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New landlord survey reveals confusion

NatWest’s Landlords and Tenants Survey revealed some shocking results about the confusion around basic responsibilities in rented properties, ranging from white goods to mould, with nearly 1 in 10 of tenants believing their landlord should change their broken lightbulbs!

White goods and mould seem to be the most troubling features in a rented property for both tenants and landlords. Nearly 6 out of 10 landlords claimed to fix broken white goods was their responsibility, but a quarter said it was the tenants. Nearly two-thirds of tenants felt mould and mildew was a responsibility of the landlord, 6% more than what landlords felt.

So who’s responsibility is it?

There is clearly confusion amongst both tenants and landlords around who is responsible for what, and this could be building tension between both parties. Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act states landlords must keep in repair the exterior and structure, as well as installations, like wiring, pipes and boilers, and general safety of the rental accommodation. Tenants’ responsibilities are cleanliness, general maintenance, disposing rubbish, not causing damage and informing landlords of any issues quickly.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the newest tenants who have the most confusion around responsibility. 14% of students believe that their landlord should change their broken light bulbs. Not only this, but only three-quarters of students felt it was their responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of their rented accommodation! This was the lowest percentage of all tenants interviewed, with 91% of retired tenants and part-time employed tenants deeming it their responsibility.

Confusion could be to blame for poor relationships.

This confusion could be a contributing factor to why landlords and tenants don’t have a better relationship. Over a quarter of tenants said their relationship with their landlord was just ok, and 1 in 10 said their relationship with their landlord was their non-existent, bad or very bad. So, maybe there needs to be more clarity between the tenants and their landlord around who is responsible for what to improve the relationship.

Chris Horne, the founder of Property Hawk and an experienced portfolio landlord, has some helpful advice and simple solutions to deal with these problems “The starting point for any maintenance questions should be the tenancy agreement or lease. Most tenants and landlords forget that much of the contractual law relating to a tenancy is already set out in the 1988 Housing Act (subsequently updated) which governs responsibilities in terms of the landlord and tenant. Even with a written tenancy agreement, these documents are rarely explicit on every item.”

How can you fix this?

Nearly half (44%) of tenants with a very good relationship with their landlord spoke on the phone, so perhaps landlords should consider talking to their tenants over the phone to build relationships, as well as having written confirmation for responsibilities, viewings or fixing any issues. This will ensure tenants aren’t placing any unnecessary blame on landlords and know exactly what they should do to maintain a good relationship.

Chris says, “Generally, the rule of thumb is that if the items were there when the tenant moved in then it’s the landlord’s’ responsibility; otherwise the responsibility lies with the tenant. I think that the fact that over 90% of tenants and landlords understand that with a light bulb it is quicker and easier to be dealt with in-house by the tenant is reassuring and a feather in the cap for common sense!”
A simple solution to a perhaps over-complicated problem. Enhance the communication with your tenants and ensure it’s clear as to who is responsible for what. So you don’t get stuck fixing their lightbulbs!


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