I have been having an awful time trying to get my private landlord to carry out repairs. He has been using the pandemic as an excuse for a year now. Can you help?

I have been having an awful time trying to get my private landlord to carry out repairs. He has been using the pandemic as an excuse for a year now. Can you help?

Whilst there were restrictions on work being carried out at the height of the pandemic, essential maintenance was permitted and if the repairs were required urgently, they should have been completed. If the repair is urgent, you should write to the landlord and request that the work is carried out as quickly and soon as possible. 

It would be beneficial to outline the reasons that the work is urgent, including copies of any evidence that you have, such as photographs, and any communication sent to the landlord. Ask your landlord to tell you what will be done about the problem and when the repairs will be carried out.

You should date the letter and keep a copy - using recorded delivery and keeping the certificate means you can prove your landlord knows about the situation. This will be helpful if you need to take action to force your landlord to carry out the works.

Timescales for repair

There are no fixed time limits for repairs, but they should be carried out within a reasonable time - the length of time that is reasonable depends on the type of repair. Certain repairs, e.g., blocked drains or problems with gas, should be carried out urgently. If your landlord has not carried out the repairs after a reasonable period, there are several things you can do. 

Important considerations

Before deciding what action to take, it is important to consider things like the potential for the landlord to evict you; how serious the problem is; and whether you want to continue to stay in the property. Some landlords may prefer to make a tenant leave rather than do repairs.  

It is easier to evict private tenants with short tenancies (e.g., people who share accommodation with their landlord and short assured tenants nearing the end of their leases). There might be a risk that your landlord will try to illegally evict or harass you if you try to force them to carry out repairs. These are criminal offences, and if you think your landlord is guilty of either, it is important that you seek further advice on this matter.

What can you do next?

If you are reasonably secure in your tenancy and do not want to move out, you may be able to force your landlord to carry out the repairs. Firstly, you should notify the landlord in writing that you will be taking further steps. The most appropriate course of action depends on your circumstances, what repairs are needed and your tenancy type. If something needs to be repaired and your landlord is refusing to cooperate, you can apply to the First-Tier Tribunal for Scotland. They can order your landlord to carry out repairs and make a rent relief order to reduce your rent if they do not.

You could consider withholding rent, however, this can be risky, and you should consult specialist housing advice before doing this. If the repairs are minor, it may be easier to carry them out yourself and take the cost from your rent, however you must get your landlord's agreement before doing so. As a last resort, you may decide to pursue court action against them.

You can access free, impartial advice on any topic from advice.scot by contacting 0808 800 9060 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri). Advice is available to everyone in Scotland, at no cost, regardless of personal circumstance.