As the owner of one or multiple properties, it’s inevitable that you will encounter property damage of some description somewhere along the line. As a landlord, it’s even more important to keep certain things maintained within your property as, after all, you are responsible for providing a safe home for your tenants.
What are your repair responsibilities as a landlord?
It varies between tenancy agreements but generally speaking, anything that was already in the property before your tenants moved in is your responsibility to maintain. This usually includes the structure and exterior of the property, any furnishings, appliances and fittings you supplied, basins, sink, baths, pipes and drains, heating and hot water, electrical wiring and the chimney if you have one.
It also falls to you to maintain the property’s exterior features, such as the roof, floor slabs, walls, windows and doors. If there is a garden, in most cases the tenants would be required to mow the lawn and maintain it.
You need to be keeping a close eye on the safety features within your property. It’s your responsibility to keep the smoke, carbon and heat detectors, accessible escape routes and fire-safe furnishings and fittings in good working order. It’s a good idea to have a maintenance schedule for each property which you can refer to in order to determine which checks need carrying out and when. Gas safety checks need to be conducted annually and electrical installation checks every 5 years. Any issues around damp, heat and safety must be repaired as soon as possible as these can cause potential risk. If your tenant is unhappy with your response time and gets the council involved, you may face prosecution and/or fines, so keep a good line of communication and respond to complaints as soon as you can!
It’s definitely important that you do what you can to keep your tenants safe, however you are only obliged to make necessary repairs and you do not have to make improvements, such as putting in double glazing windows, even if your tenant requests them. The only improvements you may need to make are reasonable adjustments, such as handrails for disabled tenants.
These responsibilities may be different if you are the leaseholder of a flat as it may instead fall to the freeholder to conduct the repairs. In all cases, be sure that the tenancy agreement lists who is responsible for what so that there is no confusion between you and your tenants.
What is the tenant responsible for?
If a repair is needed because of a tenant’s own actions, or even those of their friends and family, and it goes beyond ‘fair wear and tear’, the responsibility then falls to them and they must pay for it themselves. Smaller jobs such as replacing light bulbs and keeping plug holes clear are also usually down to the tenants. If there are larger issues around these such as leaks then they need to let you know straight away.
In the rare case that a tenant ends up damaging another tenants flat, for example if water leaks from one flat into another from an overflowing bath, then it is that tenants responsibility to pay for the repairs, as it was a direct result of their own actions.
Reasonable time frames
This is an important one, and arguably where most issues arise with landlords and their tenants when it comes to damage and repairs. You are obliged to repair damages within a reasonable time frame, however this is a slightly grey area as there are not many guidelines in place to determine what exactly counts as reasonable time. To avoid being caught out, it’s good practice to respond to tenant’s repair complaints and queries about property damage within 24 hours and keep them in the loop at all stages, so that they are aware that you’re taking the issue seriously and that you are doing what you can to help.
Things can get messy if you don’t take their issue seriously and your tenant may withhold rent. Despite this being illegal, it is not illegal for tenants to pay for the repairs themselves and take them out of their rent payments if they feel that you didn’t respond within a reasonable timeframe. That being said, in signing their tenancy agreement, your tenant is agreeing to pay rent when it is due and if they are unhappy with the state of the property, they need to go down the appropriate legal route.
Communication is key
Ever since the new laws around retaliatory evictions in England were introduced, it is much more difficult for landlords to evict tenants in response to requests for repairs. This makes it all the more important to respond to your tenants complaints about repairs and communicate with them as best you can.
Always be slightly cautious and keep all correspondence between you and your tenant should you ever need to take legal action. It’s important to have evidence to prove that you have been diligent and have taken reasonable steps to keep your tenants safe. If you have a conversation with them in person or over the phone, follow up with an email requesting a ‘read receipt’ to prove what was said and agreed.
Try to go above and beyond for your tenants and you’re unlikely to experience any issues. Safe tenants and well maintained property means fewer overall repairs and your rent paid on time!