Who is responsible for repairs?
It is inevitable that at some point repairs will be needed when living in student accommodation. You may be unlucky enough to be living in a property when this happens.
Winter often is the cause of such problems as extreme cold, snow or rain may put strain on a property’s heating system or roof. However, this isn’t always the case and things can go wrong at any time.
The duty to repair lies with your landlord (and not the agents) and may fall under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. This act of Parliament makes the landlord responsible for the structure and exterior of the property which consists of the roof, walls, windows, doors and the installations which make the house habitable such as heating, lighting, water and sanitation.
There is also an obligation on the landlord to keep the fixtures and fittings within the property in good working order for you so for example the cooker, washing machine, fridge freezer, any other white goods, furniture as well as any other fixture. You have the right to ask your landlord to repair any of these items if there is a problem or they are broken in any way. The right to ask your landlord to do this comes from a contractual right under the contract you have signed.
If any damage is caused by a house guest, your landlord may want to use their own workmen and pass the cost on to you either immediately or from your damage deposit.
Landlords are also not obliged to put right any issues that relate to design deficits so if there is anything that relates to this, you should not expect that this will be done.
What to do if there is a problem
If there is a problem with a repair in your property, the first thing you should do is formally report this to your landlord or agent
If the repair is urgent then you should report it by telephone or in person, but then followed up in writing (letter or email) to establish paper trail.
Take some photos yourself of the disrepair if possible and keep note of when the problem occurred and all of your dealings with the landlord or agents – you may need this evidence if you need to take the matter further.
Ask the landlord or agents about next steps and timescale note this date. If you have not heard back from them by the date, then you should chase them. However you must give them a reasonable time to resolve the problem.
Repairs cannot always be fixed immediately and landlords will need to source a workman and this could take a couple of days. The only exception to this is when there is an emergency such as a leaking pipe or no heating, lighting or sanitation. The landlord should be able to resolve this through their insurance company.
If there is a risk to your health such as damp, no sanitation, water or heating, you can involve Environmental Health at your local council who have statutory powers to force your landlord to put things right quickly.
It is not advisable to stop paying your rent if you have outstanding repairs. By not paying your rent, you are in breach of your contract.
Not paying your rent leaves you open to eviction as having rent arrears is a reason for the landlord to issue a possession order and take you to court.
Understanding your position
Be aware that if you have a periodic assured shorthold tenancy (an agreement which is not covered by a fixed term), then it is much easier for the landlord to ask you to leave by issuing a notice to quit which you will not be able to defend.
This is the case whether you owe rent or not. This may also influence your decision to report repairs to your landlord as you are more vulnerable to eviction. However this does not mean that you should just put up with a badly maintained property, it just means that you are more vulnerable to eviction and you should consider the consequences of the report.
If problems persist
If your landlord employs an agency and they do not fulfil their repair obligations, check to see which Property Redress Scheme the agents are members of.
Under the law, lettings agents must join a scheme and could face prosecution if they are not members of any of the two schemes.
The schemes have clear rules on how their members should deal with repairs and will assist you to push for the repairs if their members haven’t obeyed their guidance.
You can complain to the letting agent’s redress scheme after you receive their final response to your complaint or after 8 weeks if the letting agent doesn’t resolve the issue within this time.
If there problem still hasn’t been resolved, the next step is to seek legal advice from your local advice agency or your Students’ Union to see what your legal position is and what you can do.
You can also find more information and advice on the Citizens Advice website