Understanding your repair obligations as a Landlord
Dealing with repairs can be a tricky task and can lead to landlord tenant relationship breakdown when you aren’t 100% sure of your obligations or a time frame for repairs.
The Landlord and tenant act 1985 Section 11 states the Landlords obligations are:
Repairing obligations in short leases.
(1) In a lease to which this section applies (as to which, see sections 13 and 14) there is implied a covenant by the lessor—
(a) to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),
(b) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
(c) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
Any items such as white goods, curtain poles, toilet roll holder etc. which are in the property at the commencement of the tenancy for tenants to use are for the landlord to repair or replace should they break or need some maintenance during the tenancy. If for reasons you are able to prove that the tenants have damaged the item you are within your rights to ask them to repair/replace or agree the cost of the work to be deducted from the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
Fully understand the repair
Cause - Do you have complete understanding of what the tenant is reporting and how this came to happen. Pictures or a video are a good aid to help fully understand a situation if you are unable to visit the property and see for yourself.
Damage - Has the tenant explained the full extent of the damage, sometimes things are exaggerated to get a contractor there sooner and this could lead to a costly repair if an out of hours contractor is called when it could have waited until the following day. Again, photo’s and or a video are good for capturing full details.
Resolution - Once you have a full understanding of the problem, how it happened and the damage that has been caused, if any, you are in a much better position to be able to contact the correct contractor and deal with the matter within a reasonable timeframe and more likely to get resolved upon the first visit, saving the tenant hassle of different contractors visiting and costing excess money chasing the fault.
Being aware of repair timescales
Now, this is where landlords get confused as there is very little guidance as what contributes as ‘reasonable time’ which makes it difficult and frustrating for landlords to know if they are obeying the law.
What we recommend is for you to keep a line of communication open at all times with your tenants to advise when a contractor is going, what the outcome of the visit was and if the contractor needs to re-attend, what they will be doing and when. 9/10 tenants are happy with how repairs are handled as long as they are kept abreast of the repair progress and a rough timescale for completion. If this update is done via a phone call make a note of the time of the call and a brief description of what was discussed for your records.
What happens if I don’t make repairs in a ‘reasonable time’?
If your tenant feels the repair is dragging on or you aren’t getting a contractor to attend they may decide or be ill informed to withhold rent, or get the repair done themselves and deduct the repair cost from the rent.
Withholding rent because repairs haven’t been completed is illegal, deducting the cost of the repair from the rent isn’t illegal as long as the repair has been raised to your attention and no action has been taken. Hence, this is why it’s so important to keep a good clear line of communication open with your tenants each step of the way as well as a documented run down of affairs for if any legal action is required later.
Make sure you seek professional legal advice before taking action against tenants withholding rent.
Thank you for reading and we hope the article has been of interest to you. If you would like some free impartial advice about an outstanding repair or anything property related please do get in contact with us.