Housing Disrepair: Not Always Your Responsibility

As students started to move to their private rented homes, the Advice Centre became flooded with complaints about what students found when they checked into their homes. Unfortunately, we see this every year and the main reason why it continues is that not enough students take action.

As students started to move to their private rented homes, the Advice Centre became flooded with complaints about what students found when they checked into their homes. Unfortunately, we see this every year and the main reason why it continues is that not enough students take action. This year, we want to make sure that you’re equipped to challenge unfair treatment and get what you’re paying for: a decent home!

Here are some of the issues we’ve been helping students with:

  • Property not cleaned before check-in: it must be reported to avoid being met with bills for professional cleaning when you leave
  • Damp/mould: this is very bad for your health and will get worse unless you take action yourself as well as reporting it
  • Heating and plumbing problems: they should be dealt with promptly before it gets even colder
  • Issues with appliances
  • General disrepair

If you don’t deal with issues now, they could deteriorate, making you responsible for the cost to repair them. If you don’t report issues as they arise, your landlord could be justified in making deductions from your security deposit at the end of your tenancy. 

If your landlord is not dealing with problems in your home, it can get a little complicated, so you should seek professional advice.  Luckily, the SU Advice Centre can guide and support you, and they can even refer you to solicitors if necessary - all for free!

The first and most important thing is understanding what are yours and your landlord's responsibilities in terms of housing disrepair. 

Landlord's disrepair responsibilities

  • Heating and hot water supply
  • Basins, sinks, baths and toilets
  • The property's structure, windows, external doors, drains and gutters
  • Gas appliances (cooker, boiler) 
  • Fixed electrical installations (wiring, electrical sockets and fittings)

Tenant's disrepair responsibilities 

  • Report any disrepair to the landlord/agent promptly
  • Change light bulbs
  • Test smoke alarms regularly, changing batteries when needed
  • Keep the property and garden clean and tidy

Report it right

  • Report issues as they arise in writing: a simple email is ideal, but text/Whatsapp messages are okay too.
  • If an issue is urgent, such as heating, plumbing, safety/security, report it by phone, but then follow up with an email summarising what was said and what you were told to expect next. 
  • Report the key facts: What's the issue? When did the issue arise? Is it affecting anyone else?
  • Keep a record of any emails or messages sent or received.
  • Take photos if relevant and save these and other important files in a designated folder. 
  • Log all phone-calls, relevant dates, and events so that you have a record of everything. 

Get help

Urgent problems should be actioned within 24 hours and less urgent ones within a few weeks. Landlords often delay dealing with issues too long, but you don’t have to put up with this. If your landlord is not being prompt in their responses, ask an advisor for guidance straight away.

Even though dealing with landlords and estate agents can get frustrating, please remember that being impolite will only make things worse. If you find that you are getting irritable when dealing with landlords/agent, then it’s definitely time to ask for support. You can vent with an advisor in one of the Housing Drop-in sessions listed on our Events Calendar. An advisor can also proofread your emails and messages, or help you draft them. If you’re overwhelmed, you can give them consent to advocate for you so you can step back.

If your landlord is not dealing with serious problems such as electrical safety or heating, then you can ask the council’s Environmental Health team for help by emailing privatesectorhousing@runnymede.gov.uk. If necessary, they will inspect the property and order the landlord to make necessary repairs.