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Problems during repair work

Problems that can arise during repairs, including access to the property, damage, redecoration, and alternative accommodation.

This content applies to England

Landlord access to carry out repairs

The tenant must allow the landlord access to the property for inspections, and to carry out repairs. The tenancy agreement might state that the tenant must allow access for the landlord to carry out improvements.

Access for inspections

The landlord or their agent has a right to enter the tenant's property to view its condition and state of repair. They must give the tenant 24 hours' notice in writing.[1]

Access for repairs

Tenants must grant their landlord access to carry out any repairs that they have a legal duty to carry out.[2] The landlord must give the tenant reasonable notice before entering the property.[3] This includes access for repairs under section 11, and for works under section 9A where a defect that makes the property unfit for habitation.

Reasonable notice is not defined, but 24 hours could be reasonable for most repairs. The landlord could ask the tenant for access sooner in an emergency, for example, if a water leak is damaging the property.

A tenant who refuses to grant access for repairs is in breach of their tenancy agreement. They could face possession action if they do not allow the landlord access.

Access for improvements

The landlord does not normally have a right to enter the property to make improvements other than those required to ensure the property is fit for habitation.

The tenancy agreement might state that the tenant must allow access to allow the landlord to carry out other improvements. For example, decoration or upgrading fittings. The tenant is in breach of their contract if they do not allow access in line with the tenancy agreement.

The landlord might need the tenant to move out in order to redevelop the property or make substantial improvements. There is a ground for possession the landlord can use to evict assured tenants and secure tenants where vacant possession is needed for redevelopment.

Disturbance and inconvenience

It is an implied term in tenancy agreements that the tenant has the right of quiet enjoyment. This means a tenant must be able to live in their property undisturbed by the landlord.

An implied term means it is treated as part of the tenancy agreement, whether the tenant has a written agreement or not. The tenancy agreement cannot override the tenant's right to quiet enjoyment.

Breach of quiet enjoyment

A landlord might be in breach of this implied term if by failing to meet their repairing obligations, they unreasonably interfere with the tenant's use of the property.[4] The right of quiet enjoyment and a landlord's repairing obligations must be considered together. This means the landlord must take reasonable steps to avoid disturbing the tenant, but it might be unavoidable if the repairs will disturb the tenant.[5]

The courts have held that cutting off gas and electricity supplies is a breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment.[6]

Work on a neighbouring property might also be a breach of a tenant's quiet enjoyment. For example, where repairs to another property the landlord owns cause noise or nuisance that unreasonably interferes with the tenant's use of their property.[7]

Obligation not to derogate from grant

A landlord also has an obligation not to derogate from the grant of the tenancy. This means they must not allow premises they own to be in a state that would interfere with the tenant's use of their property. This might include where poor conditions in a property or area controlled by the landlord leads to infestations or health risks in the tenant's property.

Use of services and landlord occupation

People undertaking repairs in rented property might need to occupy it whilst the work is underway or use gas, electricity, and water supplies.

Use of the tenant's utilities

A landlord or their contracted workers might use the tenant's supply of electricity, gas, and other services during repair works. Tenants must give reasonable facilities for carrying out repairs if their tenancy is:[8]

  • assured

  • assured shorthold

  • protected

There is no definition of reasonable facilities. It would be up to the court to decide if the use was unreasonable if the tenant issued a claim against a landlord for the excess amount of the bills.

The tenant does not have to give the landlord reasonable facilities for improvements. The tenant could negotiate with the landlord for a contribution towards utility bills, especially if the power use is excessive or goes on for a long time.

Landlord occupying the property to undertake repairs

The landlord can enter and occupy the tenant's property if it is necessary in order to do the repairs. The landlord does not have a right to vacant possession, or to access to all parts of the property unless it is essential.[9] The landlord can apply to court for an injunction if the tenant refuses to grant access.[10]

Harassment and cutting off services

Sometimes a landlord might use repair issues to force a tenant to leave. This might include:

  • refusing to carry out repairs

  • verbally or physically abusing the tenant while at the property

  • cutting off essential services such as gas, water or electricity

These types of actions can be considered harassment under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Harassment under the Act includes:

  • acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property

  • persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for occupation of the premises

Harassment is a criminal offence. Find out more about harassment by a landlord or letting agent.

If the tenant is forced to leave as a result of the landlord's actions, this might be an illegal eviction. The tenant might be able to apply to court for an injunction ordering the landlord to change their conduct and to allow the tenant to re-enter. The tenant might also be able to claim damages. Find out more about illegal eviction.

Damage and poor standard of work

Repair works could result in damage to the property. For example, a plumber employed by the landlord to repair faulty plumbing might break the toilet or the sink.

Damage that occurs as a result of repair works arranged by the landlord is the responsibility of the landlord to put right. The tenancy contract is between the tenant and the landlord, not the tenant and the people carrying out the repairs.

The tenant can ask the landlord to:

  • arrange to correct the damage

  • replace damaged items

  • pay compensation for loss or inconvenience

It would be up to the landlord to take up the matter with the contractor. This would apply whether the damage is to the landlord's or the tenant's property.

A landlord who has a responsibility to repair or maintain a property owes a duty of care to anybody who could reasonably be affected by certain defects. Landlords have a general duty to take reasonable care when building or carrying out work on a property to avoid defects or damage to the property.[11]

Damage that occurs during repairs could give the tenant grounds to issue a claim for negligence or breach of the Defective Premises Act 1972.

Read more about claims for negligence and the Defective Premises Act on Shelter Legal.

Redecoration after repairs

A landlord who has an obligation to repair must also rectify damage to decorations as a result of the repair work.[12]

This includes both:[13]

  • damage that occurred because the landlord failed to carry out repairs

  • damage caused by the repair work itself

For example, if replacing a faulty boiler caused damage to paintwork, the landlord would need to redecorate to repair the damage.

A landlord does not have an obligation to redecorate if damage results from improvement works. The exception is if the tenant made redecorating a condition of allowing the landlord access to make improvements.[14]

Displacement and alternative accommodation

The landlord might need the tenant to move out of the property if repairs cannot reasonably be carried out while they are in occupation

In one case the court held that the tenant was not obliged to give the landlord exclusive occupation unless it was essential in order to do the repairs. If exclusive occupation is not essential, the landlord must either do the work one room at a time in order to accommodate the tenant or agree provide alternative accommodation in exchange.[15] 

Alternative accommodation during repair works

The tenant might have to move out of the property temporarily while the landlord completes repair works. For example, where the repairs require significant structural work or when the repairs means the tenant cannot stay where they are.

Most private landlords do not have an obligation to provide the tenant with alternative accommodation, but the tenant could ask for somewhere else to stay. A landlord's insurance might cover the costs of a short stay in a hotel or bed and breakfast.

The tenancy agreement might state that the landlord will arrange alternative accommodation in some circumstances. For example where all or part of the property is unfit for habitation.

The landlord and tenant can agree to suspend rent payments if the landlord needs access to the entire property or there is a reason why the repairs cannot be done with the tenant present. The tenant should ask the landlord to confirm any agreement in writing.

A tenant should continue to pay their rent unless the landlord agrees to a rent reduction in writing.

Finding alternative accommodation

When a repair problem is not dealt with, a tenant might have to consider moving out of the property permanently.

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.

A tenant might need to give a valid notice to end their tenancy if they decide to leave.

Find out more about how a tenant can end a tenancy.

Decant accommodation provided by social landlords

A social landlord might decide to move the tenant from the property temporarily while repair works are completed. For example, where major works will affect multiple properties in the same building. This is often called decant accommodation. Social landlords should have a policy on when decants are used and the terms under which alternative accommodation is provided.

The tenant usually only has to pay rent on one property during that time. They should check with the landlord what they are expected to pay.

Benefits and alternative accommodation

Housing benefit, and the housing costs element of universal credit, are usually only payable on one property. The tenant must be occupying that property as a home.

Someone claiming housing benefit can continue to receive it for up to 13 weeks while living elsewhere. For universal credit they can be absent for up to six months. The person must intend to return.

Find out more about housing benefit and temporary absences.

Find out more about universal credit and temporary absences.

Recovering the costs of alternative accommodation as damages

A tenant might be able to recover the costs of alternative accommodation as damages if they have to move out because the landlord has breached their obligations. This might be before repairs are done or during the works.

For example, if a tenant reports a leak and the landlord fails to repair, the tenant might be able to claim for the costs of alternative accommodation if they cannot live in the property until the problem is resolved.

When a tenant is required to move out, whether temporarily while repair works are undertaken, or because before works start the conditions are sufficiently serious, the costs of removal or alternative accommodation can be recovered as damages. Damages could cover any expense reasonably incurred in occupying alternative accommodation from the date the premises could not longer be occupied up to the date of assessment or repair.[16] The tenant may also be able to claim general damages for the inconvenience of having to obtain and occupy alternative accommodation.[17]

The tenant would need legal advice to pursue a claim for damages. They might be able to get help under a conditional fee agreement. This is also known as a ‘no win no fee’ agreement.

Grounds for possession and suitable alternative accommodation

There is a ground for possession for secure tenants where vacant possession is needed because the landlord intends to carry out major works or demolish the property. The landlord must provide suitable alternative accommodation. The tenant might also be entitled to compensation for having been displaced.

Find out more about secure tenancy grounds for possession.

Rehousing by the local authority

A local authority has a duty to accommodate someone who is displaced because of certain types of housing order. These include:

  • a compulsory purchase order

  • a demolition order

  • a prohibition order

The tenant might also be entitled to compensation for being displaced.

Find out more about rehousing by the local authority.

Withholding rent payments

The tenant might want to withhold payment of rent if repairs are not carried out or are causing disruption.

There is no automatic right to withhold rent, even where a landlord is in breach of their repair responsibilities. The tenant might be able to negotiate a rent reduction with the landlord. Some tenancy agreements allow for a temporary reduction in rent if all or part of the property is unfit for habitation. The tenant should ask the landlord to confirm in writing any agreement to reduce the rent.

If the landlord does not agree to reduce the rent, the tenant might be at risk of eviction if they withhold rent anyway. The landlord can start possession proceedings for rent arrears. In some cases a tenant might be able to claim for compensation to offset the arrears where there is disrepair.

Find out more about offsetting rent arrears because of disrepair.

A private landlord of an assured shorthold tenant could give the tenant a section 21 notice. The landlord does not need a reason or ground for possession.

Find out more about section 21 notices.

Last updated: 22 June 2023


  • [1]

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

  • [2]

    Saner v Bilton [1878] 7 Ch D 815.

  • [3]

    Granada Theatres v Freehold Investment (Leytonstone) Ltd [1959] Ch 592.

  • [4]

    Duke of Westminster v Guild [1985] 1 QB 688.

  • [5]

    Goldmile Properties v Lechouritis [2003} EWCA Civ 49.

  • [6]

    McCall v Abelesz [1976] QB, 585, CA.

  • [7]

    Minja Properties Ltd v Cussins Property Group plc and others [1998] EGCS 23, Ch D.

  • [8]

    s.148 Rent Act 1977; s.16 Housing Act 1988.

  • [9]

    McGreal v Wake (1984) 13 HLR 107, CA.

  • [10]

    Minja Properties Ltd v Cussins Property Group plc and others [1998] EGCS 23, Ch D.

  • [11]

    AC Billings and Son v Riden [1957] 3 All ER 1 and Rimmer v Liverpool City Council [1985] QBD, (1984) 12 HLR 23, CA.

  • [12]

    McGreal v Wake (1984) 13 HLR 107, CA.

  • [13]

    Bradley v Chorley BC (1985) 17 HLR 305, CA.

  • [14]

    McDougall v Easington DC (1989) 21 HLR 310, CA.

  • [15]

    McGreal v Wake (1984) 13 HLR 107, CA.

  • [16]

    Calabar Properties Ltd v Stitcher (1984) 11 HLR 20, CA.

  • [17]

    Lubren v Lambeth LBC (1987) 20 HLR 169.