord has refused to do repair work, you do not have the legal right to withhold your rent from them. If you choose to do this, you will have to be prepared for possible eviction. Your landlord can go to court to request for possession proceedings. If the possession order is granted, you will be given a specific time to vacate the property. If you refuse to do so, your landlord can file for a Warrant of Possession and the eviction will be carried out according to the warrant.
You can still decide to push through with withholding the rent, but this does not assure you of anything. You will even have to open a separate bank account so that you can pay the arrears once the possession is granted, and you are potentially evicted from the property. Even if you do not have arrears, your landlord can still evict you.
Your best and safest option against your landlord’s neglect of your repair requests is to file a housing disrepair claim.
A disrepair claim is a type of compensation claim that is filed if a property has fallen into disrepair and the landlord refuses to or has failed to repair the issues despite the ample time given to them. You can claim disrepair compensation if the damage in your social home has caused you stress, inconvenience, and health problems.
While you can file a claim yourself, it can often be a lengthy, complicated process.. So, knowing what requirements to prepare, what steps to take, what limitations to take note of, and what protocols and schedules to follow is crucial.
Finding the right team of disrepair claim experts should be your first step, especially if it is your first time to file a legal case of any kind. Working with experts who have been in the industry for years will give you the guarantee that your housing disrepair claim is in good hands. Our panel of solicitors understand the stress you are under and can guide you through the claim, from the first step down to the last.
The DisrepairClaim.co.uk solicitor panel can provide expert advice every step of the way, so you won’t fight your battle alone. Get in touch today if you need help with your housing disrepair claim.
For Your Information
DisrepairClaims.co.uk do not give legal advice; Our service is limited to the process and administration of compensation claims. You do not need to use a claims management company to make a claim. You have the right to use the Housing Ombudsman to seek redress for free.
The No Win No Fee Success Fee for getting your housing disrepair compensation is based on which expert panel member we refer you to. Our panel consists of Satchell Moran Solicitors Limited, Bond Turner Limited, Smooth Commercial Law Limited, DW Marketing Limited.
The No Win, No Fee varies, but is generally between 25%+VAT - 50%+VAT. We do not have a termination fee for housing disrepair claims.