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Accommodation Problems

This page is for people living in private rented accommodation or University-managed accommodation, but NOT for people living with a resident landlord. If you have a resident landlord, please refer to this section.

If things are not ‘right’ in your student accommodation, this can have a serious impact on how well you do at university and how much you enjoy your time as a student. It is important not to leave issues undealt with, as it is rarely the case that they will simply sort themselves out!

It is important to recognise the problem and seek a solution. If you can’t find the answer and want help finding the answer please contact the SU Advice Centre.

Some of the things that can go wrong are…

  • The accommodation is not in good condition when you move in.
  • Things break or go wrong while you are living there.
  • There are problems in the group, which affects the harmony of the house - see our page on Moving In.
  • You have a problem landlord or agent who does not fulfil their obligations, see section below on Landlord Maintenance Obligations to Tenants.

Is everything as you expected it to be at the start of the tenancy?

For furnished properties, it is an implied term of the tenancy agreement that the property must be ‘fit to be lived in’ on the day the letting period begins. If the property is unfit, the landlord will be in breach of the tenancy agreement.

If you are moving into a furnished property and you consider it to be unfit, contact the SU Advice Centre for guidance - the earlier you say something, the more rights you may have! If you start taking action within the first 90 days of your tenancy because the landlord has failed to meet their obligations under the terms of the tenancy, it may be possible to ‘unwind’ your contract and allow you to leave.

When you move in

  • If your landlord gives you an inventory, it is important that you make sure it is accurate before you sign it. This is important as the inventory is the record of the condition of the property when you move in, and will be used to assess your liability for any damage that is recorded when you leave. This may affect how much of your deposit you get back. If the landlord will not change the inventory, make any relevant comments in writing on the inventory, sign and date it. If possible, also get an independent witness to sign the inventory.
  • Check that everything works - you don’t want to find out the heating system is broken when there is a cold spell!

If there are problems at the start or during your tenancy, don’t panic! In most cases, the landlord will get everything sorted out - however, if it proves to be difficult to get things fixed, we recommend you follow these steps:

  • Report the problem in writing (this can be by e-mail) as soon as possible. A landlord is only responsible for repairs once they are aware of the problem, or could reasonably be expected to have become aware of the problem.
  • Make a list which identifies all the problems room by room, and give it to the landlord/agent as soon as possible.
  • Take photos of the problems and monitor what the landlord does about the repairs. If the landlord does not act and you feel you are not making much progress, then you will need to step up the pressure.

What you should expect from your landlord

  • They should arrange to come round on a date and time that is convenient to you to inspect the problems, then arrange with you when workmen can come to the property (note: anytime someone comes to do work on the property, they are responsible for leaving it in a safe condition and cleaning up after they have finished).
  • How quickly a landlord should respond depends on the seriousness of the problem. Defects which risk a danger to the health and safety of the tenants or serious damage to the building itself should be made safe as a matter of urgency. Other defects affecting the comfort or convenience of the tenants should be sorted within a few days, and anything else should be fixed as soon as is practicable, up to around 28 days.

Note: not all damage is the responsibility of the landlord to repair. As a tenant you are likely to be responsible for:

  • Any damage caused by you (the tenant) or your visitors. Tenants should use the property in a responsible way - under the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985 and the Housing Act 1988, the landlord can seek possession if the tenant or someone living with them has damaged the property. If it turns out that an element of disrepair is due to a tenant’s misuse of an appliance, the landlord can seek compensation from the tenant in question – but only after putting right the disrepair.
  • Repairs to anything that is a part of the tenant’s responsibility to fix under use of the property in a "tenant-like manner" (i.e. day-to-day repairs).
  • Damp (if caused by not using the heating properly, or by drying clothes indoors)
  • Finding alternative accommodation if it is necessary for tenants to move out whilst repair work is going on.

Escalating a dispute

  • Keep a written note of all the conversations you have with the landlord or their representatives.
  • Keep copies of all relevant correspondence.
  • If the problems are serious, contact your local Authority Private Housing Team:

Landlords’ Maintenance Obligations to Tenants

Statutory provisions mean that in most cases, landlords have an obligation to carry out certain repairs and maintain key parts of the property throughout the tenancy, and this obligation cannot be excluded by the tenancy agreement.

The main provisions require the landlord to:

  • Keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling (including drains, gutters and external pipes, windows as a whole, or exterior doors).
  • Keep in repair and proper working order installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and toilets), together with appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas and electricity.
  • Keep in repair and proper working order installations for space heating (e.g. central heating) and water heating.
  • Landlords will be responsible for damp if it is rising damp or penetrating damp, but not necessarily if it is damp caused by condensation.
  • Maintain anything damaged through ‘fair wear and tear’ (if anything does surpass ‘fair wear and tear’, your landlord should not charge you).
  • Register a property if it is classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). Properties such as these must meet certain minimum standards - for information on HMOs, please visit Shelter.

In addition to the maintenance provision, the landlord must:

  • Give proper reasonable notice about requiring access when wanting to do work on the property (normally 24 hours, unless it is an emergency).
  • Make good any damage to decorations, fittings or fixtures that were a consequence of (a) the disrepair, or (b) the act of repair.
  • Organise an annual gas safety check for all the gas appliances in the property, and provide a Gas Safety Certificate showing that all the appliances have successfully passed the check.
  • If the work being carried out requires that you move out, then the landlord may have to meet the costs of alternative accommodation - you should try to get the landlord’s agreement before incurring any costs that you might expect them to pay.
  • Comply with any other terms in the Tenancy Agreement.