I have a disrepair issue can I withhold rent?   

30 Mar 2020 | Arjun Jethwa

It is not your best course of action.

I see the logic in using the non-payment of rent as leverage against a landlord to do works, when a tenant believes there to be disrepair in the property they are renting. However, generally speaking I would advise against withholding rent. You would be in breach of the tenancy. Also the disrepair may continue. This could also result in your landlord starting Court action against you for rent arrears to evict you. Or the landlord could bring a money claim against you. Also this could be dangerous as the issue complained of may not actually be disrepair. The last thing you want is to further the problems you already have.

  • Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires a landlord to keep in repair the structure of the property and good working order installations for example boilers, toilets and water tanks.
  • The landlord also has s.9A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 duty. So if the disrepair is hazardous s/he has to take steps to remedy the hazard causing the property to be unfit for human habitation.
  • Under the s.4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972, the landlord also has to ensure that there are no defects which can cause you personal injury or damage your property.
  • Also there are occasions where the tenancy agreement actually gives the landlord an increased repairing obligation. So it is important to check the terms of the tenancy agreement.

Disrepair claims

You should note that a claim for housing disrepair is not always valued at the full amount of rent payable. Disrepair is usually calculated as a percentage reduction in the rent. There is a lot of case law relating to disrepair and it is fundamentally very difficult to assess a value of a claim without having all the facts or evidence. This is why withholding the rent is not your best course of action.

If you do withhold rent, the landlord can bring Court action against you whether it is a claim for possession or a money claim. You could find that any counterclaim for disrepair would not reduce the rent owed to a level that is low enough to prevent an eviction or extinguish the rent arrears. You could find yourself to become homeless and/or with a money judgment when all you wanted is the disrepair to be rectified.

There are practical steps for dealing with disrepair outlined in Adele’s blog What Should I Do If My Property Is In Disrepair?

In addition to these, I would add that you should use government guidelines when it comes to dealing with hazards https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-tenants-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018

If you feel that you have done all you can, seek legal advice.

I deal with repair matters every day, alongside my specialist colleagues at Osbornes Law. Funding of disrepair cases can be arranged through various means including legal aid, private funding and no win no fees.

Blog post written by Arjun Jethwa

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