Know your rights as a rental tenant

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Q. I privately rent my home and I have a list of repairs that I have requested my landlord to fix but he is saying it is not his responsibility. What are my rights?

A. As a tenant you have an obligation to look after the accommodation.

You should not make any alterations to the property without the permission of the landlord.  

The tenancy agreement may give more details of both your landlord’s and your responsibilities in carrying out repairs and you should check this.

The landlord’s general responsibilities

By law, your landlord has a number of repairing responsibilities, including repairing and keeping in working order:-

*the structure and exterior of the premises, including drains, gutters and external pipes

*the water and gas pipes and electric wiring (including, for example, taps and sockets)the basins, sinks, baths and toilet fixed heaters (for example, gas fires) and water heaters (but not gas or electric cookers)any appliances, fixtures, fittings and furniture provided by the landlord .

Your landlord has these duties by law, no matter what is written in the tenancy agreement.

However, if you ask your landlord to do these repairs they may attempt to regain possession of the property or not renew the agreement when it expires.

Before attempting to use this general right to repairs you should consult an experienced adviser.

The tenancy agreement may specify additional repairing obligations.

Common parts

Your landlord is normally also responsible for repairs to common parts of the building, for example, stairways, lifts, hallways or garden paths shared with other tenants or your landlord.  

Your landlord should also keep access areas adequately lit and safe to use.

The tenant’s main responsibilities

Other repairs will be the tenant’s responsibility:

*making good any damage to the property caused by the behaviour or negligence of the tenant, members of his/her household or any other person lawfully visiting or living in the property

*keeping the interior of the property in reasonable decorative order

*not carrying out alterations to the property without the landlord’s permission

Local Council duties

Local councils and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive have a duty to take action against private landlords and other social landlords such as housing associations if:

the condition of the property affects the health of the occupier, for example, if it is damp, infested with insects or has a leaking roof; or

the property causes a ‘nuisance’ to people living nearby, for example, if damp is coming into a person’s property from next door, or if rotten windows may fall into the street and injure others.

This duty covers disrepair in common parts of blocks of flats, such as unhygienic rubbish chutes and noisy central heating.

If you think that the condition of the property is either affecting health or causing a nuisance, you should complain to the environmental health department of the local council.

They must investigate and, if appropriate, give your landlord a notice instructing them to carry out the necessary repairs.

If your landlord does not comply with the notice, they could be prosecuted and the local council can carry out the repair work itself.

Local councils also have a duty to take action against a landlord if they consider that housing conditions are not acceptable for people to live in. This could be, for example, because your home is not structurally stable, doesn’t have adequate heating or lighting, or doesn’t have a suitable sewer and drainage system.

The council will order your landlord to do the necessary repairs. If your property cannot be repaired, the council may order that it is not to be occupied or that it must be demolished. In this case, it will rehouse you.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland