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What can tenants do if the agents are failing to maintain a property?

properties needing repairHere is a question to the blog clinic from Ali who is a tenant:

We are renting a house via a letting agency which are failing to maintain the property :( should we stop paying rent till jobs are sorted ?? Many thanks Ali

The quick answer to that is no.  That is not a legal right that you have (but see point 5 below).

A proper answer to your quesiton would take up a whole book probably, but here are a few points:

1. It is not the letting agency who are legally responsible for the repair work but the landlord.  Often agents will take over this responsibility for dealing with minor repair works, but if you are bringing any court proceedings based on the disrepair you must sue the landlord not the agents.

2. Landlords are not liable for ALL repair work.  Only for the matters set out in section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 and anything else set out in your tenancy agreement (see here for more information).

3. Assuming the repairs are something the landlord is liable for, you need to formally notify him of the disrepair and request it be dealt with  – in writing.  This letter should be fairly detailed.  If you have a surveyors report this should be attached.  Make sure you keep a copy of the letter.

4. If the landlord / agent still fails to carry out the repairs, you have a choice.  For minor works you can do them and claim the cost back from your rent.  You need to follow the proper procedure for this – I set it out in the tenants side of my Landlord Law site.

Or you can bring court proceedings for an injunction to get the work done and compensation for the disrepair.  If you do this you need to comply first with the Disrepair pre action protocol.  If you use the court option, it is best to get some legal advice first from local solicitors.

5. Not withstanding the fact that it is not something you are really entitled to do, many tenants do withhold rent as a way of forcing their landlords to do repair work.

If you do this, it is essential that you keep the money safe, say in a separate interest bearing bank account, so that if necessary you can pay it over to your landlord quickly (for example if he does the repairs and then sues you for eviction based on rent arrears).  DO NOT spend the money!

Then if you write to the agents about the withholding of rent, you can say that the money is  safe and that it will be paid over as soon as the repair work has been done.


If YOU have a problem, why not put it to the blog clinic?  However there are a lot of questions submitted, so if you need an answer quickly, remember that members of my Landlord Law service can ask me questions in the members forum area, and will normally get an answer with 24 hours.

(See also the comments area below and >> click here to read our terms of use and comments policy)

Important note. If you are reading an old post, remember that the law may have changed since it was written.

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3 Responses to What can tenants do if the agents are failing to maintain a property?

  1. For more serious repairs it is also worth calling environmental health, for instance no heating or hot water, which could be declared a Category 1 hazard under the HHSRS,for which they can serve works notices on the landlord if there is someone considered vulnerable to the problem living in the property.

  2. Tessa

    But what if it is the agent that is being obstructive?

    I’d suggest the tenant demands the landlord’s land contact address from the agents courtesy s1 L&T Act 1985 which they are then entitled to within 21 days.

    If the agent is being dilatory such an approach should shift them into action. In my experience Landlords take it badly if they get sued because their agent is not acting properly



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

The Landlord Law Blog from Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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