Your landlord has a legal duty to make sure that your home meets certain minimum physical standards. Some of the standards have been phased in but from 1 February 2013 they are all in force.
However, 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.
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. The Regulations intend to improve standards in rental accommodation.
For existing tenancies, a 4-year phasing-in period was allowed for some of the standards in the Regulations – see ‘Phasing-in period’ below.
The landlord must:
Since 1 December 2009, the requirement to maintain the rental property in a proper state of structural repair is spelt out in more detail. The Regulations require landlords 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.
A 4-year phasing-in period for existing tenancies was allowed for some of the standards in the Regulations, including standards for sanitary facilities, heating facilities, food preparation, storage and laundry.
The phasing-in period ended on 31 January 2013 so rental properties must now meet all the standards.
'Existing tenancies' meant property that had been let for rent at any time between 1 September 2004 and 31 January 2009. The phasing-in period was to allow landlords to carry out the refurbishment works needed to modernise their properties.
This means that, up to 1 February 2013, an existing rental property could continue to provide:
While the above phasing-in period for existing tenancies applied to some of the standards, since 1 February 2009 all properties must meet all other standards set out in the Regulations.
The phasing-in period is now over, so from 1 February 2013 onwards the landlord must provide:
From 1 February 2013 onwards, landlords must ensure that their rental properties fully meet all the minimum standards for rented housing.
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.