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LANDLORD MAINTENANCE & REPAIR

What is a landlord responsible in the maintenance of their property?

In very simple terms a landlords property maintenance obligations in brief are as follows:

The tenants maintenance obligations are far less onerous and generally include:

  • Keeping propery resonably clean
  • Using the appliances properly
  • Replacing light bulbs,  and checking smoke alarm batteries

Responsibility within a tenancy agreement

The responsibility for maintenance and repair of a rental property is partly laid out in the original letting agreement signed by landlord and tenant.  Who's responsible if the roof starts leaking,the central heating system breaks down will depend on the tenancy agreement.  However, even a comprehensive tenancy agreement that covers these matters in full, can sometimes be overruled by various Acts of Parliament. The law is not contained in any one single statute: it is a mixture of common law (judge-made law) and various statutory provisions designed to deal with diverse matters including tenancy agreements.

Primacy of terms in a tenancy agreement

In common law landlord / tenant liability for repairs is governed by the tenancy agreement.  The terms of that contract ( tenancy agreement)  may be set out expressly (express terms) or may be implied by law (implied terms). Some of these implied terms are implied by common law, others by Acts of Parliament known as statutory implied terms.  The common law implied terms can be overridden by express terms of the tenancy agreement but the statutory implied terms cannot generally be ousted by the tenancy agreement, which makes the statutory implied terms extremely important to the tenancy agreement.  It is therefore important for a tenancy agreement to look at:

  • The express terms of the tenancy agreement
  • The common law implied terms of the tenancy agreement (but bearing in mind that these can be excluded if the tenancy agreement says otherwise)
  • The statutory implied terms within the tenancy agreement (bearing in mind that these cannot normally be excluded form a tenancy agreement and will therefore operate despite the terms of the tenancy agreement).


Breach of these express or implied terms within the tenancy agreement is a breach of contract (tenancy agreement) and can be enforced by the parties to the contract, ( tenancy agreement ) i.e. the landlord or the tenant as the case may be.

The tenancy agreement & statutory implied terms

The tenancy agreement may set out clauses which stipulate who is liable for what repair.  If the landlord has undertaken within the tenancy agreement to do all the repairs the tenant can enforce these obligations as set by the tenancy agreement.  The landlords’ liability will depend upon the precise wording of the relevant clauses within the tenancy agreement.

Distinguishing between ‘repair’ & ‘improvement’

It is important to distinguish ‘repair’ from ‘improvement’ within the tenancy agreement.  The word ‘repair’ is confined to the renewal or replacement of subsidiary parts of the building; improvement is adding things to the property that do not already exist.  The law does not impose an obligation on the landlord to effect improvements unless he has expressly agreed to do so in the tenancy agreement.  Therefore repairing a leaking gutter would be classed as a repair.  If the tenant wanted a conservatory that would be classed as an improvement and to my knowledge not many landlords would sanction this work. The whole issue of repair and improvement is also important for tax purposes as HMRC will scrutinise this when decided what's allowable for income and capital gains purposes.

If the terms of the tenancy agreement place the repairing obligation on the tenants the question of whether or not this would be enforceable depends on the length of the tenancy and the type of repairs.  If a tenant has a periodic tenancy agreement or a fixed term tenancy agreement for less than 7 years, most of the major repairing obligations will be placed on the landlord by virtue of Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985

Section 11 applies to leases or tenancy agreement  granted on or after 24th October 1961 for less than seven years.  The vast majority of Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements are periodic or for terms of less than seven years and therefore Section 11 applies for these tenancy agreements.  The landlords implied obligations under Section 11 are:

  • To keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling (including drains, gutters and external pipes) to fulfill the tenancy agreement.
  • To keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences) to fulfill the tenancy agreement.
  • To keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for room and water heating to fulfill the tenancy agreement.

Definition of structure within the tenancy agreement

‘Structure and exterior’ in the first point are not defined by the Act.  However, ‘structure’ defined in a tenancy agreement clearly includes the main fabric of the dwelling such as the main walls, foundations and roof timbers (including window frames) as distinct from decorations and fittings, while ‘exterior’ defined in a tenancy agreement has been held by the courts to include paths or steps which forms an essential means of access to the dwelling but not paving in the backyard or a footpath at the rear of the house.

‘Repair’ within the terms of the tenancy agreement

Condensation is frequently a problem in rental properties and is often disputed within tenancy agreements.  This has been exacerbated in recent years by the removal of wooden windows and their replacement with UPVC ones.  This has been frequently done without due attention paid to ensuring sufficient passive ventilation.  Most tenancy agreement s have clauses within them requiring the tenants to ensure adequate ventilation.  However, this is only selectively adhered to.  The landlord is then frequently presented with the problems resulting from poor ventilation such as mould or damage to the plasterwork.  If the condensation has caused damage to the main fabric of the property, such as the plasterwork, the landlord could be made to repair the plasterwork, but this will not cure the condensation; it will simply repair the consequences of the condensation.  If the condensation cannot be cured by ‘repair’ but can be eradicated only by ‘improvements’, the landlord is not liable under Section 11 to remedy the problem.  Tenants may be able to pursue the matter under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The landlord’s obligations within the tenancy agreement to repair and keep in proper working order the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, room and water heating merely require him to maintain and repair the facilities that exist at the start of the tenancy agreement.  If the dwelling does not have these facilities tat the start of a tenancy agreement , then there is no obligation on the part of the landlord to provide the necessary installations.  Originally, the legislation was confined to installations which were actually within the four walls of the dwelling.  However, if the tenancy agreement was granted on or after 15 January 1989 the landlord would be liable for the boiler irrespective of where it was located.

The landlord is liable for these matters under the tenancy agreement, even if the problem is a manufacturers’ defect – for example, if the boiler was defective when it was supplied and fitted.  He has to put the problem right even if it was not his fault: this is known as strict liability.  The only exception would be where the defect is due to some fault on the part of the tenants, who must use the property in a ‘tenant-like-manner’ to fulfill their tenancy agreement.  So if the problems arise because the tenants have not used the property in a tenant-like-manner, the landlord is not liable for repairs to the items in question under the tenancy agreement.

Standards of repair

Section 11 provides that in determining the standards of repair to the property the courts must have regard to the character and prospective lifespan of the property and the locality in which it is situated.  Therefore, if the house is in a poor condition at the start of the tenancy agreement and in an area of very poor-quality housing the landlord will not have to carry out comprehensive repairs under Section 11, nor will he be obliged to carry out improvements.  Patching repairs may satisfy the requirements of Section 11, depending upon the circumstances of the case. 

The requirement of notice within a tenancy agreement

The landlord is not liable under Section 11 (or indeed under any of the express or implied obligations) unless the tenant has given him notice of the need for repair.  So, if a tenant is injured as a result of a defect, the landlord will not be liable under the tenancy agreement for his injuries if he had not been notified of the need to repair the defect.

Professional landlord insurance rates from Alan Boswell Group

Common law implied terms within a tenancy agreement

The tenancy agreement may stipulate that the tenant is liable for internal decorative repairs.  Quite often, however, the tenancy agreement is silent on this matter.  In which case, one must look to the implied terms arising either at common law or under statute.

Unfortunately, the common law is little assistance in the vast majority of cases:  If the tenancy agreement is silent, the general rule is that there is no implication that the premises are fit for human habitation or that either party will be responsible for repairs.  In other words, the common law is largely neutral.  However, there are some minor exceptions for the tenancy agreement which are explained below:

Furnished lettings and the tenancy agreement

In the case of a furnished letting tenancy agreement the landlord warrants (by implication) that the property is fit for habitation at the date when the tenancy agreement commences.  Therefore, if a furnished house is uninhabitable because it is infested with insects the tenant can, at the start of the tenancy agreement, immediately repudiate the tenancy agreement, recover any deposit or rent that he has paid and sue the landlord for any damage or loss suffered.  However, the tenant must act quickly since this implied term arises only at the commencement of the tenancy agreement.  The landlord cannot be compelled to make the property habitable.  The tenant remedy is simply to cancel the tenancy agreement and recover his losses.  There is no continuing obligation on the part of the landlord to keep the furnished premises fit for habitation.

Tenant’s duties to use the property in a tenant-like manner

There is no implied term in any tenancy agreement, whether of a furnished or unfurnished property, that the tenant is to be responsible for repairs.  However, the tenant must use the property in a ‘tenant-like-manner’ under the terms of a tenancy agreement.  This means that he must take proper care of the property by doing the little jobs which can reasonably be expected of him from his tenancy agreement, such as unblocking drains, having chimneys swept, mending fuses and so on.

Common parts of a rental property

In certain circumstances where a tenancy agreement is signed but is incomplete, the court may imply a term, at common law, that the landlord will take a reasonable care of common parts under the tenancy agreement – for example, staircases and other facilities which are shared between various tenants.  If the premises consist of a large tower block containing lifts, staircases and other common parts and the tenancy agreement of the individual flats do not oblige either tenant or landlord to maintain the common parts, the court may hold that, since the tenancy agreement is incomplete and the premises cannot function without such common parts being maintained, the landlord must have taken responsibility by implication within the tenancy agreement to keep them in a reasonable condition.

More advice on landlord maintenance issues:

Do I need a sinking fund?

What is fair wear and tear for a landlord?

Where do professional landlords go to insure their properties against damage?

Professional landlord insurance rates from Alan Boswell Group

Comments (24)

Infestation of Rodents found at check-in
On moving in to what I thought was going to be my new house we discovered an infestation of squirrels in the loft. Within half an hour of starting to move everything in I had to move everything out again. I have now told the agency that I do not want to live there - in addition to the point that I am quite squeamish of any type of rodent (whether they have a cute bushy tail or not!) I am due to move out of my other property this Saturday and getting rid of the pests will take 5 days. My agents have said that the landlord is likely to release me from the contract, however they are refusing to pay me back my holding deposit. My arguments are that there was no contract in the first place as the date it commenced was a material term of the contract and I'm sure there must be some implied statutory laws in relation to habitable premises being free of rodents and the deposit which I put down was for a habitable house and on this basis the subject matter of the contract would have now changed. Can anyone shed any light on this at all please?
#1 - Kasia Smith - 05/16/2012 - 12:55
Window maintance
Hi, I have tilt turn windows in my property which I currently let out. Do i have to get them maintained to prevent injurys happening and if one did who would be liable. I hope you can help me.

Thanks
#2 - Darren thompson - 10/18/2012 - 17:37
Boiler maintenance
My landlord has told me the boiler needs yearly maintenance and it is my responsibility as a tenant. Is this correct? My heating is not working and that's the response I had received.
Thanks
#3 - Ines - 10/26/2012 - 11:07
Minimum response time to fix central heating
Hi was just wondering if anyone knows the legal response time to fix central heating system. I have a child who is under 1 and have been having to use electric heaters to warm the house .
Thanks
#4 - Chris A - 12/05/2012 - 20:19
Damage to back door
The Police had to break into, via the back door, a property we rent out to get to the tenant who had had a fall and needed hospital treatment. The door now needs replacing. The tenant has a controled tenancy and ther is no tenancy agreement in place. Should the tenant pay for the repair?
#5 - Simon Banks - 01/18/2013 - 11:37
access for a gas certificate
We have been trying for the past two months to get a gas safety check certificate done at our rental property. It was pretty much the same last year when our tenant refused access or was not there when the gas safety man arrived. The tenant is well aware that he needs to have this done and doesn't seem to care. The gas people have been so kind and not overly charged us for attending - now they try as they pass by on another job. Our problem is that it is a legal requirement to have it done, but why should we have to insist that he is there when he is not bothered at all. He just makes excuses every time. Why are some tenants so stupid, we are trying to look after his safety and he is just NOt bothered at all. What to do??? Any ideas?
#6 - Anthea - 01/21/2013 - 13:41
Damp
I have severe damp in my bedroom of my rented flat. I have moved myself and my son into the living room to sleep. The damp is so severe the wallpaper is coming off the walls, the walls are black with mould and the carpet is also wet. When I as the landlord if this could be dealt with he told me to give notice and find myself another place to live! I have been in the property since Aug 2011 and have paid and continue to pay my rent on time. Does the landlord have an obligation to rehouse me at his own cost whilst he carries out the repairs to the property? Do I have any rights as a tenant? Any help or advice would be really appreciated. Thank you,
#7 - Amiete - 01/29/2013 - 17:27
Emergency repair
Our tenant called out an emergency plumber on Sunday and was ripped off to the tune of over £700 for a 2 hour call out. I've checked other emergency plumbers they could have easily called and they average out at £315.00. I've offered to pay this as this seems reasonable to me but they are threatening to sue for the full amount. Can they? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated
#8 - Sue - 02/05/2013 - 17:38
NO GAS SERVICE/ OR BOILER
Hi i have been in my propert for 16 months my boiler and gas has never been serviced, mt land lord is terrible when it comes to repaires, so last month i gave my notice i am still in contract till March and my land lord has said he will take me to court to pay this, however my argument is that he has never serviced my boiler it took him three month to get a new fitter ovan ( was in when we moved) can i rgue that he should have serviced my boiler and he has breached tenanacey by doing so??
#9 - sam - 06/17/2013 - 11:21
Thank you for this article. I have really enjoyed reading this and i will be returning in the future to find out more about landlord respnsibilities
#10 - bobt89432 - 07/16/2013 - 15:46
useless letting agents
I would like some advice.....on mondaybritish gas turned off the gas supply as there was a leakon wednesday morn the letting agent sent out someone to find the leak and repair, he found a leak under the gas meter, the other on the gas cookerwhich he had to disconnect, as he says it is a specialist repair, the company sent an email telling the agents at 10 am....i have heard nothing i keep calling them but getting no joy...i called cab who said i had a right to ask for the land lords number who lives abroad, but they would not give it to me ...saying they would call when they had found someone...it is now saturday pm and i have nothing to cook on ...my children love take aways ....but really is there anything i can do?
#11 - Donna - 08/10/2013 - 20:44
Letting agency or landlord not cooperating
Moved in property start of October. First two weeks had no hot water or heating which was eventually fixed by a new boiler. Since move in date front door sticks so bad I have to be assisted to get out from someone on the outside (only exit - fire hazard - living in flat) which was not classed as an emergency according to the letting agency, they got the door shaved but it needs to be changed as it has split and is rotting to the point where it is still swelling due to the rot at the bottom of the door. The drains are blocked so bad overflowing outside of property and smells bad, also affecting the toilet which is now blocked, and has been like this for a month now. One main switch controls shower, oven, hob, and extractor which over heated but the switch didn't trip and that's quite concerning. Smell of burning in the flat and now the shower, cooker, hob, and extractor are no longer working. Problems have been raised countless times, lived in property nearly 6 weeks now. Still In same conditions and paying rent. I am 6 months pregnant! Where should I go next?
#12 - Rebecca - 11/17/2013 - 00:20
Lift & common parts
3 months ago I let my flat to a young couple who have subsequently had a baby. The flat is on 7th floor and the lift has been consistently breaking down. I am on the managing committee of the buildin (we are self governing) and we have now had the engineers report. It will take 6 weeks to order the part and then there will be 6 weeks whilst the works go on when the lift will be totally out of order. Also it will take 6 weeks before monies can be collected (section 20 notice). In reality it will be 3-4 months before the building will have a reliable lift. The tenant is complaining to me daily. I have done my best as a director of the building to speed up works to the lift, but it is not in my jurisdiction. My tenant now wants a reduction in the rent. Please advise on where I stand on this and whether it is advisable to give a reduction of rent. Would i be admitting liability.
Advice would be much appreciated, thank you
#13 - Janine - 12/16/2013 - 19:14
Replacement of Oven parts
Obviously I have a responsibility as the landlord to fix the cooker but my question is, can I source the spares and repair the oven myself? It is a relatively simple job but I need to know whether it will invalidate my landlords insurance as I am not a qualified electrician? Any help or advice will be much appreciated. Thanks
#14 - Steve Q - 01/20/2014 - 09:37
Renting of flat
Are the gutters etc the responsibility of the landlord or tenant
#15 - Shirley hunter - 02/13/2014 - 17:11
Condensation between double glaze windows
My landlady have accused me for hanging my washing in my room where in the first place before moving i've asked where can i put the washing, and she mentioned we all do it in our room. fair enough, now there's condensation between the double glaze window and she said that i have not noticed it day in day out and that i have caused the damage by not ventilating the room and having washing in my room. where do i stand in this case?
#16 - Josephine - 04/17/2014 - 23:17
Peoperty maintainence- walls and carpets
Ive been renting my home for 6years now. The house i am in had one previous tenant and is 7/8years old. It still has the matt paint and cheep carpets from when it was built. There are cracks in some walls and plaster around studs has fallen out. And being matt paint its worn and looks grubby but cant be washed as it strips the paint. I hire carpet cleaner and clean the carpets yearly and am quite house proud.
My letting angent keeps fobbing me off when i ask for the house to be painted and livingroom carpet replaced. They say yes but tel me i will have to wait as the landlord is on holiday. This has been their story for over a year now. Where do i stand? Is this general maintenance landlords responcibilty? Or mine?
#17 - Caroline - 05/11/2014 - 10:24
Asbestos Shed
I began renting a property based upon the fact it was 3 bedroomed and had a lockable shed out in the garden to store my lawnmower and things in. The council have since been round and said that the shed is unsafe as it was built using asbestos. The Landlord has to remove this shed, is it his responsibility to replace it as its listed in the inventory or will my rent be reduced as there is now no longer a shed in place?? Thanks
#18 - LottieM - 06/24/2014 - 13:12
Window broken criminal damage,
I have had my window broken by a drunk on the street. The police were called and I was given a crime number. In my tenancy agreement it states that I am responsible for window replacement. Is that still the case if I was not responsible?
#19 - Gail Firth - 07/14/2014 - 21:34
Window broken criminal damage,
I have had my window broken by a drunk on the street. The police were called and I was given a crime number. In my tenancy agreement it states that I am responsible for window replacement. Is that still the case if I was not responsible?
My landlord came around and was quite intimidating saying he wanted to know what I was going to do about it in the next 24 hours. I have double glazing and it is the outside pane that is broken.
#20 - Gail Firth - 07/14/2014 - 21:39
Renting a 'Mobile Home' on a Residential Park Home Site (Registered)
'What rights do we have regarding a mobile home that is in very poor condition (we have a letting agreement/lease).We have approached local Council,Solicitors,CAB,MP's are we covered by Section 11 of the Housing Act?
#21 - Brian Aston - 08/01/2014 - 07:03
Loo seat
Hi. My property is being fully managed by the estate agent.
I have a tenant who seems to think that it is my responsibility to sort out a loose toilet seat for him. He has tried to 'tighten' it and it hasn't worked. The Estate agent says it's my responsibility but I disagree. It is not broken or in a bad state of repair. If the estate agent send out a contractor it will cost £70 so I'm loathed to do that.
Any thoughts gratefully received

Thanks

Jackie
#22 - Jackie - 09/04/2014 - 10:21
Shed
Am I as a landlord responsible for repairs to a shed?
There is nothing in the contract to state that I am.
#23 - Lozza - 11/02/2014 - 15:23
Garden shed
Am I responsible for the repairs to the garden shed? Don't think it mentions it on the contract.
Please advice me on the answer to the question
Thank you
Dawn Smith
#24 - Dawn smith - 07/12/2015 - 08:44
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