Responsibilities and notices for landlords and tenants
When there is a need for repairs in rental properties, it is common for landlords and tenants to question who is responsible for the repair and when it needs to be repaired by. Even if they think they have reached an agreement on this, questions may remain— such as how much notice a landlord needs to give the tenant to execute the repairs. This article explains a tenant’s and landlord’s repair responsibilities, how each party is expected to go about completing repairs and the consequences if they fail to do this.
A tenant’s most important duty in relation to repairs is the legal obligation to report to and request repairs from the landlord. If a tenant fails to report repairs, they undermine the landlord’s ability to meet their legal obligations.
Tenants also have a duty to use the property they are renting properly. This includes ensuring that they:
- Follow gas and electrical safety practices;
- Adequately ventilate the property;
- Keep the property clean and tidy to a reasonable standard; and
- Maintain drains and faucets.
Crucially, tenants must also ensure that they abide by the rules contained in the tenancy agreement, such as those relating to pets and smoking on the premises. It follows then that damage caused by a tenant, or damage caused by their failure to report a repair, is not the landlord's responsibility to fix.
Landlords have a legal right to enter their property for inspections and repairs so tenants must also permit access to the property, provided adequate notice has been given (discussed below). Outright refusal to permit access in these instances might render the tenant in breach of their tenancy agreement and put them at risk of a section 21 notice and court proceedings whereby the landlord applies for access to the property. Tenants do not need to permit access for works that do not count as repairs but qualify rather as improvements.
Landlords are generally obligated to repair their properties, except where the damage has arisen from the tenant. These obligations can be found in s11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and include duties to:
- Repair things that the tenant has notified them of;
- Arrange gas and electrical safety checks;
- Maintain the structure and exterior of the building- this includes damage to external gutters, drains, pipes and windows.;
- Keep in repair installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation, and
- Abide by any other obligations listed in the tenancy agreement.
If the property is a flat, the landlord will also be responsible for maintenance of common areas, such as stairways, and if letting a house in multiple occupation (HMO) a landlord takes on extra obligations.
The landlord is responsible for paying for the cost of these repairs. If a landlord fails to repair the property then the tenant is entitled to launch a claim for repairs under £5,000 in a small claims court. Tenants should not withhold rent from landlords if they fail to repair the property as the tenant may then risk eviction. A tenant can complete repairs that the landlord has failed to fix and recover from their future rent payments but this requires following a special procedure.
Tenants are entitled to notice before a landlord, or a third party on their behalf, carries out an inspection of the property for repairs. A tenant is entitled to at least 24 hours’ notice for an inspection and reasonable notice for repairs. The notice period is thus subject to the urgency of the repair: a short notice may be reasonable if the repair is an emergency. Nonetheless, landlords should still notify the tenant, provide details of the works (e.g. kitchen), the longevity of the repair, and the name of the contractor.
Under current coronavirus regulations, landlords still have the same duties and responsibilities, such as complying with electrical safety regulations. Unless a tenant is self-isolating, the landlord can still enter the property for inspections and repairs. Where a tenant is self-isolating, landlords should not permit entry into the property except in grave circumstances where repair is necessary to prevent the direct risk of harm to others.
As tenants can ask landlords to rearrange inspections and repairs, if a tenant is at a particularly higher risk or they expect to be vaccinated soon, they can ask that minor repairs be delayed.
When disaster strikes, it’s important to be able to know what to do. Digging out your old tenancy agreement to work out where obligations lie, or what is appropriate notice, is not something you want to be doing. Equally, as a letting agent acting on behalf of a landlord, you do not want to be scrolling through files to find out how much money the landlord has authorised to be spent in cases of emergency.
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.