Requirement to notify landlords about disrepair

The tenant must notify the landlord that repairs are required in order for contractual repair rights to apply.

This content applies to England & Wales

Notice to the landlord that repairs are needed

Under common law, a landlord is not liable to carry out any repair until they have been put on notice of the need for repair and has failed to carry out the repair within a reasonable time thereafter.[1]

When the notice requirement applies

The notice (or knowledge) requirement of the landlord is an implied term of all tenancy agreements that impose an obligation on the landlord to repair the property. The notice requirement applies where the repairing obligations are imposed by statutory implied terms, including section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, or express terms, over parts of the property demised by the landlord to the tenant.

Different notice rules apply to repairs to common parts or for the purpose of establishing the landlord's liability in tort (for example nuisance or negligence, or under the Defective Premises Act 1972).

In addition, the notice requirement does not apply to the implied term about the condition of rented premises on the day of letting.

What form the notice takes

Notice does not have to be in writing, but it is advisable to give it in writing (and keep a copy) where possible. It does not need to specify the extent of the disrepair or the repair work required.[2]

Advisers should note that it is the landlord's knowledge of the defect that is important, not the means though which they received it. Usually this knowledge arises from the tenant notifying the landlord of the disrepair. However, a landlord can be considered knowledgeable of the disrepair, and thus liable, in circumstances where they have not been notified of the defect by the tenant.

In one case, the High Court held that where the property had been affected by widespread damp, the landlord had become aware of the disrepair during his visit, despite the tenant’s failure to draw his attention to the individual areas.[3]

Case law suggests that the informant must be a 'responsible source'.[4] Examples include where:

  • the disrepair is brought to the attention of someone employed by the landlord who has the authority (express or implicit) to receive complaints of disrepair on the landlord's behalf, for example, workmen or a rent collector[5]

  • where disrepair to a local authority property is seen by an environmental health officer, even though they are not from the housing department and is inspecting for a different complaint[6]

  • where the landlord receives the knowledge from an independent valuer[7]

Last updated: 23 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    Makin v Watkinson [1870] LR 6 Ex 25; O'Brien v Robinson [1973] AC 912; Morris v Liverpool (1987) 20 HLR 498; Earle v Charalambous [2006] EWCA Civ 1090.

  • [2]

    Griffen v Pillet [1926] 1 KB 117.

  • [3]

    Kerr & Anor (as Trustees) v Maass [2019] EWHC 95 (Ch).

  • [4]

    Dinefwr BC v Jones (1987) 19 HLR 445.

  • [5]

    Sheldon v West Bromwich Corporation (1973) 13 HLR 23.

  • [6]

    Dinefwr BC v Jones (1987) 19 HLR 445.

  • [7]

    Hall v Howard (1988) 20 HLR 566.