Repairs under section 11
A landlord's obligations to carry out repairs under section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and express terms in the tenancy agreement.
- Repairs and safety in rented homes
- What a landlord must repair under section 11
- Repairs to common parts of the building
- Express repair terms in the tenancy agreement
- Notifying the landlord about disrepair
- Timescale and standard of works
- Costs of repairs
- Taking action if the landlord does not carry out repairs
- Tenancies not covered by section 11
Repairs and safety in rented homes
Landlords have a legal obligation to carry out repairs in properties they rent out.
A landlord's main repairing obligation is under section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Section 11 requires landlords to make repairs to the structure and exterior, as well as to installations such as boilers, pipes and electrics. It applies to private and social landlords.
Section 11 applies to most residential tenancy agreements, with some exceptions including crown tenancies and fixed term tenancies of seven years or more. It does not apply to licence and lodger agreements.
A landlord might also have additional repairing obligations set out in the tenancy agreement. For example, if the contract says that they will repair appliances.
The landlord is usually not required to carry out repairs to the property until they have been notified of the problem. The landlord must keep common or shared parts of the building in repair even if they have not been notified by the tenant.
Properties that are unfit to live in
Landlords must also make sure a rented property is fit for human habitation. A property might be unfit if there are risks to health and safety. These do not necessarily have to be repair issues. For example, where mould in the property is a risk to health.
The two sets of rules can overlap. A repair issue might also mean a property is unfit for habitation. The landlord would be responsible for resolving the issue under both sets of rules.
Find out more about fitness for habitation in rented homes.
What a landlord must repair under section 11
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 creates an implied term in tenancy agreements that a landlord must carry out certain repairs. An implied term is treated as though it is part of the contract between the landlord and tenant.
Section 11 overrides what is written in the contract, unless the contract gives the tenant additional rights. Landlords cannot avoid their obligations by writing in a term in the agreement that says section 11 does not apply.
The landlord must keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling house. They must keep in repair and working order, the installations for the supply of:
gas and electricity
water and sanitation
space heating and heating water
The dwelling house is the building or part of a building let to the tenant wholly or mainly as a private residence.
Structure and exterior of the building
The structure means the elements of the dwelling house that give it its essential appearance, stability and shape. For example, walls, ceilings and the foundations. Staircases and bannisters are part of the structure. Internal and external plasterwork is part of the structure of a dwelling. Decorations and fittings, such as mirrors or blinds, are not.
The exterior is the outside of the building, including external walls and the roof. It includes drains, guttering and external pipes.
Installations for the supply of power, heating and water
The landlord must keep in repair and working order the installations for the supply of gas, water, electricity, sanitation, space heating, and heating water. These include
water and gas pipes
electrical wiring and sockets
boilers and water tanks
radiators and other space heating installations
Installations for sanitation include basins, sinks, baths and toilets.
Installations do not include appliances for making use of the supply of gas, water and electricity. For example, ovens or washing machines. A landlord is only responsible for repairing these it is specified in the tenancy agreement.
The landlord must repair any installation they own or control which directly or indirectly serves the dwelling. For example, communal heating in a block of flats owned by the same landlord. There is an exception for tenancies granted before 15 January 1989, where the installations must be in the tenant's dwelling.
A landlord is not responsible for a defect in an installation they do not own or control. For example, where low water pressure was caused by works in a neighbouring commercial premises.
Sometimes an issue with an installation might be caused by something other than disrepair. Find out more about problems with heating and hot water.
Keep in repair and working order
The landlord must keep the installations in the property in repair and good working order. This can include carrying out repairs where an installation has never been in working order, due to disrepair or a design fault. A landlord with knowledge of the defect is in breach of the implied term.
Keep in repair means the landlord must maintain the standard of repair throughout the tenancy. The landlord must put the premises into repair if it was not in good repair at the start of the tenancy.
Repairs excluded from section 11
Section 11 does not require the landlord to:
carry out repairs necessary because the tenant failed to use the property in a tenant like manner
rebuild or reinstate the property after destruction or damage by fire, flood or storms
repair or maintain anything the tenant is entitled to remove from the property
Repairs to common parts of the building
A landlord might be required to carry out repairs to parts of the building that the tenant shares with others. For example, communal staircases or entrance ways.
Section 11 and common parts
A landlord’s repairing obligation under section 11 can cover any part of the building in which they have an estate or interest. For example, if the landlord owns the building and rents out individual flats. An estate or interest can include an easement. This is where a landlord has a right of way over a shared area. For example where a leaseholder has the right to use an entrance hall, owned by a separate freeholder.
The landlord must carry out repairs where disrepair or failure to keep installations in working order affects either the dwelling house or common parts of the building that the tenant is entitled to use. For example, where a leak in the roof causes flooding in a communal staircase.
If the tenancy began before 15 January 1989, the landlord is only responsible for repairs to the structure and exterior of the dwelling let to the tenant, and the installations in it. They are not responsible for repairs to common parts.
Section 11 does not apply to common parts that are not a part of the building or attached to it. For example, an access path that led to the entrance door of a block of flats fell outside of section 11.
Common law rules
A landlord’s obligations at common law might also require them to maintain shared parts of the building. Common law means it was made by the courts. It is not set out in legislation.
A landlord must not allow other premises that they own to interfere with a tenant's premises. Where the landlord retains control of a part of a building and lets another part, they must maintain that part to prevent injury to the tenant or damage to the premises. For example to prevent dampness getting into a flat.
Where the tenant is given a contractual right to use another part of the building other than the part they rent, the landlord must to maintain that part for use by the tenant. For example, a shared bathroom or toilet.
Express repair terms in the tenancy agreement
A landlord cannot contract out of their obligations under section 11 by writing in a term in the tenancy agreement. They can choose to add in additional terms that require them to carry out repairs not covered by section 11. These are sometimes called express terms. For example, a tenancy agreement might state that the landlord must repair appliances such as the oven or washing machine.
A tenancy agreement might contain a clause stating the rent is reduced or suspended where certain conditions are met. For example, if repairs are not carried out within a set amount of time, or there is no heating or hot water.
Social housing tenancy agreements often include express terms regarding disrepair. A tenant should check their tenancy agreement for any additional terms.
Notifying the landlord about disrepair
A landlord is not normally liable to carry out works in a rented property until they have been put on notice that repairs are needed. This applies to repairs under section 11 and express terms in the tenancy agreement.
A landlord could be treated as being on notice of the disrepair if they know about it, even if they have not had formal notification from the tenant. Where a property had been affected by widespread damp, the High Court held the landlord had become aware of the disrepair during his visit. This was despite the tenant’s failure to draw his attention to the individual areas. A landlord might be considered to have knowledge of a repair issue where workmen or contractors employed by them were aware of the problem.
There is no specific requirement for how a tenant should notify a landlord of a repair issue. Notice could be given verbally or in writing, including email or text messages. The information provided should be enough that a reasonable person would make enquiries about whether repairs are needed.
The tenant should keep a copy of any communications they have with the landlord about disrepair. This could be used as evidence in any dispute about timescales or liability.
Notice about disrepair in common parts
Common parts in which the landlord has a legal interest are considered to be within the landlord’s control. For example, where a local authority landlord owns an entire block of flats let out to individual tenants. A tenant is not required to give the landlord notice of the disrepair before the landlord's obligation to repair arises.
A tenant who is aware of disrepair in common parts but fails to report it to the landlord might be seen by the court as having failed to mitigate their loss. Any award of damages under section 11 could be reduced.
Where the landlord does not own or have control of the common parts, the Supreme Court suggested that the repair obligation only arises once the tenant has put the landlord on notice. This might be the case where the landlord has a leasehold interest in a single flat which they have let out.
Timescale and standard of works
The landlord must carry out repairs within a reasonable period of time once they have been notified of the problem.
There is no statutory definition of reasonable time. Relevant factors might include:
the extent of the disrepair
availability of replacement parts
whether the tenant is living in the property
Social landlords often have repairs policies that set out specific timescales for types of repairs. These might vary depending on the time of year. For example, a policy might set out a shorter timescale for repairing loss of heating in winter.
Any temporary measures the landlord has put in place might affect what is considered a reasonable time to complete repairs. For example, a temporary door to replace one that was broken, or space heaters where a boiler is not working.
Standard of repairs
The standard of repair can depend on the age, character, and prospective lifespan of the dwelling house and the locality in which it is situated. The property does not have to be put into a perfect state. It should be repaired to a standard that would make it fit for occupation.
A landlord is not obliged to replace an item where it is possible to repair. Where there is more than one option to meet a contractual requirement, a landlord is entitled to choose the cheaper one. The landlord can replace installations on a like for like basis. They are not required to replace or improve installations unless required to by law, for example where standards have changed.
A tenant might be able to take action if repairs are carried out to a poor standard. Find out more about problems during repair works.
Costs of repairs
A landlord cannot charge a tenant directly for carrying out repairs under section 11. Landlords are prohibited from including any term that limits their obligations under section 11 or imposes any penalty or obligation on the tenant in enforcing their rights.
Any fee or charge for carrying out repairs is likely to be banned under the Tenant Fees Act. The landlord can charge the tenant for repairs needed as a result of them breaching their contract. Find out more about banned tenant fees.
Where the tenancy agreement includes a variable service charge, a landlord might be able to use this to recover costs of works. For example, where the landlord has made repairs to common areas and the tenancy agreement allows for this to be recovered from the tenants in the building. Services charges must be reasonably incurred and for work or services of a reasonable standard.
The landlord might try to increase the rent to recover costs of repairs. There are statutory limits on rent increases for most tenants. The tenant might be able to challenge an increase.
Find out more about rent and service charge increases for private tenants.
Taking action if the landlord does not carry out repairs
If a landlord fails to meet their repair obligations, the tenant might be able to:
take court action
get help from the local authority
make a complaint to the landlord
A tenant can bring a County Court claim against the landlord for breach of an implied or express term in a tenancy agreement. For example, for breach of the term implied by section 11 if the landlord has not carried out repairs after being put on notice.
The tenant could ask for an order for:
specific performance, to get the landlord to carry out works
damages for the breach
Tenants need legal assistance to make a claim. Legal aid might be available where there is a serious risk of harm to the health and safety of the occupiers. The tenant must be financially eligible. This is based on their income and capital. A person must have a low income or be in receipt of certain benefits to be eligible for legal aid.
A tenant who is not financially eligible for legal aid might be able to get help under a conditional fee agreement. This is also known as a ‘no win no fee’ agreement.
A claim for damages could also be raised as a counterclaim or defence to a possession claim based on rent arrears. Legal aid is available for defending possession claims if the person is financially eligible.
Find out more about legal aid for housing problems.
Local authority enforcement
A tenant might be able to get help from the local authority if repair problems are a hazard or risk to health and safety. The team responsible might be called the environmental health department or private sector standards team. Their duties are the same.
A tenant could ask the local authority to inspect under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Where the authority finds hazards, it can take action including:
recommending the landlord make repairs
making an improvement order requiring the landlord to do works
making a prohibition order preventing anyone living in the property
This option is not available to local authority tenants. Environmental health is part of the local authority. A local authority cannot take action against itself.
Find out more about local authority duties on health and safety hazards.
The tenant could make a complaint to a landlord or agent where repairs are not carried out within a reasonable period of time.
Social landlords should have a complaints policy which sets out how they will deal with complaints. If the tenant is unhappy with the outcome, they might be able to escalate the complaint to the Housing Ombudsman. Find out more about complaints to the Housing Ombudsman.
A private tenant who is unhappy with the way a letting agent dealt with a repair issue might be able to complain to a redress scheme. Find out more about complaints about letting agents.
Tenancies not covered by section 11
Section 11 applies to most tenancy agreements, including secure, assured, assured shorthold and Rent Act tenancies. It applies equally to private and social landlords.
Section 11 does not apply to:
licence and lodger agreements
crown tenancies, such as lets by government departments
tenancies where a local authority is the tenant
tenancies that began before 24 October 1961
tenancies with a fixed term of seven years or more, with some exceptions
The tenancy or licence agreement might contain express terms that give the landlord repairing obligations. In some cases, these might be similar to section 11.
Section 11 does not apply to licence agreements. For example, where someone has a licence in a hostel, or is a lodger sharing accommodation with a resident landlord. The licence agreement might include similar terms requiring the licensor to carry out repairs.
A landlord might incorrectly describe an agreement as a licence to try to avoid their obligations under section 11. Find out more about sham licence agreements.
Tenancies that began before 24 October 1961
Section 11 can apply to a tenant whose agreement began before 24 October 1961 if they are granted a new tenancy after that date. For example, if they sign a new tenancy agreement. This does not include where someone succeeds after 1961 to a tenancy that began before that date. This is the case even if the tenant succeeds to a different type of tenancy. For example an assured tenancy arising on succession to a Rent Act tenancy.
A pre-1961 regulated or secure tenancy is covered by section 11 if they the tenant has a fair rent registered on the basis that section 11 applies. The landlord must have accepted rent. Check the conditions of a fair rent on the Gov.uk fair rent register.
Fixed term tenancies of seven years or more
Section 11 does not apply to most tenancies with a fixed term of seven years or more. This includes long leases. There is an exception for fixed term tenancies granted by social landlords, including:
local authority flexible tenancies
fixed term assured and assured shorthold tenancies granted by social housing providers
These tenancies must have been granted on or after 1 April 2012.
Shared ownership tenancies are exempt from section 11. Shared owners are responsible for most repairs to their property.
A tenancy with a fixed term of more than seven years is covered by section 11 if it has a break clause that allows the landlord to end before seven years.
A shorter fixed-term agreement that allows the tenant to renew the tenancy so that the total term lasts for more than seven years is not covered by section 11. For example, a three year fixed term tenancy with an option to renew for a further five years. The tenancy would be covered by section 11 if there is a break clause that allows the landlord to end it before seven years.
Last updated: 22 June 2023