Reasonable repair

Your home must be fit to live in.  It must be safe, warm, and dry.  Your landlord must make repairs in a reasonable time. 

Your responsibilities as a tenant

As a tenant, you must look after your home in a responsible way.  If you don’t, your landlord cannot be held responsible.

You should:

  • keep it clean
  • not damage the property and make sure your guests don't either
  • carry out minor maintenance such as replacing smoke alarm batteries
  • use the heating properly
  • don’t block flues or ventilation.

You are also responsible for minor repairs, such as:

  • fixing a bathroom cabinet
  • repairing an internal door
  • renewing sealant around the bath

Your landlord’s responsibilities

Your home must be ‘fit for human habitation’ – in other words, it must not be in such a bad condition that it’s unreasonable for you to live there.

It’s unreasonable to live somewhere with conditions that are bad for your health, or put you at risk of harm, or mean there are parts of your home you can’t use. This could be for lots of reasons including: 

  • No heating
  • No hot water
  • Bad ventilation
  • Bedrooms that are too small
  • Bedrooms without natural light
  • Damp and mould
  • Dangerous electrics or gas
  • Fire risks
  • Rats, mice or other pests
  • Structural or internal disrepair
  • Unhygienic toilets, bathrooms or kitchens.

Tenancies that start on or after 20 March 2019 are covered – unless you signed the contract or agreed to it before this date.

If your tenancy began before 20 March 2019, the fitness rule will start to apply if you sign a new agreement or stay on as a tenant at the end of a fixed term tenancy.  From 20 March 2020, all tenancies will be covered. 

If you are a lodger, living in Temporary Accommodation or have a licence agreement rather than a tenancy you aren’t covered by these new fitness rules.

Even if the conditions are not so bad, your landlord is responsible for repairs to the exterior and structure of your home. This applies to all Assured Shorthold Tenancies, and includes:

  • walls
  • stairs and bannisters
  • roof
  • external doors
  • windows
  • sinks, baths, toilets and other sanitary fittings, including pipes and drains
  • heating and hot water
  • chimneys and ventilation
  • electrical wiring

Most landlords want to know as soon as something needs fixing, and want to fix things as soon as possible.  Always tell your landlord when something needs repairing.

When you ask your landlord to make repairs, you should always try to ask in writing – even if that is an email or text.  Then keep a copy in case you need to refer to it later.

If your landlord needs to get into the property to inspect it and do repairs, they should give you reasonable notice and arrange a suitable time to visit (unless there's an emergency).

If anything is damaged during the repairs, your landlord must put it right.

Revenge evictions

Sadly, some landlords start legal action to evict their tenants if they ask for repairs. This is a risk you need to keep in mind. 

If your tenancy started or was renewed on or after 1 October 2015, you have some legal protection from eviction after reporting repairs.

Get advice if you reported repairs and your landlord has told you to leave – or if you are worried they might.

Find out more about revenge eviction if you ask for repairs on Shelter’s website.

The freeholder’s responsibilities

If you live in a block of flats, your landlord is responsible for repairing the structure of your flat but the freeholder is responsible for the lifts, communal areas and the overall safety of the building.

Almost all flats are owned on a leasehold basis – a kind of very long-term rental agreement. The freeholder owns the block itself. Leaseholders must have permission from the freeholder to rent out their flats. If your landlord does not have permission from the freeholder, they will almost certainly have broken the contract terms of their lease.  This would mean that the freeholder could take legal action to repossess the flat from the leaseholder.

The freeholder will be responsible for managing the communal areas of the block, and in some cases for managing the estate itself.

In many cases, freeholders are housing associations or the council’s housing management organisation Tower Hamlets Homes – for example if you are renting an ex-council flat.

If you live in a housing association on council estate, there will be signs on the blocks indicating who the main landlord is.

You can find contact details for all housing associations in Tower Hamlets.

Tower Hamlets Homes manage the council’s housing estates

Find out who owns the freehold for any property for just £3 at the Land Registry

Find out more about responsibilities for repair at:

What you can do if your home is unfit to live in?

You can take court action if you think your home is unfit to live in. The court could order your landlord to:

  • carry out any work needed 
  • pay you compensation 

Get free advice and help from one of the agencies signed up to the Private Renters’ Charter.

See Shelter’s advice on Fitness of Human Habitation.

If you think the conditions are putting your health or safety at risk, the council can assess whether your home is safe - and take action if it is not.

Tel: 020 7364 5008

If you show us that the conditions present an immediate risk to your safety or your health, we will arrange to inspect your home.

In most cases, if the conditions are putting your health or safety at risk but not at an immediate risk, we will write to your landlord first.   We will give your landlord three weeks to deal with the problem.  This is usually enough to solve the problem.

 If after three weeks you tell us that your landlord has not responded to our letter, we will inspect your home.

After inspecting your home, we will take action.  The action we take will depend on the kind of problem you have, but if we find conditions that are a risk to your health, we will issue a formal notice to the landlord.  If the landlord does not take action after this, we will either prosecute or fine your landlord.

In extreme situations, we may make repairs ourselves or make an order prohibiting your landlord from letting the property any more. 

We promise that we will keep you informed of the progress of any action we take.

Find out if your landlord or agent has been convicted of housing offences