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Disrepair and safety responsibilities

An overview of the legal repair and safety responsibilities of landlords and tenants.

This content applies to England

Who is responsible for disrepair and safety issues

A landlord is responsible for most repair and safety issues in a property. They might be responsible because:

  • it is an implied or express obligation in the tenancy agreement

  • the property is unfit for human habitation

  • there is a health and safety hazard in the property

A tenant might be responsible if the problem is due to them not acting in a tenant-like manner.

Some repair and safety issues are common in rented housing, including problems with:

  • heating and hot water

  • damp and mould

  • pest and infestations

A landlord's responsibilities might depend on what is causing the problem.

Problems with heating, hot water and power

A landlord is responsible for ensuring installations that supply heating and hot water are in good repair and proper working order. This includes boilers and radiators.

A property that is excessively cold can also be unfit for human habitation. The local authority can take action if excess cold is a health and safety hazard.

Find out more about heating, hot water, and power problems.

Damp and mould

A landlord might be responsible for fixing problems that cause damp and mould. Damp and mould can also mean a property is unfit for human habitation if it is a health hazard.

A tenant's options depend on what is causing the issue. A tenant might be able to take steps to deal with the damp themselves if it is caused by condensation.

Find out more about damp and mould problems.

Pests and infestations

A landlord is responsible for dealing with a pest problem if repairs are needed to prevent pests entering the property or an infestation makes a property unfit for habitation.

Find out more about pests and infestations.

Landlord's repair responsibilities

A landlord is responsible for a repair where: 

  • it is covered by section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

  • they have agreed to extra repair responsibilities in the tenancy agreement

The landlord should redecorate after repairs if this is needed to put the property back to the same condition. For example, if the repair work damaged a carpet.

Section 11 implied repair responsibilities

Some repair responsibilities are automatically included in a tenancy agreement by section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

A landlord must keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the property that supply:[1] 

  • gas and electricity

  • heating and hot water

  • water and sanitation

A landlord must also keep the structure and exterior of a property in repair. Structural issues can cause other problems. For example, a landlord is responsible for repairing the structure when it causes damp and mould. 

The landlord must also repair the structure and exterior when it affects common parts of the building.

A landlord cannot avoid their implied duty to carry out repairs by stating in the tenancy agreement they are not responsible. For example, by adding a term into an agreement that a tenant is responsible for maintaining the boiler.[2]

Find out more about a repairs under section 11.

Common law repair responsibilities

A landlord also has some common law repair responsibilities. Common law means it was made by the courts. It is not set out in legislation.

The tenant has the right of quiet enjoyment. This means the landlord must not unreasonably interfere with the tenant's use of the property. This might require the landlord to:

  • maintain necessary facilities for the tenant, such as lifts[3]

  • ensure that premises in their ownership do not interfere with the tenant's premises[4]

  • maintain parts of the building the tenant has a right to use other than their rented space, such as a shared bathroom[5]

  • ensure disrepair does not breach the tenant's right to quiet enjoyment, for example if they fail to keep the building watertight and this causes damage to the tenant's flat[6]

Express terms in the tenancy agreement

The tenancy agreement might include extra responsibilities for the landlord. For example, the agreement could say that the landlord is responsible for repairing faulty appliances.

Social housing tenancy agreements often include express terms regarding disrepair. A tenant should check their tenancy agreement for any additional terms.

Landlord responsibilities where a home is unsafe

A landlord must make sure the property is fit for human habitation when they grant the tenancy and throughout.[7]   

A property might be unfit for human habitation if it has:[8] 

  • damp  

  • drainage and sanitary problems

  • a health and safety hazard

A hazard is a risk to the health and safety of an occupier. It includes risks that come from a deficiency in the property.[9] 

Hazards include:[10] 

  • overcrowding

  • excessive cold or heat

  • damp and mould growth  

There is also a separate common law obligation which requires landlords to ensure that furnished properties are fit for habitation on the day of letting.[11]

Find out more about a fitness for habitation in rented homes.

A local authority can also inspect a property for hazards and take enforcement action.

Landlord's improvement responsibilities

There is no automatic duty on the landlord to make improvements. Some improvements are not usually the landlord's responsibility, such as: 

  • replacing windows

  • putting up curtains

  • painting and decorating

The landlord might have to carry out improvements if it's necessary to address disrepair or a health and safety hazard. For example, installing a damp proof course.

Disability adaptations

Where a tenant has a disability they can ask their landlord to make reasonable adjustments to the property.[12]

Find out more about reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

Tenant makes improvements to the property

A tenant should get their landlord's permission before making any improvements to their property. A tenant usually must pay for improvements they choose to make.

If a tenant makes improvements to their property without permission the landlord could:

  • charge the tenant to change things back

  • make deductions from the deposit

  • start eviction proceedings

Many private tenants have limited protection from eviction. They might not benefit from improvements in the long run if the landlord chooses to end the tenancy. A landlord might be able to increase the rent as a result of improvements to the property.

Tenant's repair and safety responsibilities

A tenant has some responsibilities for repairs and safety in their property, including:

  • reporting repairs and allowing the landlord access to complete repair works

  • completing maintenance and repairs in a tenant-like manner

  • carrying out minor repairs set out in the tenancy agreement

  • fixing appliances or furniture they own 

A tenant might have to pay for a repair problem they caused even if their landlord is responsible for carrying out the repair. For example, damage caused by the tenant or blocked drains where the tenant did not take reasonable care to keep them free of blockages. 

Tenant-like manner

A tenant should maintain the property in a tenant-like manner. This means the tenant should:

  • keep the property reasonably clean

  • check safety on electrical appliances they own

  • keep gardens or outside areas in a reasonable state

  • make sure the property is well ventilated to avoid condensation

  • carry out minor maintenance, such as changing light bulbs or smoke alarm batteries

In one case, the court found that this meant the tenant should avoid or repair wilful or negligent damage and do minor acts necessary to keep the premises in a reasonable state.[13] For example, replacing a fuse or unblocking the sink.

The tenant’s duty includes turning off the water and emptying the boiler if they go away for the winter, but not if going away for a short period.[14]

The tenant is not responsible for fair wear and tear.

Terms in the tenancy agreement 

 A repairing obligation in the tenancy agreement is not binding on the tenant if it is: 

  • an unfair term 

  • related to repairs which the landlord legally must carry out

Find out more about unfair terms in tenancy agreements.

How a tenant reports repair and safety issues

The tenant is responsible for notifying the landlord that repairs are required.

A landlord is not required to carry out repairs until they are informed of the issue by the tenant or another person such as a contractor.[15] A landlord might also have notice of repair and safety issues if they visit the property and observe problems.

Notice does not have to be in writing. Written records can be used as evidence that the tenant notified the landlord. This can help if the landlord does not do repairs and the tenant needs to take action.

Different notice rules apply to repairs to common parts and claims under tort, such as nuisance or negligence.

Find out more about notifying a landlord about disrepair.

Access for repairs

A tenant has a responsibility allow a landlord access to carry out repairs as long as the landlord gives reasonable notice.[16] The tenant must allow access for inspections at a reasonable time of day if the landlord has given at least 24 hours' notice.[17]

A tenant might be in breach of their tenancy agreement if they refuse the landlord access to complete necessary repairs. The landlord could start possession proceedings or get an injunction to obtain access.

Find out more about problems during repair work.

How quickly a landlord should carry out repairs

A landlord must carry out a repair within a reasonable time after being given notice.

There is no definition of what a reasonable time is. It depends on the type of repair and the vulnerability of the occupant. A reasonable time might be within:

  • 24 hours for an emergency repair, such as a burst pipe

  • a week for an urgent repair, such as an insecure window above the ground floor

  • a month for a routine repair, such as a dripping tap

Social landlords often have a written policy that states how quickly they will carry out repairs.

Section 21 notice retaliatory eviction 

Assured shorthold tenants are at risk of retaliatory eviction. This is when a landlord serves a section 21 notice on a tenant who asks for repairs or complains about poor housing conditions.

A section 21 notice might be invalid when:

  • a tenant has reported issues to the local authority environmental health department

  • environmental health has served a notice on the landlord

Find out more about what makes a section 21 notice invalid.

Options if the landlord doesn't carry out repairs

When a landlord does not complete repairs in a reasonable time a tenant might be able to:

  • take legal action

  • report the issue to the environmental health department

  • make a formal complaint about their landlord or letting agent

Find out more about a tenant's options if the landlord does not complete repairs.

When the tenant wants to move out

A tenant might want to find alternative accommodation if their landlord does not carry out repairs. For example, if the housing conditions are a risk to the tenant's health.

A tenant might be able to:

  • apply for the housing register

  • find private rented accommodation

  • apply as homeless to the local authority

A person is homeless if it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy their accommodation. A tenant can approach the local authority to make a homeless application.

Tenants should seek advice before leaving the accommodation. A local authority could find that a tenant who leaves accommodation due to the property conditions is intentionally homeless if their accommodation was still reasonable to continue to occupy.

Find out more about the homeless application process.

Last updated: 22 June 2023


  • [1]

    s.11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [2]

    ss.12(1)(a), 11(4), 9A(4) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985; Kerr & Anor (as Trustees) v Maass [2019 EWHC 95 (Ch).

  • [3]

    Liverpool Corporation v Irwin [1977] AC 239.

  • [4]

    Chevron Petroleum [UK] Ltd v Post Office [1987] SLT 588.

  • [5]

    Miller v Emcer Products [1956] Ch 304.

  • [6]

    Booth v Thomas [1926] Ch 397.

  • [7]

    s.9A Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [8]

    s.10(1) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [9]

    reg 3(1) Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 SI 2005/3208.

  • [10]

    Schedule 1 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 SI 2005/3208.

  • [11]

    Smith v Marrable [1843] 11 M& W 5.

  • [12]

    ss. 20, 21, 36, Schedules 4 and 5 Equality Act 2010.

  • [13]

    Warren v Keen [1954] 1 Q.B. 15.

  • [14]

    Wycombe Area Health Authority v Barnett (1982) 5 HLR 84, CA.

  • [15]

    Makin v Watkinson [1870] LR 6 Ex 25; O'Brien v Robinson [1973] AC 912; Calabar Properties v Sticher [1983] 3 All ER 759; Morris v Liverpool (1987) 20 HLR 498; Earle v Charalambous [2006] EWCA Civ 1090.

  • [16]

    Saner v Bilton [1878] 7 Ch D 815; Granada Theatres v Freehold Investment (Leytonstone) Ltd [1959] Ch 592.

  • [17]

    s.11(6) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.