Who fixes what in a rented home has been a hot topic of discussion on the LandlordZONE forum this week. This isn’t surprising as there are often disputes between landlords and tenants over who is responsible for repairs.

Quarrels can be particularly common in winter, when the harsh weather conditions  put heating, water and a property’s structure under considerable pressure.

This means that as the temperatures drop and the days shorten, landlords need to be ready to fulfil their legal responsibility to carry out necessary repairs to their property.  

But the distinction between landlords’ and a tenants’ responsibilities  remains a source of confusion.

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Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance has prepared a timely guide to landlords’ and tenants’ property repair responsibilities, which outlines landlords’ and tenants’ legal responsibilities. Here’s a summary.

Landlord responsibilities

Landlords’ legal repair responsibilities vary depending on the terms of the tenancy agreement, as well as the type of repair, and the property itself.

But regardless of the conditions of a tenancy agreement, all landlords, when necessary, must abide by their legal obligation to make repairs to the following:

  • The exterior and structure of the property
  • Sanitary fittings
  • Boilers, heating, and hot water
  • Gas appliances, pipes and ventilation
  • Chimneys
  • Electrical wiring and sockets
  • Damp and mould
  • Any damage caused by the landlord

Landlords cannot charge tenants for these type of repairs, unless the damage was caused directly by the tenant.

Although these repairs are part of a landlord’s legal responsibility, it’s down to the tenant to report problems as soon as possible, as landlords are only required to act when they are aware of an issue. Make sure your tenant knows this and can contact you easily to report any damage at the earliest opportunity.

Repairs must also be carried out within a ‘reasonable’ time frame. In cases where it’s difficult to define this, it is advisable to keep the tenant informed on the progress of the repair.

Failure to do this can damage your relationship with a tenant and prompt and investigation by local authorities. And under certain circumstances, tenants may even be entitled to withhold rent if their landlord neglects their repair responsibilities.

Tenant responsibilities

Although landlords are legally responsible for major repairs and property maintenance, tenants also have responsibilities.

Tenants are responsible for the following:

  • Property damage caused by themselves or their guests
  • Damage to their own furniture, appliances, or other personal belongings
  • Minor repairs and maintenance outlined in the tenancy agreement
  • Keeping the home, garden and outside areas clean
  • Ensuring that electrical and gas appliances are used responsibly
  • Regularly checking smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and replacing batteries when necessary
  • Replacing light bulbs
  • Ventilating rooms that produce large amounts of water and steam

When a tenant causes damage to a part of the property that the landlord is typically responsible for, the landlord may carry out the repairs but charge the tenant for the costs.

Tenants are also responsible for reporting issues to their landlord as early as they can.

Download A guide to landlords’ and tenants’ property repair responsibilities, for top tips from Melissa Choules, Senior Claims Technician at Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance. Melissa also offers her advice on common causes for repairs, which type of repairs are covered by landlord insurance, and how landlords can ensure that they are complying with the terms of their insurance policy when carrying out repairs.

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