If you are a council or housing association tenant and your landlord won't carry out repairs or is being unreasonably slow in doing them, you may decide to use some of your rent money to pay for repairs. To do this, you must follow the correct procedure.
It is important to remember that you don't have the right to withhold rent. If you don't pay your rent, your landlord might try to evict you.
Housing benefit claimants using rent money to pay for repairs
If you are a council tenant and you claim housing benefit to pay for your rent, you cannot withhold any of your rent money to pay for repairs. This is because your housing benefit is paid directly to the council you rent your home from.
Eviction due to withholding of rent
How easy it is for your landlord to evict you because you haven't paid all your rent depends on the type of tenancy you have. If you have limited rights and the repairs are not essential, it may be better to live with things as they are, and to get the repairs done in another way.
If you have an introductory tenancy or a demoted tenancy, you can be evicted much more easily than secure tenants. Similarly, if you rent from a housing association, you can be evicted much more easily if you have an assured shorthold tenancy instead of an assured or secure tenancy.
Whatever type of tenancy you have, it is essential to follow the correct procedure (see below).
Procedure for using rent money to pay for repairs
You must follow a specific procedure if you want to pay for repairs and take the cost out of your rent. Otherwise, your landlord can evict you. However, if you do follow the correct procedure, you will have a defence if the landlord starts possession proceedings against you.
Keep copies of all correspondence, and keep accurate records of what you have paid and when. Use and adapt our sample letters to write to your landlord.
Step 1 - report the repairs
If repairs are needed to your council or housing association home, you should report the repairs to the landlord and allow time for them to be done. You may be able to report repairs online, or you might prefer to do it in writing.
Use our sample letter to tell your landlord about the repairs. Remember to keep a copy.
Step 2 - use your landlord's complaints procedure
Give your landlord time to reply. If your landlord does not reply or does not begin repairs within a reasonable time, use your landlord’s formal complaints procedure to complain about the disrepair. Your tenants’ handbook will have details of the complaints procedure.
Step 3 - write again if repairs haven't been started
Write to your landlord again if they haven't contacted you or haven't started the repairs. Explain that you intend do the work yourself and take the costs out of your rent, unless the repairs are done within a certain time (for example, two weeks).
Use our sample letter telling your landlord you plan to do the repairs. Keep a copy.
Step 4 - get quotes for the repair work
Once two or three weeks has passed, get three quotes or estimates for the work from reliable contractors.
Step 5 - write to your landlord with the quotes
Send the quotes to your landlord with a letter explaining that you are going to go ahead with the cheapest quote unless your landlord arranges for the repairs to be done within a certain time (for example a further two weeks).
Use our sample letter giving your landlord quotes for the repairs. Keep a copy.
Step 6 - arrange for repair work to be done
Once this time has passed, if your landlord hasn't responded, arrange for the work to be done by the contractor that gave the cheapest quote.
Step 7 - pay for work and send landlord receipt
Pay for the work yourself and send a copy of the receipt to your landlord, asking them to refund the money. See our sample letter asking your landlord to pay for the repairs. Keep a copy.
Step 8 - if money is not refunded, deduct from rent
If your landlord does not give you back the money, write and confirm that you are going to deduct the money from your future rent. Explain exactly when the deductions will start and how long you will be deducting rent.
Use our sample letter telling your landlord you will be deducting money from your rent. Don't forget to keep a copy.
Responsibility for the quality of the work
The tenant is responsible for the quality of the repair work. Make sure that repairs are carried out properly. If you carry out or arrange repairs that are done badly, you'll be legally responsible for putting right any damage caused.