Back to all stories

Repairs and responsibilities: What are you responsible for?

Posted on 2015-04-13

As a landlord, you’ll probably be well aware that you have a number of important responsibilities when letting your property. Certain rulings and processes can differ for different types of tenancies, but the general responsibilities, as helpfully listed by GOV.UK, include:

• Keeping your rented properties safe and free from health hazards
• Making sure all gas and electrical equipment you supply is safely installed and maintained
• Following fire safety regulations
• Providing an Energy Performance Certificate for the property
• Protecting your tenant’s deposit in a Government-approved scheme

The legal necessities to meet health and safety standards are an obvious aspect to observe. However, the overall responsibilities regarding maintenance and repairs that may need doing to a property, in order to keep it safe, can sometimes be a grey area for both tenants and landlords and can lead to disagreements.

This needn’t be the case though, as a proper tenancy agreement can make it clear for both parties before the tenancy even begins. Here, we take a look at such agreements, the potential repairs involved and more importantly who's typically responsible for differing forms of maintenance work.

The tenancy agreement

A tenancy agreement should outline all rights and responsibilities you and your tenant have before they begin their tenancy. This needs to detail your legal obligations, as determined by Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which enforces the basic repair work you need to carry out as a landlord.

Equally, your agreement needs to outline what responsibilities tenants have and they need to be fully aware of these when contracts are agreed. Make it absolutely clear what your tenants are expected to do in terms of maintenance and their accountability for any damages caused. At the same time, to make it fair, it should be as easy as possible for tenants to understand.

Examples of landlord responsibilities

In terms of the basic repair work which Section 11 determines, you as the landlord are legally tasked with:

• Any repairs to the structure and the exterior of your property. This means maintaining windows, doors and walls, as well as features like guttering and drainage, outside piping and roofing
• Maintaining and repairing the gas, electricity and water supplies
• Keeping the electrical wiring and lighting in a fit state of repair
• Keeping the sanitary fittings in safe working order
• Repairing and maintaining gas appliances in the property

Should you cause any damage when carrying out repair work – whether this is done by you or a hired specialist – you're expected to rectify it.

Examples of tenant responsibilities

A tenant’s chief obligation is they need to contact and inform you of any necessary repair work before you're allowed to do it. Other standard aspects of a tenancy agreement include:

• Ensuring they look after the property and don’t cause any damage through negligence
• To maintain the property’s condition and decoration
• Not to carry out any repair work or decorative work, unless you allow permission for them to do so

In the tenancy agreement, landlords can include extra maintenance jobs - as part of the contract. A common requirement is to keep any garden areas on the property in an equally fit state of repair as the property itself. Not only is this aesthetically better, but saves you the effort or financial burden of having to do this yourself. What's more, if you allow for pets to be kept, the tenant’s responsibility for any damage they might cause can be included.

Other considerations

By having such responsibilities, and the consequences for failing to meet them, made clear from the beginning, you can reduce the likelihood of any difficult situations when it comes to disagreements about payment or returning deposits.

However, there are other considerations surrounding maintenance and repair work to be aware of. As mentioned previously, once a tenant's informed you of anything that needs doing, you need to deal with this as swiftly as possible.

At the same time, tenants need to give permission for a landlord to enter and, unless it’s an emergency, 24 hours’ notice needs to be given - in writing - of your intention to enter the property.

Should you fail to carry out any necessary repair or maintenance work, or complete it to a poor standard, you could be liable for negligence. You may face action if anyone were to suffer any injuries or have their belongings damaged as a result.

Along with this, if a property you own is causing issues for tenants and having an effect on their living standards, you could face legal action. They will be within their rights to claim if you’re not adhering to the terms in the tenancy agreement. To support you with this though, you can find further information regarding potential hazards in the home that you may need to deal with, in this useful guide from Shelter.

It seems that the key to ensuring all parties concerned have transparency regarding their responsibilities is quite simple. From the very beginning, you should provide a clear tenancy agreement, which openly details exactly who's accountable for certain tasks. Not only will this make the whole process more straightforward, should there be any work that needs doing, it ultimately limits the potential for any disagreements between parties.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Most Popular Stories

HomeLet Landlords Advice eBook blog

Landlords Advice eBook Part Two: free download

Read more

Blog archive

Subscribe to the Landlord Lowdown