Repairs in rental properties can sometimes cause confusion and unease for tenants. Many renters aren’t sure exactly who’s responsible for what and what they can ask their landlord to repair.
To help bridge the knowledge gap and demystify this grey area, we've taken a look at what constitutes as a reasonable repair request and what’s required of landlords and tenants.
What’s required of both landlords and tenants when it comes to repairs is actually a legal matter. The vast majority of tenancy agreements are Assured Shorthold Tenancies, known as ASTs. These are covered by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Section 11 of the Act covers repairs and states that landlords must keep the structure and exterior of a rental property (including drains, gutters and pipes) 'in repair'. Installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation must be kept 'in repair and properly working order' - this doesn't necessarily cover fixtures, fittings and appliances for the above measures.
A reasonable request is something that you aren't able to rectify yourself or something that only your landlord can address. Your rent covers repairs so you’re well within your rights to request that something is fixed. You’re advised to report issues as quickly as possible as problems often get worse - and more expensive - the longer they’re ignored.
Once you've made a reasonable request which is acknowledged by the landlord or letting agent, you’re required to allow them reasonable time to carry out the repairs. On top of this, you’ll need to allow access to the person who’s going to do the work.
Wear and tear
Your landlord’s required to replace and cover the costs for any piece of furniture or equipment, that they originally provided, which becomes unusable due to everyday wear and tear.
You must report the problem to your landlord and, if it’s a case of fair wear and tear, they won’t be able to make any deductions from your deposit for the replacement or repair.
If you’ve damaged the item through 'improper use' then your landlord will be able to charge you to fix or replace it.
What constitutes fair wear and tear is sometimes a bit of a grey area and can lead to debate between landlords and tenants at the end of a rental contract. This guide from mydeposits goes some way to explain what can be considered wear and tear and what can't.
What’s required of landlords?
Landlords are responsible for the legal requirements set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 mentioned above. So, for the interior of the property, this covers features like radiators, baths, sinks, pipes, toilets and so on. Meanwhile, for the exterior, landlords’ legal responsibilities stretch to roofs, drains, walls, gutters and more.
It’s illegal for landlords to change agreements to state the tenants are responsible for electrical installations, for example, as this is one of their legal requirements as set out in the Act.
However, landlords are able to make it clear that tenants are responsible for some matters which aren’t covered by the Landlord and Tenant Act - the most common example being maintaining the garden.
Although landlords are required to carry out necessary repairs, this doesn't mean they’re liable to carry out 'improvements' to the property as there’s a distinct difference. Their responsibility is to make sure the property’s habitable and everything they provide is in good working order.
What’s required of tenants?
You must check your rental agreement before signing it to see if there are any additional duties required of you - maintaining the garden, for example, as mentioned above.
In order to hold up your side of the bargain, you must make sure the property’s kept clean and general upkeep and maintenance tasks are carried out (changing lightbulbs etc.).
You’re obliged to report repairs - preferably in writing. If you don't, your landlord has no legal obligation to carry them out.
Helpful further reading for tenants:
- How to report repairs – Citizens Advice
- How to request repairs from your landlord – The Tenants’ Voice
- Five points on repair rights - The Landlord Law Blog