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When you rent from a private landlord, you’re likely using an assured shorthold tenancy. It should define all landlords and tenants rights and responsibilities regarding the tenancy.
Within the Landlord and Tenant act from 1985, section 11 regulates the responsibilities about repairs to a rented property. The Act is in effect for all short lets for a period maximum seven years. This includes assured shorthold tenancies and periodic tenancies.
How does the law assigns responsibilities for repair and maintenance
Repairs and maintenance, where it is not caused by the tenant is a responsibility of the landlord. The exact dimensions of this statement are defined strictly in the law.
Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord is responsible to:
- to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling, including drains, gutters and external pipes,
- to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences) but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity, and
- to keep in repair and proper working order the installation in the dwelling for space heating and heating water .
Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord is not required to:
- to carry out works or repairs for which the lessee is liable by virtue of his duty to use the premises in a tenant-like manner, or would be so liable but for an express covenant on his part,
- to rebuild or reinstate the premises in the case of destruction or damage by fire, or by tempest, flood or other inevitable accident, or
- to keep in repair or maintain anything which the lessee is entitled to remove from the dwelling-house.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is the law, as it will be considered and regarded in the court of law. The tenancy agreement, in whatever form, cannot overstep these rules.
Any agreement that changes the above statements is automatically invalid.
If you’ve signed a tenancy agreement that states, for example, you’re responsible for the maintenance of the roof and walls, you should seek legal help. The document is illegal and you cannot be made responsible.
What are the landlord’s responsibilities regarding repairs in a rented property
When they enter a tenancy agreement, tenants are entitled to receive a property that is fit for human life. This means it must provide basic utilities like electricity, gas and water. It must provide functional sanitation facilities, like a toilet, a bathroom and a sink. It must be structurally sound and safe for occupation (we’ll review these further below). Landlords must maintain the property in good working order, as it was when the tenant moved in. If the property has not met the requirements during the letting stage, the owner is obliged to fix the issues with highest priority.
It’s fine to schedule non-essential repairs after the move in date. However, the property must be free of all hazards before anybody goes into occupation. Hazards like faulty electrical wiring, leaking gas pipes or unstable supports endanger human lives. As such, the landlord can commit a criminal offence by letting people live inside.
Note: the landlord is only obliged to keep all systems and structures in good working order. They are not required to upgrade any part of the property, or to improve it in favour of their tenants. That is left to the discretion of the property owner. It can be negotiated in the tenancy agreement, but not demanded by law.
Landlords must repair and maintain basic utility systems
To be fit for living, a property must offer basic utilities. The property owner must provide in good working condition installations for the supply of:
Landlords must provide functional and safe fixed electrical installations. Those include, but might not be limited to the following:
- Wiring circuits
- Light fittings
- Circuit boards
Regular checks should be made to ascertain electrical wiring is in good working order. When a malfunction is found, it must be repaired with higher priority, as electrical safety is critical to tenants. The Electrical Safety First recommends landlords to carry out installation inspections every five years. These inspections must be performed by a registered professional. For HMO landlords, these inspections are mandatory.
Provided the landlord has supplied electrical appliances, they must ensure they are in working order.
Such appliances include:
- Washing machines
- Television and audio systems
- Electric cookers
However, the landlord is not responsible for any electrical appliance that is property of the tenant. Their maintenance is at the discretion of the tenant.
Gas safety is at a highest priority in rented properties. All gas appliances, fittings, installations, pipes and flues must be kept in perfect working condition. This applies to communal and private areas, regardless of whether tenants have access.
All landlords are required to arrange an annual gas safety check by a Gas Safe registered engineer. They must earn a gas safe certificate or make improvements prior to letting to tenants. The certificate must be made available to every tenant prior to moving in and must be kept for at least two years.
It is absolutely illegal for anyone to knowingly use unsafe gas equipment. Treat the matter with highest regard ! Always require the gas safety certificate prior to renting a property.
The landlord must provide facilities with running water. This covers:
- Water tanks
And, their according plumbing systems, pipes, drains and sewage. Water systems and facilities must be kept in good shape during the rental period. Leaks should be serviced by a professional and at the initiative of the landlord. Smaller repairs, like unblocking drains can be done by the tenant, if it is to their ability.
Heating and hot water installations
The landlord must repair and keep in working condition the heating and hot water installations. Gas boilers and heaters must be annually checked by a certified Gas Safe engineer.
Electrical boilers and heaters must inspected every five years or less. Tenants typically don’t take action in maintenance, rather than reporting malfunction. However, a simple maintenance they can do is to bleed heating radiators. Bleeding the radiators relieves the system of trapped air and improves the power and efficiency.
Properties must always feature sanitation facilities in perfect condition, such as the toilet and bathroom. It’s rather obvious how essential having access to a working toilet is. The most common problem is blocked drains, which is mostly an easy fix for tenants themselves. However, there can be more serious plumbing problems. The landlord must take initiative and arrange repairs with higher priority.
Fire and Smoke Alarms
Landlords must ensure there are fire, smoke and CO2 alarms installed and working on every level of their property. The batteries should be regularly checked and changed by tenants. If any alarm is still malfunctioning, the landlord should be notified and asked for repairs.
Landlords must repair and maintain the structure and exterior of the property
Roof and guttering
Property owners must ensure the roof of their rentals are in good working order. There should be no leaking areas, or damp dripping through the tiles.
Roof support beams and internal construction should be inspected for rot and treated accordingly. If there are loose tiles, those should be fixed, as to prevent misfortunate incidents. Guttering should be regularly inspected and cleaned from leaves, sticks and other materials. A blocked gutter can spill all of it’s water onto the exterior walls and cause severe water damage. Rain gutters should be properly connected with no water dripping from the seams.
Damp and mould is a frequent problem in the UK and is hard to treat effectively and permanently. All causes for damp and mould should be mitigated beforehand!
Drains and exterior pipes
Out-flowing drains and pipes should be inspected and maintained as to prevent spillage of waste water on the property.
Exterior walls and foundations
Walls and foundations should be treated for cracks and deformation. Such problems should only grow worse in time, so the faster they are repaired, the better. The landlord is fully responsible for fixing problems with the structure and load bearing elements of the property.
Interior walls, ceilings and floors
Tears, cracks and holes in the aforementioned should be treated before moving in. Depending on the tenancy agreement, the tenant can be responsible for decoration or repainting at the end of the tenancy. This should be negotiated and agreed upon at the start.
Any damage to the interior (including mould) caused by problems in areas assigned to the landlord to maintain also becomes their responsibility.
Windows and doors
Windows and doors, especially outer ones should close properly and seal tightly. Landlords are obliged to repair:
- Screeching hinges
- Eroded sealants
- Malfunctioning handles and locks
- Rotten window frames
- Broken glass
Some of these repairs are easy enough to be handled by the tenant. Coordinate it with the landlord to prevent conflicts.
What are the tenant’s responsibilities regarding repairs in a rented property
Renters also bear heavy responsibilities regarding the state of repair in the property. Every tenant must properly use the provided facilities and equipment and must take care of daily maintenance.
Tenant’s must properly use the property and all it’s provided facilities
- Ventilating the property
- Controlling and adequately heating the property
- Properly using all electrical facilities and appliances and upholding electrical safety practices (manuals should be provided)
- Properly using all gas facilities and appliances and upholding gas safety practices (manuals should be provided)
- Cleaning and tidying the property (including appliances, surfaces and furniture) on a daily basis
- Protecting the property from harm to best extent
- Safely handling potentially harmful substances, burning or cutting objects and other hazards
- Abiding rules for pets and cigarettes
- Maintaining drains and faucets
The golden rule is to maintain the property better than you would your own. Even though it’s their property, tenants should always strive to use it with their best intentions in mind.
Tenants are legally responsible for reporting damages
This includes any new damage that has been discovered and potential risks whenever they happen. Tenants must act quickly and request repairs from the landlord to ensure all issues are tackled as fast as possible.
Landlords are only required (by law) to repair and maintain what is reported by their tenants or found during a regular inspection. They cannot be held responsible for damages or disrepair that has not been reported by the renter.
This is why tenants should to report need for repairs in writing (letters, emails, even SMS). Such actions will create evidence and time-stamp the communication.
Every damage that is caused by the tenant or has resulted in the tenant’s failure to report it to the landlord, or has occurred as a result of their actions (or their visitor’s actions) IS NOT a responsibility of the landlord.
The cost of repairs will be covered by the tenant tenancy deposit, at the end of the tenancy. If the tenancy deposit can’t cover the damages, financial compensation can be sought through the court of law.
The landlord should reply to the notice of repairs as soon as they can. They can either acknowledge the request and agree to carry out the work or deny it as being caused by the tenant. In the latter case the renter must ask for permission to arrange and carry out the repairs themselves.
Assuming the landlord has accepted to fix the damages, they must make arrangements with handymen to schedule the repair job.
Tenants must allow reasonable time for repairs
As there is no defined time frame for this process, renters must allow reasonable time for these arrangements to take place. Even though it brings discomfort, non-essential repairs often need to wait a few days up to a few weeks. Urgent repairs should be tackled with more respect to the tenant’s well being and potential hazards in the property.
Tenants must allow access to the property
When the landlord has arranged the service, they must contact the tenant and request access to do the repairs. Tenants have a right to restrict entry to the property at their own discretion (there are exceptions). Landlords must respect their privacy and rights of quiet enjoyment. They must work with them to find an acceptable slot, when repairmen can enter and do the work. Access to the property must be approved and allowed by the tenant. Otherwise, the landlord may be guilty of trespassing.
Disruption of normal life
If the repair project was extensive and disrupted the normal use of the property, the tenant might be eligible to receive rent reduction. For example: If there is a leaking pipe in the bathroom, which requires extensive work, making the facility unavailable for a week, the tenant can claim rent reduction. Reduction of rent can only happen after the repair works have ended.
If the repairs are so disruptive that the property is not fit for occupation, tenants may be asked to seek alternative accommodation. The same applies if the damages pose potential hazards to the renter’s health. If the tenancy is still in it’s fixed period, the accommodation must be provided, or paid for by the landlord. If the tenancy has expired it’s fixed period, the tenant may be asked to leave. If they refuse, an eviction procedure can be started against them. Evicting tenants, after requesting repairs is heavily regulated since the 1st of October. The Landlord and tenant act has been updated to reflect on cases of retaliatory evictions and harassment. Landlord must provide a real clear reasons to remove the tenant in front of the court and apply for a possession order.
This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.
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