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Disputes & Disrepair

Check your contract for a clause that allows you to leave. Most contracts are fixed term agreements and do not have a clause that allows you to leave.

This means you cannot unilaterally end the contract. If you believe your landlord is breaching the contract this does not mean you can also breach it! If you believe your landlord is breaching the contract (and you have exhausted all other methods to deal with it) you could take your landlord to court.

But by the same token, if you breach your contract you could be putting yourself at risk of court action too. If the landlord is breaching the contract speak to your legal advisor about monies.

Most landlords will let people leave if they find a replacement tenant. If you are in a joint contract the other tenants have the right to refuse a replacement but should only do so on reasonable grounds (such as council tax liability) and you should notify the landlord if they are being obstructive.  If you are on an individual contract you do not need permission of the rest of the household.

If you are housed by the university, a larger supplier or a landlord with a large number of properties, you may be able to transfer to a different room or property in their portfolio. This way there is no loss of income to the owner and you get to move away from the problem.

If there is a price differences try to work out costs and liabilities before moving with the landlord so there are no nasty surprises financially.

If you do not pay your rent, your landlord can take steps to evict you and/or recover any money owed. If you believe your landlord is breaching the contract this does not mean you can also breach it!

If you believe your landlord is breaching the contract (and you have exhausted all other methods to deal with it) you could take your landlord to court.

But by the same token, if you breach your contract (by not paying rent) you could be putting yourself at risk of court action too. If the landlord is breaching the contract speak to your legal advisor about monies.

We recommend speaking to shelter as well as the students’ union if you are having issues with deposits.
There is helpful information on the shelter website for
If when viewing the property, there are repairs that the landlord or agent promised to do prior to moving in, you should get this in writing and preferably;
  • within the contract, and with
  • an agreed deadline, and
  • details of what will happen if the work is not completed on time.
If those repairs are included in the contract then failure to deliver the repairs could be a breach of contract.
Your contract should clarify responsibilities for repairs- generally tenants are expected to take care of the property by;
  • Keeping it clean
  • Not damaging  it or allowing guests to damage it
    • Tell your landlord if you cause any damage, you could come to arrangement with the landlord to take responsibility for repairs or replacements and keep receipts for any repairs done or materials you buy
    • If you leave without fixing the landlord could deduct from your deposit or take legal action against you.
    • You can face eviction is you, a guest or another housemate deliberately damages the home
  • Keeping it sufficiently warm and ventilated (to avoid problems with condensation and mould)
  • Minor and daily maintenance of the property such as changing lightbulbs, re-pressurising a boiler or bleeding a radiator. As some of these may be new to you, make sure you ask the landlord/agent when viewing or moving in how to do this.
  • Keeping chimneys and ventilation free of blockages
Landlords are responsible for
  • The structure and exterior of the building, including the walls, stairs and bannisters, roof, external doors and windows
  • Sinks, baths, toilets, pipes and drains
  • Heating and hot water
  • Fixing chimneys and ventilation if they fall into disrepair (although you'll have to keep them clear of blockages)
  • Gas appliances and safety
  • Fire safety including smoke alarms on each floor and carbon monoxide detectors in rooms with coal fires or wood burning stoves.
  • Electrical wiring
  • Damage due to crime
    • Such as vandalism or broken windows by burglars etc
    • Always contract the police if your home has been damaged by crime and ask for a crime report number
    • Inform your landlord of any criminal damage and provide a copy of the crime report number
    • It is not the landlords responsibility to replace any belongings stolen or damaged through crime- make sure you get insurance for your belongings.
  • Usually accidental damage to the property by 3rd parties, which could include
    • Leaks from a neighbouring property
    • Damage to roof or windows caused by neighbouring building works
    • Damage due to repair problems caused by the landlord or their agents
    • If your landlord doesn’t have insurance cover that includes accidental damage to the building your landlord could take action to recover costs from the neighbour or 3rd party- they should not ask you to cover costs.
    • If you have any losses to belongings, if repair problems caused the damaged you can take your landlord to court for compensation. If this is due to a 3rd party such as a neighbour this is not your landlords responsibility- you can ask your neighbour for compensation and if they won’t pay you can consider court action.

Landlords cannot transfer responsibility for these major repairs to tenants.

Never assume a landlord will know of an issue or that another or former tenant reported a problem. If you have a concern, get in touch with the landlords or their agent.

There are no set rules on how long a repair should take. Lots of different factors need to be taken into account including potential adverse impact on the health or safety of the tenants.  Bad weather and genuine difficulty in obtaining materials or spare parts can mean that repairs sometimes seem to take a long time.

In some cases you can approach the local council, sunderland city council has a home and money team who you can report issues if necessary.

Your landlord should not charge you or deduct money from your tenancy deposit because of normal wear and tear.
Wear and tear is caused by day-to-day living. For example;
  • A brand new carpet would show signs of use
  • A threadbare carpet at the start of your tenancy might now have worn through
  • Window frames might have peeling paint due to wind and rain
  • There could also be cracks in plaster or faded wallpaper or paint.
You must look after your home, but your landlord can't expect it to be returned in exactly the same state as it was when you moved in.
Some contracts require you insure yourself against causing damage this can seem odd as landlord’s often have building insurance and you’re paying a deposit. However this is an additional level of safety for landlords and for you (never assume the landlord’s insurance will pay for damages you cause)

Some students are covered by insurance from their home/out of term address but in most cases you will need your own insurance because you will not be covered by the landlord’s policy. You can use comparison sites to check which company will give you the best deal. Also check out organisations such as endsleigh which provides specialist Insurance for Students.

normally contracts will outline what responsibilities lay with tenants and what responsibilities lay with the landlord. Typically you can expect it is your responsibility as a tenant not to do anything which could encourage pests, such as overflowing bins (inside or outside of the property) or failing to keep the property clean and tidy.

You should deal with pests or vermin if you caused the problem.

The landlord will be responsible if;

  • It was caused by a disrepair issue such as a hole in the wall
  • Your tenancy agreement says your landlord should make sure the property is fit to live in
  • You live in a furnished home and the pests were there before your tenancy started
The lordlord should fix any holes or cracks which pests are entering as well as fix any damaged caused by the pests such as damage to electrical wiring, doors, skirting boards, pipes or brickwork.

You do not have the right to stop paying rent because your landlord won't do repairs. Your landlord can take steps to evict you if you don't pay the rent.

It is possible in some circumstances to do repairs without your landlord's agreement and take the cost out of your rent. You should only use this procedure for minor repairs the quality of the work is your responsibility so you’ll have to pay to put things right if the repairs are bodged. Shelter’s website has information available about how to do repairs if your landlord refuses to do so.

Page last reviewed: 01/03/2019
Next review due: 31/08/2020