Who is Responsible for Repairs in a Rental Property?
We are often asked who is responsible for repairs in rented properties. Fortunately the law is very clear about a Landlord’s responsibilities and these are laid out in Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
Essentially a Landlord has a statutory responsibility for repairs to the following:
the property’s structure and exterior including the roof, walls, windows and doors
basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
heating and hot water systems
gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
It should be noted that there is no statutory obligation for a Landlord to repair white goods (washing machines, fridges etc.) even if these are included in the rental, and listed on the inventory.
Similarly, a Landlord has no statutory responsibility for dealing with pests or vermin (wasps nests, rats etc.). However, the Landlord would be responsible if the infestation was due to disrepair to the structure of the property.
Common law rather than statute sets out the Tenant’s responsibilities and tenants have a legal obligation to act in a “tenant like manner”. This phrase was originally coined by Judge Denning in 1953/4 in the Warren v Keen case, the leading case on a Tenant’s repairing responsibilities. In this judgement, Lord Denning LJ stated:
“What does ‘to use the premises in a tenant-like manner’ mean? The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. He must clean the chimneys, when necessary and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do those little jobs about the place, which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must, of course, not damage the house wilfully or negligently; and he must see that his family and guests do not damage it; and if they do, he must repair it. But apart from such things, if the house falls out of repair owing to fair wear and tear, lapse of time or for any reason not caused by him, then he will not be liable to repair it.”
Basically this means that tenants are responsible for all those little jobs that are required as part of the normal occupancy of any property. This would include things such as:
Changing light-bulbs and batteries in smoke detectors
Unblocking your own toilets or sinks
Mowing lawns and keeping the gardens tidy
The tenancy agreement may also include additional contractual obligations for both Landlord and Tenant. Responsibility for cleaning chimneys, dealing with pests or vermin and repairs to white goods may well be detailed in the agreement.
Finally, it should be noted that since the introduction of the Deregulation Act in 2015, a Section 21 Notice may now be deemed invalid if there is an issue of disrepair. It is therefore more important than ever for Landlords to fully understand their repairing obligations.
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