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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Who is responsible for repairs?

Your tenancy agreement should explain who is responsible for certain types of repairs in the property. If the state of the accommodation is damaging your health, or if it is unfit or in disrepair you may be able to get help to force your landlord to carry out repairs.

You may be able to get help from your local council if the condition of the property is damaging your health , is unfit or in substantial disrepair. Contact a local advice agency for more information on getting repairs carried out.

Structure and exterior

Tenancy agreements usually outline that your landlord has responsibility for repairs to the structure and exterior of the property. This will normally include any repairs to the roof, walls, chimneys, gutterings, doors and windows.  If the damage was caused by you or by someone you invited to your home, the landlord may charge you for the repairs. 

Dampness

Damp and mould is a huge problem for tenants in Northern Ireland.  Either you or your landlord could be responsible for dealing with this, depending on what caused the dampness. Your landlord may be responsible if the dampness is caused by a strucutral fault in the property, such as poor ventilation, damage to the roof or walls or the lack of a damp-proof course. 

Tenants may be responsible for treating damp and mould if the dampness is caused by condensation.  Condensation is caused by a build up of moisture in the air and can happen if you don't open the windows often enough, don't heat the property thoroughly, dry clothes indoors or allowing steam to build up while showering or cooking.  This video, from the National Landlord's Association, explains what can cause condensation and how you can avoid mould and dampness building up from condensation. 

If you have a problem with damp and your landlord is refusing to deal with this, you can contact your local council and ask an Environmental Health Officer to inspect the property. If the dampness is caused by a structural issue, the council may be able to force your landlord to carry out repairs. 

Pipes, drains, gas and electricity

Your landlord is generally responsible for keeping the equipment for the supply of water, gas and electricity in good repair. This includes looking after drains, pipes, toilets, heating systems, showers, flues and ventilation and electricity supply.  

Your landlord can, however, contract out of responsibility for some of these items so it's important that you check your tenancy agreement very carefully before you sign it and so that you understand what your responsibilities are and what your landlord's responsibilities are.  Your landlord can't contract out of his responsibilities relating to gas safety, furniture safety and electrical safety. 

Your landlord also has a legal obligation to make sure that any gas appliances or gas boilers are inspected every year by a Gas Safe Registered engineer

Appliances

Your tenancy should state who is responsible for cookers, fridges or washing machines. You will be responsible for any appliances which you own.  Be careful about replacing the landlord's items with your own.  You should only do this with the landlord's written permission and with written instructions explaining what you should do with the old appliance.

Your landlord is responsible for the safety of any gas appliances provided and must have these checked annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer.  You should be provided with copies of the Gas Safety Certificate for any gas appliances or gas boilers.

Paintwork and decoration

You are usually responsible for minor repairs to the internal decorations unless these are:

  • caused by disrepair or dampness that is the landlord's responsibility
  • due to normal wear and tear.

Your tenancy agreement should state who is responsible for decorating and maintaining the internal decorations. If you want to redecorate, you should get your landlord's agreement in writing. You will only have to redecorate before you leave if:

  • your tenancy agreement says you must
  • you have damaged the interior decoration.

No tenancy agreement

If your tenancy began before 1 April 2007, your landlord will only be responsible for the structure of the property and for ensuring that the property meets the basic fitness standard and doesn't cause a risk to public health or safety.  Speak to an adviser at Housing Rights if your landlord is refusing to carry out repairs. 

There are certain default repairing obligations which will apply if you don't have a tenancy agreement or if your tenancy agreement doesn't say anything about repairs and your tenancy began after 1 April 2007. The default obligations say that the landlord must ensure the exterior paintwork is in reasonable order and will be responsible for maintaining and repairing:

  • the structure and exterior of the property
  • the drains, guttering and piping
  • any installations for the supply and use of water, gas, electricity and sanitation
  • any appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity supplied by the landlord
  • the heating system
  • any fixtures, fittings or furniture that were supplied as part of the tenancy.

As a tenant, you are obliged to:

  • take care of the premises
  • make good any damage caused by you or anybody lawfully visiting or living there
  • keep the inside of the property in reasonable proper order
  • get the landlord's permission (in writing) before carrying out any changes to the property.

How to get repairs done

Report the problem to your landlord in writing. Date the letter and keep a copy, even if you have spoken to your landlord about the problem. You may want to take photographs showing the repairs that need to be done. These can be useful if you have problems getting your landlord to do the repairs.

If your landlord is responsible for the repairs they should be carried out within a reasonable time. The length of time that the law considers reasonable depends on the type of repairs needed. Certain repairs should be carried out urgently.  You shouldn't be left for a long period of time without heating, hot water or a means of cooking food.  You may have to involve the council if your landlord is refusing to carry out repairs.