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Property Management

A Guide to Landlord Responsibilities: Maintenance and Repairs

When it comes to a landlord’s responsibilities regarding maintaining the property, both parties need a clear understanding of their respective responsibilities. This is one of the most common causes of landlord-tenant relations breaking down, can cause serious tensions, result in fines for the landlords, and lead to longer than necessary vacancy periods.

In this article, we take a look at exactly what landlords need to know about managing property maintenance.

What Exactly are a Landlord’s Responsibilities to Repair?

Essentially, landlords have a responsibility to maintain their property to ensure it remains safe and in a habitable condition. As part of this then, landlords are responsible for routine property maintenance at their own cost.

However, it’s not always simple as not all repairs are a landlord’s responsibility. Generally, the exact nature of which repairs a landlord is responsible for should normally be explained in the tenancy agreement or assured shorthold tenancy (AST) contract. As such, if uncertain who should be paying for a particular repair, the first port of call should be to review the tenancy agreement.

property repairs

What Repairs are Landlords Always Responsible For?

According to the law, a landlord’s responsibilities for repairs generally fall into the following categories:

  • Repairs to the property’s structure, including walls, windows, and doors.
  • Repairs to the property’s exterior, including roofs and gutters.
  • Repairs to sinks, baths, and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains.
  • Repairs to the heating and hot water systems, including boilers, central heating, and fires.
  • Repairs to gas appliances, pipes, flues, and ventilation. This includes an annual gas safety check.
  • Repairs to electrical wiring. This includes a periodic electrical safety inspection.
  • Repairs to damages that are caused by other maintenance issues. (Such as if a roof leak damages internal plaster and decoration.)

These laws on the landlord’s responsibilities regarding repairs and maintenance are broadly and generally outlined in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and you can also find a summary on gov.uk.

In addition to the above, if the landlord supplies appliances or furnishings they are also responsible for their upkeep and ensuring they are safe to use.

Finally, a landlord’s repairing responsibilities are also affected by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. According to this Act, rented properties must meet the minimum standards for human habitation. This relates to areas such as heating and ventilation, water and sanitation, freedom from pests and dampness, water tightness, general safety, and more.

As such, it is the landlord’s responsibility to carry out any repairs should the property fail to meet these minimum safety standards for human habitation.

As mentioned above, the landlord should outline what repairs they and their tenants are responsible for. However, they cannot remove their legal responsibility to provide for and maintain their property by writing it into the tenancy agreement. Essentially, landlords are not allowed to charge a tenant for repairs that they are legally required to carry out.

What Is a Landlord’s Responsibility for Repairs to an HMO?

Landlords operating HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy) have a few additional responsibilities. This includes all those listed above as well as additional fire safety provisions, protection and mitigation against legionella disease, as well as waste disposal, and maintenance of the property’s communal and external areas.

What Are a Landlord’s Responsibility for Repairs to a Flat?

Because the landlord may not own the building itself, repairs and maintenance of the flat will be up to the building freeholder.

Regular maintenance and repair responsibilities are designed to ensure all buy-to-let properties on the market are safe, habitable, and of high quality. This means that the responsibility will never lie with the tenant. However, landlords renting out flats may have to liaise with the building owner rather than simply organising key repairs.

The landlord’s lease should clearly stipulate who is responsible for what, but generally the building owner will take care of things like structural issues, exterior maintenance, and communal areas.

In the case of a flat, these kinds of repairs may be carried out by a managing agent on behalf of the freeholder but paid for by the service charges paid by the landlord or owner of the flat.

Related: A Landlords Guide to Fair Wear and Tear and Replacement of Domestic Item Relief

painting - property maintenance

When are Landlords Not Responsible for Repairs?

General upkeep of the property and damage caused by the tenant is more often than not the domain of the tenant. The following repairs are a few examples of maintenance that are the tenant’s responsibility:

  • Cleaning of the property.
  • Garden maintenance such as mowing the lawn and weeding.
  • Maintenance of their own belongings.
  • Minor maintenance such as replacing light bulbs.
  • Damage caused by the tenant or their guests. If the damage is serious it is recommended that the tenant consult with the landlord and use one of their preferred contractors rather than handling the actual repairs themselves. The landlord is then entitled to charge the tenant for the cost of the repairs.

How Exactly Should Landlords Handle Repairs?

Landlords can’t make repairs if they don’t know the repairs are required. There are two ways landlords will generally become aware of required repairs. The first is through routine property inspections. This will allow them to review the property periodically to ensure the tenant is maintaining the property to a sufficient standard and check for any issues that need remedying.

The second is when the tenant reports the maintenance issue. If the tenant fails to report a serious repair issue then generally speaking the landlord is not responsible for that repair until it is brought to their attention or discovered. Repairs left unchecked can often become more serious and more expensive to remedy. As such, it is good practice to encourage tenants to report any maintenance issues as soon as possible.

Once an issue is reported repairs should be carried out within a reasonable period. This ‘reasonable’ period depends on the seriousness of the maintenance – for example, a burst pipe might require immediate action, but a broken cupboard hinge would be less important. Tenants in these circumstances are required to cooperate and allow the landlord access for the purpose of carrying out the repairs.

Related: Fair Wear and Tear vs Damage for Rental Property

Landlord Responsibilities: The Law

Landlords are responsible for providing safe and habitable properties. Should they fail to do this their tenants may be able to take legal action against the landlord for breach of contract. If this happens a court can order the landlord to carry out the work and the tenant may be awarded damages. In some cases, the tenant may be able to make the repair themselves and deduct the cost from their rent.

If a property is in a state of disrepair local authorities may also get involved and carry out an inspection using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to identify relevant risks and hazards and may take legal action against the landlord.

Final Thoughts

Landlord responsibilities, when it comes to maintenance and repairs, aren’t always a clear-cut matter. As a general rule of thumb, however, landlords are responsible for the maintenance of the building premises and any supplied appliances or furnishings. The property should be maintained to a high standard and landlords should ensure that the property is fit for human habitation as laid out in the various housing acts such as the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.

Repairs and maintenance are an important aspect of managing a property and landlords should not look to cut corners. Routine inspections should be carried out and tenants should know exactly how to report maintenance issues. Tenants themselves, however, are responsible for minor maintenance issues, general upkeep of the property, and of course maintaining their own property.

Failing to keep the property up to standard could result in legal action being taken against a landlord, so all repairs should be carried out within a reasonable period.

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