My landlord won’t do works, what can I do?

Q. We’re currently renting and our landlord is taking forever to fix the broken loo (we reported it two months ago and it still isn’t fixed). What can we do?

A: Not having control of repairs can be really frustrating for tenants; even more so if you don’t know what your tenant rights are. For any repair or maintenance work, always notify your landlord immediately – even if it doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the property, such as a small leak in a cupboard, you should still notify the landlord. I always recommend doing so in writing by email so you have a paper trail.

If there is a genuine emergency and you can’t get hold of your landlord, you may be within your rights to call the relevant tradesman to come and fix the problem. Use your judgement and think to yourself, would a court of law rule whatever the scenario is to be a genuine emergency?

Even if the problem is not an emergency, you need to allow your landlord a ‘reasonable’ amount of time to fix it. People’s definitions of reasonable do vary of course, so, again, think about what a court of law would rule. For example if one of your two toilets in the proprety isn’t working or your dishwasher breaks, these wouldn’t be classified as emergency situations as you can use the other toilet, or you could wash up dishes yourself.

If you’re dealing with a non-emergency scenario, report the problem to your landlord straight away in writing. If you don’t receive a response then send another written notification. At that point I would also say that you expect to receive a response within a reasonable, set time frame. If after that period you still don’t have a response, it would be deemed reasonable for you to start taking action. For example if the issues are affecting your health and safety in the home, you could contact your local council and ask them to inspect the property. A superb resource for any tenant is the housing charity, Shelter, which gives step-by-step guides.

Do remember that some issues take time to resolve, for example a part may need to be ordered which might take time. However, your landlord should communicate this to you, and good communication is really key in these situations. So, if there is a genuine reason for the delay then take that into account, but if there is no obvious cause for the delay, I would follow my steps above and then go ahead and have the problem fixed. Then email the landlord a copy of the receipt for the works and deduct the amount from your rent. Because you have taken reasonable and clear steps, I think it would be very hard for your landlord to argue against it.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.