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Getting repairs done while renting

This advice applies to Scotland

Coronavirus – access to your home

Don’t delay telling your landlord about urgent repairs that are needed to your home. Your landlord is still responsible for doing these repairs.

Your landlord or a tradesperson should still be able to enter your home to fix urgent health and safety issues, like if:

  • there’s a problem with the structure of the building – for example, the roof is leaking
  • your boiler is broken – meaning you don’t have heating or hot water
  • there’s a plumbing issue – meaning you don’t have washing or toilet facilities
  • white goods that came with your home are broken – like a fridge or washing machine
  • there’s a security problem – like a broken window or entrance door
  • equipment for a disabled person needs to be fixed.

If your landlord or a tradesperson has to enter your home to fix an urgent issue, you should follow NHS inform advice on physical distancing and hygiene.

Your landlord shouldn’t enter your home without your agreement, unless there's an emergency. 

This information applies to Scotland only.

This page tells you how to get a repair done and what your landlord's responsibilities are.

Check your tenancy type

If you're thinking about taking action about disrepair in your home, you should first check what type of tenancy you have. You can use the tenancy checker on the Shelter website.

You'll have either:

  • a public-sector tenancy - with a local authority or housing association
  • a private-sector tenancy - with a private landlord or letting agency.

Some tenants with a private landlord - for example, in short assured tenancies - have few rights to stay in their home at the end of the tenancy agreement. This means it's easier for the landlord to ask the tenant to leave.

You can get expert advice at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. An adviser can check if you can try to have repairs done without the risk of losing your accommodation. They'll also be able to check if your landlord is obliged by law to carry out the repair. If you think discrimination is involved, you should mention this to the adviser.

What are private landlords responsible for

A private landlord has general responsibilities for doing repairs, no matter what type of tenancy you have. This is called the repairing standard. Your landlord must keep in repair and working order:

  • the structure and outside of the premises - including drains, gutters and external pipes
  • water and gas pipes - including taps
  • electric wiring - including sockets
  • any electrical appliances supplied by the landlord
  • basins, sinks, baths and toilets
  • room heaters and water heaters
  • any furnishings provided as part of the tenancy.

Your landlord must provide and maintain smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and alarms. They must carry out electrical safety inspections which meet building regulations and Scottish government guidance.

To meet the repairing standard, your landlord must also make sure that your home meets the tolerable standard.

If your landlord doesn't meet the repairing standard, despite having been told about any problems, you can complain to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber). There's more information about the repairing standard on the First-tier Tribunal website.

Your landlord normally shares responsibility with other owners for repairs to common parts of the building, for example stairways, lifts, hallways or garden paths shared with other tenants, owners or the landlord. But if your landlord can't carry out repairs to a common area because most owners haven't given their consent, the property won't fail the repairing standard. 

Your landlord has these duties by law, no matter what's written in your tenancy agreement. But if you ask your landlord to do these repairs, they might try to repossess your home or not renew the agreement when it expires. Before trying to use this general right to repairs, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

What are public-sector landlords responsible for

Most public-sector tenants are Scottish secure tenants. As a Scottish secure tenant, you're entitled to have your accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair.

If you're not sure what type of tenancy you have, you can use the tenancy checker on the Shelter website. You can also get the help of an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Some repairs are almost always the landlord's responsibility, whether or not they're specifically mentioned in the tenancy agreement. Many landlords give details of these repairing obligations in their tenancy agreements, but whether they do or not, your landlord is still responsible for them. They are:

  • the structure and outside of the premises - such as walls, floors, roofs, drains, gutters and outside pipes as well as garden paths and steps. If the property is a house, this also includes the main access to it, such as steps from the street
  • water and gas pipes and electrical wiring - including taps and sockets
  • basins, sinks, baths and toilets
  • fixed heaters - for example, gas fires - and water heaters, but not gas or electrical cookers.

A public-sector landlord isn't responsible for:

  • repairs to anything that has been damaged carelessly. If the landlord does do the repairs, they can charge for the cost
  • repairs to items which you can remove from the premises, for example your own electric or gas fire.

As a Scottish secure tenant, you have the right to have certain repairs done in a specified time. This is called the Right to Repair.

The Right to Repair scheme covers urgent repairs costing less than £350 which would affect your health, safety or security if they weren't carried out in a specified period. The scheme includes blocked drains, leaking roofs, broken entryphones and faulty heating systems. You can find more information about the Right to Repair scheme on the Scottish government website.

The specified time ranges from one to seven working days, depending on the type of repair. You might be able to organise the repairs yourself and claim compensation up to a maximum of £350 from your landlord. Before getting any work done yourself, you should check that the repairs are covered by the Right to Repair scheme. If the repair isn't in the scheme, the landlord doesn't have to repay you.

There's more information about getting your public-sector landlord to do repairs on the Shelter website.

Disabled tenants

If you're a disabled public-sector tenant, you might be able to have adaptations made to your home. The local authority department responsible for social work will first have to assess the need for any adaptations. These could include the installation of a stair lift or hoist, or changes to a bathroom or toilet.

If you want to get an adaptation, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

You might also be able to get a grant to make your home more suitable.

If you're a disabled private-sector tenant, you're entitled to help for improvements and possibly repairs under the Scheme of Assistance. The scheme provides ways for local authorities to deal with private housing which is in disrepair, is below the tolerable standard or needs adaptations for a disabled person. There's more information about the scheme in a leaflet on the Scottish government website .

There's more information about your rights as a disabled tenant on the Shelter website.

How to ask for repairs

If your home needs repairs, the first step is usually to talk to your landlord. It might be worth trying to negotiate amicably with your landlord, even if they don't have a legal duty to carry out a repair.

You should write to the person who deals with maintaining the property - this might be your landlord or their letting agent. Write them a letter or email with:

  • the date - if it's a letter
  • an explanation of what needs to be repaired
  • pictures of the damage or problem
  • a request for a repair or replacement
  • a request for a response in a specified time if they're a private tenant or the repair isn't covered by the Right to Repair scheme - 14 days is usually reasonable
  • a reminder of your right to have certain repairs carried out in a specified time if you're a public-sector tenant and the repairs are covered by the Right to Repair scheme.

Keep a copy of your email or letter. If you don't know who your landlord is, see Problems with your landlord for how to find their name and address. 

If negotiations don't work, you might need to take other action to enforce your rights to repair.

There are useful sample letters to send to your landlord about repairs on the Shelter website.

If your landlord hasn't done repairs you've asked for

Tenants of public-sector landlords

Collect all the evidence you can that the repair needs to be done. Then you can:

  • use the Right to Repair scheme
  • use the complaints procedure - details about how to do this should be in the tenants' handbook
  • complain to your local councillor
  • complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
  • take court action to make the landlord do the repair - for example, because it's causing a nuisance or is harmful to health
  • do the repair yourself and charge your landlord for the cost - but only if your landlord is meant to do the repair
  • take action with other tenants who have a similar problem
  • withhold rent - though you have no right to do so
  • claim compensation for a number of reasons, such as being inconvenienced.

There's more information about getting a repair done on the Shelter website.

For information about your rights if you're disrupted while the repairs are being done, see the Shelter website.

You can also get help from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Tenants of private landlords

Collect all the evidence you can that the repair needs to be done. Then you can:

  • send a second request saying that your next step will be to complain to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber)
  • apply to the First-tier Tribunal - there's more information about the repairing standard on the First-tier Tribunal website
  • check if the local authority can enforce the repair - this might be possible if the repair is needed to keep the property to a tolerable standard or to meet the repairing standard
  • ask the local authority to take court action because the repair is causing a nuisance or is harmful to health
  • do the repair yourself and charge your landlord for the cost - but only if your landlord is meant to do the repair
  • take action with other tenants who have a similar problem
  • withhold rent - though you have no right to do so.

If you don't allow your landlord reasonable access to inspect and carry out repairs to meet the repairing standard, your landlord might be able to ask the First-tier Tribunal for help. This is called using the right of entry. You'll be able to explain to the tribunal why you think it's inappropriate or unnecessary for your landlord to use the right of entry. There's more information about the right of entry on the First-tier Tribunal website

You can also get help from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

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