Withholding rent because of disrepair
If you’ve reported repairs to your landlord and they haven’t done anything, you may be able to do something about it. Tenants often think that it’s unfair for them to pay rent while their home is in disrepair and want to know if they can use their rent in some way to deal with the problem.
The following information explains that withholding rent can be very risky and what could happen if you do withhold rent because of disrepair. It also explains the procedure that must be carefully followed if you do decide to use future rent to pay for repairs.
Do you have the right to withhold rent?
You don’t have the right to withhold rent because of your landlord’s failure to do repairs. If you withhold rent your landlord may start possession proceedings against you and put you at risk of eviction.
Even though withholding rent is not recommended, if you decide that you want to do it anyway, then you should keep the money in a separate bank account. This way, if your landlord did start possession proceedings, you’d have the money to pay off the arrears straightaway. However, in some cases, your landlord could still evict you even if you didn’t have any arrears.
The right to use rent to pay for repairs
If your landlord has failed to do repairs that they’re responsible for, you do have a right to do the repairs and to recover the cost from future rent. However, using rent to pay for repairs is risky and you must follow a specific procedure otherwise you put yourself at risk of eviction.
If you’re thinking of doing this, it’s best to get specialist help.
Procedure for using rent to pay for repairs
There are a number of steps that you must follow if you want to use your rent to pay for repairs. This procedure is only likely to be of use to you for more minor repairs which you can afford to pay for if required.
The steps are:
- Step 1 – report the repairs to your landlord. It’s best to do this in writing and give your landlord a reasonable time to do the work. Keep a copy of your letter or email.
- Step 2 – if nothing happens, write to your landlord again telling them that you will do the repairs yourself unless they arrange for the work to be done. Keep a copy of your letter or email.
- Step 3 – allow a further reasonable period of time for your landlord to do the work. If nothing happens after this time, get three quotes for the cost of the work from properly qualified contractors.
- Step 4 – write to your landlord again enclosing copies of the quotes and giving them a final chance to do the work, for example, within two weeks. The letter should warn that, otherwise, you’ll do the work yourself and deduct the cost from the rent. Keep a copy of your letter.
- Step 5 – if there’s no response, arrange for the contractor who gave the lowest quote to do the work.
- Step 6 – pay for the work and send a copy of the receipt to your landlord and ask for the money to be paid back to you. Keep a copy of your letter.
- Step 7 – if the landlord doesn’t pay back the money, you can deduct the cost from future rent, but not other charges such as service charges. Send your landlord a breakdown of the amounts to be deducted, when they will start and when they will end. Keep a copy of your letter.
If you pay your rent with Housing Benefit or Universal Credit
If you’re a local authority tenant and you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing costs you won’t be able to use this procedure.
If you’re a tenant of another social housing landlord such as a housing association, or a tenant of a private landlord, your landlord may be paid Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing costs directly.
You could contact the Housing Benefit office, or the Department for Work and Pensions if you’re getting Universal Credit, and:
- tell them that you’d like to use this procedure
- ask them to make payments to you directly instead of your landlord
Who’s responsible for the quality of the work?
You’re responsible for the quality of the work, which is why it’s important to get quotes from properly qualified contractors. If you arrange repairs that are done badly, you’ll be responsible and will have to put it right.
What if your tenancy agreement says that you can’t use rent to pay for repairs?
A term in a tenancy agreement which says that you can’t use rent to pay for repairs is likely to be unfair and could be challenged.
If you’re a private rented tenant
In some cases, a private landlord may decide to evict a tenant rather than do repair work. Make sure you know whether you’re at risk of eviction if you’re thinking about using the procedure to use future rent to pay for repairs.
Go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk for the following:
- More about private tenants and the risk of eviction
- Other options for private rented tenants to deal with disrepair
- Other options for social housing tenants to deal with disrepair
- Common disrepair problems