Disrepair issues impacting half of tenants

Half of UK renters are living with a disrepair issue such as damp, mould, or electrical hazards, according to a new study by law firm Hodge Jones & Allen.

Related topics:  tenants,  PRS,  repairs
Property | Reporter
1st November 2023
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"I had hoped tenants’ situations might have been improving but our latest survey reveals the ongoing significant challenges they face. Rent rises and disrepair issues are making life intolerable for so many"
- Farzana Chowdhury - HJA

48% of UK tenants are currently living with one or more housing disrepair issues such as mould, damp, leaks, electrical hazards, heating or hot water issues or blocked drains.

The insight comes from the housing disrepair compensation specialists at law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, who are concerned that a high proportion of renters are living in conditions that could be unsafe or impact their long-term health.

The study found that tenants aged 18-24 are the most likely to be living with an issue (67%), followed by 35–44-year-olds (52%).

The capital city with the most housing disrepair issues was shown to be Nottingham, where 60% of tenants revealed they’re living with one or more issues. This was followed by Bristol (59%), Manchester (58%), Newcastle and Norwich (both 57%) and London (55%).

Rising demand

The UK rental market is booming. In fact, the latest census data showed that the number of households renting has more than doubled in the last two decades.

As demand rises, 51% of private tenants have seen their rent increase in the last year, with the average increase coming in at 10.3% (comparing August 2023 with August 2022). Worryingly though, an estimated 14% of rental properties don’t meet the government’s ‘Decent Homes Standard’.

One in ten rental properties is also estimated to have a Category One hazard present – which means tenant safety is judged to be at serious risk.

Research undertaken on behalf of Hodge Jones & Allen showed that the most common disrepair issues are mould and damp, followed by defective entrances and leaks.

The most common disrepair issues in rental properties:

Mould (48% have it in at least one room in the house)
Damp (47%)
Entrance defects (29%)
Roof leak (26%) / water leak (26%)
Blocked pipes/drains (24%)
Electrical hazard (23%) / heating or hot water issues (23%)
Structural damage (21%)
The absence of a working smoke detector (20%)

Bedroom(s) and the kitchen - arguably two rooms where a lot of time is spent - were the most common locations for disrepair issues.

While 83% of tenants revealed that they’ve reported at least one of the issues to their landlord already, 17% haven’t (yet).

Of those who said they haven’t reported the disrepair issue(s) they are living with, 36% said it was ‘too much hassle’, or they thought there was ‘no point as nothing would be done about it’.

On average, those who have reported issues saw it fixed in just six days. However, 28% of tenants have been waiting six months or more for their issue to be resolved by their landlord or local authority.

Tenants in Norwich have the longest average wait time for a repair to be made (10 days), followed by those in Leeds (9 days) and Liverpool (8.5 days)

However, tenants in Edinburgh are the most likely to have waited over six months for their disrepair issue to be fixed (67%).

50% of tenants were also unaware of their legal right to compensation if their reported disrepair issue was not resolved by their landlord in a reasonable timeframe.

Farzana Chowdhury, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen explains: “I had hoped tenants’ situations might have been improving but our latest survey reveals the ongoing significant challenges they face. Rent rises and disrepair issues are making life intolerable for so many.

“It is essential for me that tenants are fully aware of their rights and the path they need to take to ensure their living accommodation is repaired in a reasonable amount of time, which will be dependent on what the problem is and how serious it is.

“In my experience, landlords are fully aware of their legal duties and if they fail to respond to their tenant’s complaints regarding the conditions and fail to carry out repairs within a reasonable period of time, a tenant can choose to take legal action, requiring their landlord to carry out the necessary works.

“In terms of legal recourse, a tenant may also wish to bring a disrepair claim against their landlord, which can include a claim for compensation and for other losses and expenses incurred as a result of the disrepair.”

However, Farzana advises tenants that continuing to pay rent is absolutely essential.

She concludes: “It is fundamental that tenants continue to pay their rent when it falls due, despite the poor conditions within their home. This is because it is a tenant’s obligation to make such payments under their tenancy agreement and a failure to pay rent is a breach of the tenancy and may lead to landlords seeking legal action against the tenant and they can also claim possession if tenants fall into rent arrears."

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