Your landlord has a legal duty to make sure that your home meets certain minimum physical standards. Since 1 February 2009, properties for rent must meet minimum physical standards as outlined in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 (pdf). A further set of regulations, the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 (pdf) came into effect on 1 December 2009.
For existing tenancies, a 4-year phasing-in period was allowed for some of the standards in the Regulations. The phasing-in period ended on 31 January 2013 so rental properties must now meet all the standards.
It is important to note that your landlord's responsibilities (to keep the water pipes, for example, in good repair) do not normally cover you for any damage to your possessions (caused by burst pipes, for example) and the landlord's insurance policy is unlikely to cover your personal belongings.
Several insurance companies provide contents insurance for private tenants.
The housing charity Threshold publishes tips for tenants experiencing issues with flooding and burst pipes.
For each apartment, flat or house being rented as a separate unit, the landlord must ensure that the rental property is in a proper state of structural repair. The Regulations require the landlord to maintain the property in a sound state, inside and out. They specify that roofs, roofing tiles, slates, windows, floors, ceilings, walls, stairs, doors, skirting boards, fascias, tiles on any floor, ceiling and wall, gutters, down pipes, fittings, furnishings, gardens and common areas must be maintained in good condition and repair. They must not be defective due to dampness or otherwise.
The landlord must ensure that electricity or gas supplies are safe and in good repair, and that every room has adequate ventilation and both natural and artificial lighting.
The landlord must provide:
In multi-unit buildings, the landlord must provide each unit with a mains-wired smoke alarm; a fire blanket; and an emergency evacuation plan. There must also be emergency lighting in common areas.
Local authorities and certain housing bodies do not have to adhere to the Regulations on laundry, food preparation and storage facilities. However, they continue to be governed by the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 1993 and must provide:
Local authorities (in their role as housing authorities) are responsible for enforcing these minimum standards. If you think that your home does not comply with the standards, you should complain to the local authority, whether you are a local authority tenant or housing association tenant. If you are a private tenant and you think your accommodation is sub-standard or your landlord refuses to carry out repairs that are included on the aforementioned list, you can ask the local authority to make the landlord comply with the standards. See 'Where to apply' below.
Failure to comply with the minimum standards can result in penalties and prosecution. Housing authorities can issue Improvement Notices and Prohibition Notices to landlords who breach the minimum standards regulations. An Improvement Notice sets out the works that the landlord must carry out to remedy a breach of the regulations. If the landlord does not do these works, the housing authority may issue a Prohibition Notice, directing the landlord not to re-let the property until the breach of the regulations has been rectified.
Further disputes between landlords and tenants in the private sector can be mediated by the Private Residential Tenancies Board.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.