Advice column – renters’ rights

Media release
Thursday 31 March 2016

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column we focus on repairs in rented property.

I am living in my first rented property and I am unsure what I need to do about repairs to the property.

If you rent your home from a private or social housing landlord, they’re responsible for dealing with most repair problems. However, it’s up to you to tell your landlord about repairs because in most cases, they aren’t responsible for the work until they know about it. In the last year we have seen a 38% increase in enquiries about housing issues.

Generally, if you’re a tenant, your landlord is responsible for repairing:
• the structure and exterior of your home, for example, the walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors
• basins, sinks, baths, toilets and related pipework
• water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters.

For tenancies that began after 15 January 1989, these repair responsibilities extend to the common parts of a building too, for example, the entrance hall.

You should report any repairs to your landlord or your landlord’s agent as soon as you notice them. Reporting repairs is often a term in tenancy agreements, so it doesn’t matter if the problem is quite small or if you’re not too concerned about getting it fixed. If you don’t report the repair when you notice it, it could get worse over time and cost more to put right.

If you live in private rented accommodation and you don’t report a repair promptly, your landlord may try to claim some money out of your tenancy deposit when you move out.

If you or someone visiting your home has caused the problem, you should also tell your landlord. They may agree to do the repair work themselves and then recharge the cost to you, or they may agree to you fixing it yourself. You should check any insurances to see if this will help with meeting the costs of any repairs.

It’s probably easiest to tell your landlord about any repair problems in person or by phone. However, it’s always best to follow this up in writing.
You should keep a copy of any letters or emails you send and receive because if our landlord doesn’t fix the repair, you’ll be able to show that you told them about it. This will be important if you need to take further action at a later stage.

Your landlord or their agent has the right to access your home to see what work is needed and to carry out the repairs. Unless it’s an emergency, they must give you at least 24 hours’ written notice.

How quickly repair work will take depends on what repairs are needed. The law doesn’t give any specified time limits, but the work should be done within a ‘reasonable’ time. Certain repairs, such as a burst pipe, should be dealt with as an emergency. You should check your tenancy agreement or tenants’ handbook if you have one. These may outline timescales for repair work. Landlords may do temporary repairs until the problem can be resolved more fully.

If your landlord doesn’t do anything after you report the repair, you may decide to take other action. There are several options open to you, some of which are different depending on whether you have a private landlord or a social housing landlord. You should seek advice if you reach this stage.

For more information and advice go to or telephone Citizens Advice Exeter on 03444 111 444.

Look out for our column next week when we focus on keeping up with Council Tax payments.

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit