A guide to landlords’ and tenants’ property repair responsibilities

Coronavirus: Everything landlords need to know - guide linkWhat are a landlord’s and tenant’s responsibilities in relation to repairs in a private rented property? Should tenants carry out repairs? What are the consequences if a landlord doesn’t carry out necessary repairs?

It’s quite common for landlords and tenants to be unsure of their responsibilities when it comes to home repairs. Here, we will guide both landlords and tenants through their legal repairing responsibilities in order to avoid disputes and resolve issues quickly and efficiently. Finally, we will shed some light on which repairs are covered by landlord insurance.

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Landlords’ responsibilities

Our advice in this section is for landlords on their responsibilities for property maintenance and repairs. What can landlords do to avoid repairs from becoming a necessity?

Both our insurance claims specialists and our dispute resolution experts deal with a variety of repair related disputes, from confusion about what repairs landlords are responsible for and tenants’ rights and responsibilities for repairs, to a lack of clarity over what constitutes a reasonable time frame to carry out repairs, and a general misunderstanding of repair laws and obligations.

As a landlord, the extent of your responsibility to carry out repairs will depend partly on the terms of your tenancy agreement, the nature of the repair, and the property itself.

In most cases, landlords are responsible for the majority of repairs to the exterior and structure of a property. Landlords cannot opt out of their legal obligations, under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, to make repairs to:

  • The exterior and structure of the property (including walls, stairs, bannisters, doors, windows, roof and guttering)
  • Sanitary fittings (basins, sinks, baths, etc) and drains and pipes
  • Boilers, heating and hot water (read more on how to prepare your boiler for the winter months)
  • Gas appliances, pipes and ventilation
  • Chimneys
  • Electrical wiring and sockets
  • Damp and mould – this is often a contentious issue and disputes are common over whether this is the landlord or tenant’s responsibility. It can in some circumstances be both (read more about damp and mould responsibilities )
  • Any damages caused while attempting to make repairs

These repairing obligations cannot be changed by anything written into a tenancy agreement and landlords cannot charge tenants for any repairs that fall under these mandatory responsibilities.

That said, landlords are only required to make repairs that they are aware of, therefore it is important for tenants to report any repairs at the earliest opportunity to the landlord or letting agent. Make sure you provide your tenants with quick and easy methods for contacting you should they have any concerns about the property. Being open and providing clear channels of communication between you and your tenants is vital. Identifying a problem in the property early, before it escalates, will save you significant time and money.

It’s advisable to carry out periodic property inspections to make sure that your property is in good repair throughout the year. This also provides you with the opportunity to pick up on any issues in the property and deal with them promptly. Remember, when you want to visit your property and require access for an inspection, you must give your tenants at least 24 hours’ written notice, except in the case of an emergency. You should also aim to schedule any inspections or repairs at reasonable times and work with your tenants to minimise disruption. Notice times or property inspections should generally be outlined in the tenancy agreement.

Our guide, Legislation for landlords: everything you need to know covers landlord responsibilities more generally, including how to make sure that your property is compliant with gas, electrical and other safety requirements.

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Time frame for repairs

As the landlord, when part of your property which is your responsibility is damaged or malfunctions, you must make sure you repair it within a ‘reasonable’ time frame.

This can be a cause of confusion as there are no clear regulations or guidelines which specify exactly what a ‘reasonable’ period of time is. Something like a boiler breaking down in the middle of a cold winter would reasonably need to be repaired in a very short amount of time.

In order to avoid confusion over ‘reasonable’ time frames, we advise that you keep your tenants well informed about any repairs being carried out and how long they may take to complete. You should be able to get this information from the contractors that you arrange to do the work.

By keeping your tenants in the picture, they will understand that you are taking the issue seriously and are committed to getting it resolved. Being clear and up front should give them peace of mind and they will likely appreciate being informed and kept up to date.

If you neglect to make necessary repairs

If you do not carry out necessary repairs to your property in line with your responsibilities, you risk damaging your relationship with your tenant. This can potentially lead to your tenants withholding rent and issuing complaints to a local authority.

“If a landlord is in breach of their responsibilities to repair a property and does not take care to sort problems out in a reasonable time, the tenant may be able to withhold rent, however strict criteria would need to be met which tenants are often unaware of.”

– Suzy Hershman, Head of Dispute Resolution at mydeposits

If your tenant has raised an issue about a repair that you are responsible for, and you have not acted on it within a reasonable time, they may be entitled to carry out the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their rent payments.

mydeposits’ expert guide, Can my tenant withhold rent?, provides more information on tenants’ rights to withhold rent and the process that must be followed. It also highlights the importance of meeting your responsibilities for repairs.

As tenants have the right to live in a habitable property which is kept in the condition it was in when they moved in, any negligent behaviour towards repairs can lead to your tenant taking legal action against you.

This can potentially result in you being penalised, having to compensate your tenant and incurring court fees. They may also contact their local council, who will act if they believe that the tenant’s safety is being compromised.