As a tenant, you have rights over your own flat, as well as communal parts of your building, such as stairwells, lifts and entrance halls. You also have rights over the communal installations which service your flat and other parts of the unit/floor, such as heating and electricity.
What are your rights?
s11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 provides that your landlord is required to keep the structure and exterior of the building in repair. Your landlord is also required to keep in repair and proper working order installations for water, gas and electricity as well as sanitation and heating. These duties cannot be contracted out in your tenancy agreement or lease.
The Act extends these duties to any part of the building in which your landlord holds an estate or interest. This means the duty also applies to sub-tenancies. For instance, if your landlord is the owner of a flat where the council is the freeholder of the building, your landlord would nonetheless be under a duty to use their best endeavours to keep the communal parts of the building in repair as hold an interest in those parts through their lease with the freeholder.
Often, it may not be possible for a landlord of a subtenant to undertake the repairs as they may lack sufficient rights to do so. In these circumstances, your landlord has a defence for failing to carry out the repairs if they can show they used all reasonable endeavours to obtain the right but were unable to. Practically speaking, where your landlord is not the freeholder or in control of the common areas of your building, they are likely to pass the duty to carry out the repairs onto the freeholder. The freeholder would be under the same obligation to them and is more likely to be able to undertake the repairs.
Your lease or tenancy agreement may contain ‘express’ terms placing further specific obligations on your landlord to repair the common areas of your floor/unit. If this is the case, your landlord will be obliged to fulfil the specified duties. The scope of these rights will be dependent on the wording.
How to enforce your rights?
If the common parts of your unit/floor remain under your landlord’s control, which is likely to be the case if your landlord is a housing association or the council, then their duty to repair does not require you to first give notice of the disrepair. It would, nevertheless, be advisable to report any disrepair to the communal parts of your building to your landlord before beginning legal action. If you do so you are more likely to get repairs done without having to take legal action but if you don’t the compensation you are entitled to because your landlord fails to remedy the repairing covenant could be reduced.
If your landlord is not in control of the common areas of your unit/floor because you are a subtenant, you will need to give notice to your landlord before their duty to repair kicks in. Make sure you keep a record of any time you have given the notice to repair as this will be useful evidence of the landlord’s breach of duty should they fail to carry out the repairs.
If you have been subject to a repairs breach, or require advice on your rights, then call us today on 0121 268 3208 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your query and we will get back to you.