Discovered that your washing machine leaks? Or is there (probably-sentient) mould creeping up your walls? It can be difficult to know what to do when these problems arise, and also to know who is responsible. We’ve put together these FAQs to answer some of your queries.

Is my landlord responsible for repairing anything that gets damaged in my property? [+]

Your landlord is responsible for most repairs unless you damage something or misuse it so it stops working. You have a duty to report any damage to your landlord as soon as possible, otherwise you could be held responsible.

What is my landlord responsible for repairing? [+]

Your landlord is responsible for repairing both fixed items like taps and ovens, as well as any non-fixed items like furniture that have been provided (unless they have been damaged by the tenants). Sometimes landlords may argue that an item is not their responsibility if it was left in the property by previous tenants, or they may include a specific exclusion in their contract. As a result it is essential to make sure an inventory is carried out when you move in and that every item of furniture is included on this.

My contract states that I am responsible for certain repairs – is this true? [+]

As tenants you are responsible for carrying out small maintenance tasks such as changing light bulbs and batteries in smoke detectors. You should also look after furniture and equipment provided, by cleaning it and using it for its purpose. Blocked drains are often cited in contracts as something that tenants could be held responsible for. Make sure that you don’t block the drains by putting inappropriate items like excessive fat and oils down them, otherwise your landlord may argue that it is your responsibility to pay for the cost of repair. As a general rule, assume that your landlord should be responsible for all repairs, unless there are specific instances outlined in your tenancy agreement and unless you, as the tenants, have damaged something yourselves.

What do I do if something stops working? [+]

If something stops working in your property, you must report it to your landlord as soon as possible. It is essential that you keep evidence of your contact with your landlord just in case things are not fixed and you need to take the matter further. If you telephone your landlord, follow this up with an email confirming what has been agreed.

What if we damage something? [+]

If you or a guest damages something, you should report this to the landlord as soon as possible. The landlord may either get the item repaired and ask you to pay for this, or expect you to have the item repaired yourself. Alternatively they may use your deposit as a means of getting the repair work carried out and paid for. In all cases the cost of the repair should be reasonable; it is good practice to get three quotes for the work required to give you a good idea of an average cost.

Taking out contents insurance is advisable as you can both protect your personal possessions in the case of a burglary and get cover for accidental damage. Visit our Endsleigh page here.

What do I do if I find mould or damp in my house? [+]

As many of the properties in Durham are old Victorian style terraced houses not originally built for modern heating systems, mould and damp issues are a common occurrence. Sometimes problems are caused by a lack of ventilation to the property or not enough heating, which can be exacerbated if tenants do not heat the house adequately or if the extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens are not used regularly. Try opening your windows more often and keeping the room at a reasonable temperature. Of course, there can also be more serious underlying damp issues. If you are experiencing mould or damp problems please see Durham County Council’s information sheet for further advice.

How long should my landlord take to repair items? [+]

There are no set time limits for repairs to be carried out, but your landlord needs to take into account the nature of the repair and whether it is considered urgent or not. Check your estate agent or landlord’s website for their specific policy on housing repairs and timescales. The following guidelines are considered good practice:

  • Emergency repairs: any repairs required in order to avoid a danger to health, risk to the safety and security of the tenants, or serious damage to the building or your belongings e.g. no heating/hot water/smell of gas/broken windows or outside door: within 24 hours of report of the defect/s.
  • Urgent repairs: repairs to defects which materially affect the comfort or convenience of the tenants. This would include leaking roofs, minor mice infestation or minor cracks in windows: within five working days of report of the defect/s.
  • Non-urgent day-to-day repairs: reactive repairs not falling within the above categories like guttering/fixing window frames: within 28 days of report of the defect/s or by arrangements with the occupiers after that time.
What if my landlord does not respond to my request? [+]

If your landlord does not either respond to your enquiry or fix the repair problem within a certain time, we would suggest the following:

  • Send us a copy of your contract: if you do have to enforce further action against your landlord it is important that you know what your status is. If, for example, you have a month-to-month contract that can be ended with very little notice, then your landlord may choose to ask you to leave rather than carry out repair work.
  • Write a further letter to your landlord stating that if the work is not carried out within a specified time you will take further action. Shelter has some letter templates that are worth using.
  • Consider contacting the local council’s Environmental Health Department as they can carry out free inspections and can order the landlord to carry out work if appropriate. However you will need to check with them first whether the type of repair work falls into their remit.
  • If you are using an estate agent to rent your property, you could consider using their complaints procedure as a way of trying to get the issues resolved. They should provide you with their complaints procedure if you ask for it.
  • You can ultimately take your landlord to court if they refuse to carry out repairs. Please contact us for more information.
Can I withhold my rent to pay for repairs? [+]

Withholding your rent to pay for your repairs can put you at serious risk of eviction. Once you or the household (depending on whether you hold a joint tenancy) owe two months' rent or more, your landlord could apply to court to evict you and, in this case, the court would automatically grant it. Get advice from us if you are considering withholding your rent. Find our enquiries form here.

Stressed about a housing issue? [+]

Problems that occur in your house can be extremely stressful as well as time consuming to sort out. If you do experience stress it is always worth reporting this to your college and/or department. If your academic work is affected it is advisable to make sure your department know about this at the time rather than afterwards; you may be able to apply for a concession to hand in work late or to have your experiences taken into account for summative assessments or examinations. You can find contact details for departments and colleges here.

What if I live in college accommodation and have a problem? [+]

If you live in college accommodation your situation and rights will differ from someone living in privately rented accommodation. You still, however, have the right to have any repairs to your room fixed. We would advise you to follow the following procedure:

  • You should always report any issues you experience to your college. We would suggest you contact reception in the first instance and ask them how to go about reporting a problem. We would always suggest that you follow any verbal conversation with a confirmation email, so that you have a record of raising the issue.
  • If the issue is not resolved then we would suggest you contact the support staff of your college and make sure that records are kept of any issues that are raised and outcomes agreed.
  • If you continue to experience issues then you will need to raise these with your college and should be advised as to how to escalate any unresolved issues through the college system.
  • If you still feel dissatisfied with the outcome you could consider using Durham University’s Complaints procedure to make a formal complaint. We would suggest that you contact us for further support and guidance.
Further support and useful information [+]

The Advice Service can assist you with any questions you may have about your housing situation. Our service is confidential and independent. Please fill out our enquiries form here and we will be in touch.


Shelter are a housing charity who can offer free advice and guidance on a range of issues, including repairs and maintenance, so you know exactly what your rights are.

0808 800 4444


Durham County Council: Environmental Health Department

Environmental health should be your last port of call if you've exhausted all other options (like asking your landlord for a dehumdifier or trying to keep your house as ventilated as possible), but you feel like you might have a dangerous and/or recurring issue with mould or damp in your home.

03000 261 016


Durham County Council: Housing solutions

Durham County Council has a Housing Solutions department, who can help you if you need to put pressure on your landlord to fulfill their contractual obligations. This could be to make sure they repair and maintain your home, or deal with issues like mould, damp and pest control.

03000 268 000


Page last reviewed: 30/01/2019