Bad Landlords

Bad Landlords tend to fall in to two categories; those that just won’t leave you alone to enjoy living in their property and those whose idea of dealing with a problem is to ignore it and hope that it will go away. Either type can make life pretty uncomfortable for a tenant but the law does provide a certain degree of protection in both instances.

If you can, rent your property through a professional letting agency and if that agency also manages it on behalf of the Landlord that is generally the ideal set up. An agency that manages a significant amount of properties is likely to have a person dedicated to sorting out problems reported by tenants and will also have built up a network of reliable trades people that they can call upon.

This is not always the case if the Landlord is managing your rental property. Bad DIY, unreliable tradesmen employed by the Landlord or just plain incompetence are problems that tenants regularly have to put up with.

Landlord’s Repairing Obligations

Assuming that your tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST) your Landlord will have certain statutory obligations under The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 in relation to how the property is maintained and repaired:

(a) to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling, including drains, gutters and external pipes,

b) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences) but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity, and

(c) to keep in repair and proper working order the installation in the dwelling for space heating and heating water.     

As you can see the obligations mainly cover the structure of the building and arrangements for sanitation and heating. They do not cover decorative items or damage caused by the tenant. The tenant has a duty to act in a tenant like manner so for example if you were to accidentally break a window at the property this would be down to your carelessness and you would be responsible for the repair yourself.

The Landlord’s obligations do not arise until he has been made aware of the defect. This can be done by means of a telephone call or if you think that you will need a record of the notice (due to previous problems) put it in writing. The Landlord is then allowed a reasonable time to carry out the repairs. This will be judged according to the type and extent of the disrepair.

Access for the Landlord

You must give the Landlord, or his representative, reasonable access to the property to inspect, plan for and execute a repair.

The Landlord is also entitled to carry out a general inspection of the property from time to time so long as he gives you reasonable notice, this would normally be at least 24 hours. This does not affect your right to live peacefully in the accommodation without nuisance from your landlord. The Landlord should never use his keys to enter the property without the tenants' knowledge or permission, other than in cases of genuine emergency.


If it can be proved that despite you giving the Landlord reasonable access he has breached his repairing obligations you will be entitled to claim compensation. The purpose of the compensation is to restore you to the position that you would have been in if there had been no breach. A compensation award to a tenant might include the cost of the tenant carrying out the repairs themselves, the cost of re-decorating after a problem, compensation for the inconvenience of living in premises that were out of repair, compensation for injury to health, the cost of moving to and occupying alternative accommodation and storage costs.  

Withholding Rent

Many tenants will threaten to use their rental payments as a lever to speed up their Landlord’s response time. Generally there is no legal basis for this. The only  exception is if The Landlord has clearly failed in his repairing obligations but even then the tenant is obliged to follow the procedures that are laid out in the Act which include informing the Landlord of what you intend to do and providing him with estimates for the repair.

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