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Landlord and tenant: repair obligations

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landlords never cease to be amazed by how some tenants will go through their entire tenancy without calling them or the letting agent to sort out repairs whilst other tenants manage to find a repair that needs to be carried out on an almost weekly basis. Even experienced landlords say that you can't accurately vet your prospective tenants to try and find the right tenant as landlords want to keep their properties in a good state of repair they prefer to avoid tenants who make repeat minor call outs. In this blog we look at landlord and tenant repair obligations.

Landlord and tenant solicitors

If you need legal advice about landlord and tenant repair obligations then the landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors can help you and advise on your best options. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

A landlord’s repair obligations

If you are renting out a property then your landlord repair obligations are contained in:

  • Your tenancy agreement with your tenant

  • Legislation and regulations regarding minimum safety requirements for tenanted properties.

The tenancy agreement can impose more onerous obligations on a landlord than the minimum safety requirements for tenanted property. However, the tenancy agreement cannot legally allow a landlord to contract out of them meeting his or her statutory obligations.

Whether you let out one property or have a property portfolio the same minimum statutory repair and safety requirements apply to all landlords.

A landlord‘s repair obligations in the tenancy agreement

Landlord and tenant solicitors find that most disputes between landlord and tenants over repair obligations arise because one or both has either not read the tenancy agreement before signing it, forgotten or misremembered the repair terms in the tenancy agreement or have different expectations in terms of the speed that repairs will be carried out and their extent.

landlords can be caught out by unexpected repair obligations if they have used a tenancy agreement provided by their letting agent or only instructed their letting agent to source the tenant for them, leaving the landlord to manage the property during the tenancy agreement. Equally, tenants often assume that their landlord repair obligations will be the same as those undertaken by a previous landlord. However, tenancy agreements differ and can contain very different repair and maintenance obligations.

Whether you are a professional landlord with a property portfolio or an accidental landlord who has decided to rent rather than sell their own property it is best to take the time to ensure that you are content with the drafted tenancy agreement and its repair obligations to minimise the risks of disputes with your tenant.

A landlord’s statutory repair obligations

Whatever the terms of the tenancy agreement, a landlord is under a statutory dutyto keep a tenanted property safe for a tenant to live in and without hazards to the tenant’s health.

Those statutory obligations don’t just relate to repairs but also to the maintenance of the tenanted property and annual safety checks. For example a landlord must:

  • Ensure gas equipment is safely installed and is maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer with an annual gas safety check on each gas appliance supplied as part of the tenancy agreement and a check on the flue

  • Make sure that the electrics at the property are safe including the electricity supply, sockets and meter and that any electrical appliances supplied as part of the tenancy agreement meet minimum safety requirements. If a landlord is letting a property fully or partially furnished it is essential to keep an inventory of all electrical items supplied with the property in case there is an electrical fault and a dispute over who was responsible for the maintenance and safety of the item

  • Ensure that tenants have access to exit and escape routes from the property, such as ensuring that keys are provided for any lockable windows and all exit routes.

  • Install smoke alarms on each floor of the tenanted property as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance in it. It is the landlord‘s responsibility to test smoke alarms before a new tenancy agreement is entered into but under statutory provisions the responsibility is then on the tenant to test the smoke alarms during their tenancy of the property.

Accessing a tenanted property to meet repair obligations

For a responsible landlord there is nothing more frustrating to be told that the washing machine is broken or the shower leaking at a tenanted property and then not be able to quickly and easily gain access to the property to sort out the repairs. That is because the problem might not only be inconveniencing your tenant but also causing additional damage to the property, for example, through leaking water or the tenant creating condensation problems because they don’t have a working washing machine.

The only other thing that is as equally frustrating for landlords is repeat requests for minor repairs when it would have been cheaper and more efficient for there to have been one call out charge for a plumber or electrician.

The rules on accessing a tenanted property are relatively clear. The law states that:

  • A landlord must give a tenant at least twenty four hours’ notice of a planned visit unless it is an emergency

  • Visits by landlords can be for inspection or repair purposes

  • Unless it is an emergency situation (such as a gas leak) the visit should only take place at a reasonable time of day. The visit should be announced or pre-arranged. What may be reasonable times for visits will vary between tenants and their work and family commitments.

If a landlord encounters the frustration of a tenant reporting repairs but not co-operating over access to the property then a note or record should be made of all offered appointments to inspect or carry out the repairs. Appointments should be confirmed, whether that is by text, email or letter. If a tenant continues to block access to inspect or repair the property then they may be in breach of their tenancy agreement. In those circumstances, a landlord can't enter the property without the tenant’s agreement but needs to take legal advice on securing access to the property or, in an extreme case, the best options on how to terminate the tenancy agreement early.

Landlord and tenant solicitors say that often repair disputes between a landlord and tenant can be sorted out as they frequently occur because of communication problems. For example, a lack of understanding on the tenant’s part that their landlord would prefer to be told about all minor maintence and repair issues at one time, where possible, so that a workman can do all the necessary repairs in one visit or a tenant not realising that a perceived serious damp and mould problem is actually condensation through lack of open windows and air ventilation.

Landlord and tenant solicitors

If you need legal advice about landlord and tenant repair obligations or have questions about tenancy agreements then it is best to take legal advice. The landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors can help you find a solution. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

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