Repairs – Who is responsible for doing repairs in a residential letting. My landlord says it’s my responsibility to unblock my sink?
The tenancy agreement should spell out who is responsible for what when it comes to repairs and maintenance. However, under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and other safety legislation such as the Defective Premises Act 1972 there are certain items including safety matters which the landlord is responsible for whether or not the letting agreement specifies this:
- The building structure and all the outside of the property, including roofs, gutters, drains, window frames and doors, gates, fences and garden sheds but not necessarily glass, garden and yard maintenance.
- Water, gas, electricity, drainage and sewarage and toilet installations.
- Heating and hot water systems.
- Furniture and furnishings must meet fire safety standards.
- Gas appliances and flues must be tested annually by a CORGI registered fitter and a certificate issued to the tenant.
- Hard wired smoke alarms when fitted should be maintained.
- The electrical appliances and system should be safe.
- The landlord must provide safety operating instructions for all equipment and appliances and locations for stop taps and isolator switches.
Tenants would normally be expected to carry out basic household maintenance which should be spelled out in the tenancy agreement, including: broken glass, sink and toilet blockages, light bulbs all internal breakages and replacing batteries in smoke alarms.
It’s the tenant’s responsibility to inform the landlord immediately there is a problem (preferably in writing) and the landlord’s responsibility to effect repairs/maintenance within a resonable time. Tenants should bear in mind the difficulties in getting tradesmen quickly.
The landlord or workers should be allowed access with reasonable (24 hours) notice except in emergencies. The tenant has a right to be present.
Where the landlord fails to act on specified repairs or they are not done properly, the tenant can go to the county court for enforcement (injunction) and compensation for inconvenience, which may also apply if the tenant needs to move out while repairs are carried out.
In the case of health and safety issues where the landlord fails to act the tenant can call in the environmental health officer who can go to court for enforcement on the landlord if necessary. Landlords can be liable under the Defective Premises Act 1972 for personal injury and damage to property through failure to repair.
The Housing Act 2004 has introduced a new system of assessing hazards in homes known as the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) which will replace the old Fitness Standard. The local authority Envirnomental Health Department can inspect rental property to assess under this system for 29 hazards including cold, damp, fire risks etc.
Furniture and certain furnishings supplied with rental property must meet the fire resistance standards of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988
Gas Safety and maintenance is covered by the Gas Safety IInstallation and Use) Regulations 1998 which imposes a duty on the landlords to be maintained in good order and checked annually by a CORGI registered engineer, who issues a certificate, a copy of which the tenant is entitled to.
To “keep in repair” also means doing those repairs which were necessary before the tenancy started.
Tenants should never stop their rent payments, which could trigger eviction proceedings. In exceptional circumstances, where the tenant has informed the landlord in writing and no action has been taken, he can effect the repairs himself (using qualified tradesmen) and deduct the cost from future rent.
Tenants should bear in mind there is a difference between repairs, maintenance and improvements. Landlords are not obliged to make improvements and tenants must not do “improvements” themselves without permission in writing from the landlord.
Note: never rely totally on these standard answers. Before taking action or not, always seek professional advice with the full facts of the case and all documents to hand. LandlordZONE.co.uk