A guide on section 11

by | Oct 26, 2022

Introduction

As opposed to other sections related to tenancies, section 11 applies to the landlord and tenant act 1985 as an update to the act of 1954. It is a rule that states a landlord has the right to look after a property structurally, internally and externally. In this article, the act will be broken down to what extent it should be applied as well as if there are any other tenant agreements that conflict with it.

Not to be confused with section 13, relating to rent increases, the legislation relates to the structure of a property. This article will explore, in-depth what repairs are covered, what kind of obligations a landlord has to provide by law as well as if there are time limits for repairs.

What is Section 11?

Section 11 is a law in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 relating to repair obligations in short leases. It states that a landlord has the obligation to repair their property from internal and external damages within reason.

Unfortunately, unless you explicitly outline it at the beginning of the tenancy agreement, a lot of what classes as “within reason” is subjective. However, there are some general rules you can take away about what a landlord is responsible for.

when was section 11 introduced?

This act came into effect on the 30th of October 1985 with the landlord and tenant act 1985. It was introduced because houses were previously hard to rent out and the government needed new laws to regulate the standard of housing as they made renting easier.

Just 5% of the housing stock was privately owned, the rest was owned by local authorities. As the government aimed to roll out this publicly owned housing to the private landlord they needed some form of regulation for the influx of properties in the market.

The government had the foresight to predict that as they privatised housing associations, not only would rent prices increase dramatically to their true market value but landlords would also have little tolerance for repairs and property companies because of the new demand for housing. As a result, they introduced the landlord and tenant act 1985 along with section 11.

Court hammer deciding on the landlord and tenant act 1985

What repairs are covered in section 11?

Under the legislation of section 11, it reads that the landlord must repair the internal and external structure, repair the supply of water to the property and ensure the heating installations of the property are always working.

These repairs are held to such a high standard that the landlord or someone acting on behalf of the landlord can at any time enter the property on 24 hours’ notice as long as it is at a reasonable time of the day with the aim of conducting repairs within the property as long as it isn’t in breach of a tenancy agreement such as a tenant’s right to privacy.

It is understood under section 11 that the property should be in good condition when the tenant moves in for the landlord to have an obligation to maintain the property. In addition, a landlord must uphold section 11 in order to hold up other sections in court like section 8 of the housing act 1988.

What this means is that it is extremely hard to evict a tenant for discretionary reasons when a landlord hasn’t held their end of a tenancy agreement by creating a safe, habitable space for tenants.

Electricity

Electricity must be safe at all times within a property. This includes A good way of enduring safety is to make sure all electrical checks are carried out by a person who has had to prove they are qualified. Electrical Installation Condition Reports should be carried out (EICR).

Other checks could be making sure there is a sufficient grounding of the electricity on the property to prevent the chance of an electric shock. Also, it could be a good idea to register all electrical appliances with the manufacturer of the product so you can take advantage of any repair or warranty service they may offer.

Appliances

Similar to electricity, appliances include all the items a landlord has agreed to be part of the tenancy when the tenant moves in. It should be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure they are PAT tested and working well. Even if the appliances aren’t absolutely essential like a washing machine for example.

Gas

Gas safety is a common part of a property that is essential to ensure is working well. In most tenancies, it is a requirement to have a gas safety certificate validated every year alongside an EPC rating. An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is used by landlords as part of planned preventive maintenance to reduce the chances of something going wrong.

However, regardless of whether a landlord has complied with the rules around gas safety, the landlord must still conduct repairs as and when needed if something were to go wrong.

Working gas hob with EPC certificate

Water appliances

The landlord must take care of all the installations that help with tenants’ sanitation. This means Basins, sinks, baths and any sanitary conveniences. Anything that the tenant buys on top of this will not have to be unkempt by the landlord. However, it can be agreed in a tenancy agreement that they will in the future when a new agreement is signed.

This is something that should be agreed upon in a written agreement between a landlord and tenant. Overall, the cleaning of a property will be up to the tenant so as anything becomes dirty the tenant will have to step in and take responsibility there.

Fire and smoke alarms

Fire safety is a big part of Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) and the building safety fund. Mandatory rules differ between tenancies but it’s best practice for a landlord to make sure there is fire-safe furniture, working smoke alarms and the right amount on every floor before a tenant moves in.

Is Section 11 the same as the consumer protection act?

Under the consumer protection act 1987, there is section 19 and 39 that state a landlord has to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of tenants by making sure the property is safe at all times. Reducing the chance of injury, damage or death to any human or animal within the property.

The act also says that the safety of the building must be kept to such a standard that it doesn’t harm the integrity of the property itself. For example, keeping free from being a fire hazard will protect against everything within the house and in the event of a fire the house itself.

So, Section 11 of the landlord and tenant act 1985 is very similar to the consumer protection act 1987 in that sense it is just that consumer protection relates to more areas of the law outside the property and relates more to safety.

Section 11 and a landlord’s obligations

As long as the appliances are in the tenant’s building or owned by the tenant they have a duty to repair them. Laws like this are similar to a tenant’s right to building safety where a tenant can report their landlord to a local authority if they don’t comply with safety regulations such as valid EPC certificates.

Which obligations does a landlord have?

As discussed, landlords have an obligation to conduct repairs on a property. However, under no circumstance does the landlord have the right to turn up at the property at any time. They have to liaise with their tenants and know then it is okay under their consent to visit the property.

A landlord and tenant agreeing on a time for repairs

These obligations are quite subjective too. To demonstrate, when looking at the repair that is meant to be done by the landlord, there is some leeway given to landlords based on the initial state of the building. For example, if the building is old and it is clear there isn’t much life left in the building or it is inevitable the building will face more repairs in the future due to its deteriorating state, a landlord will be pardoned.

Not having to conduct all the repairs as someone in a new build for example. In addition, the locality will be taken into consideration. If the property is in a location where the landlord cannot get access to all of the property to conduct repairs, they will also be given the benefit of the doubt and only have to do the essential repairs to the property. 

When is a landlord not responsible for repairs?

For other less important parts of a building such as fixtures, fittings and anything involving the addition of items to a property outside of the tenancy agreement a landlord isn’t liable. This also includes any basic repairs that the tenant could do themself.

Section 11 and a tenant’s obligations

A tenant is encouraged to conduct basic repairs themself. Having said this, if something was to go wrong in the property and the tenants accidentally caused further damage, they may be liable for the damage unless the tenant can prove they tried to contact the landlord for them to do reasonable repairs beforehand in which case it would still be the responsibility of the landlord.

This is why it’s important for landlords and tenants to stay in regular communication.

Having said this, the landlord and tenant act 1985, states that the tenant should act in a tenant-like manner and accept certain small repairs as part of everyday life. For example, if the toilet got blocked in a house or the smoke battery alarms need replacing. These are some obligations the tenant would expect to complete themself.

The exact details of what is the responsibility of the tenant can be decided by the agreement the landlord and tenant have in place. For example, it may be the case that a landlord and tenant have agreed that due to the risk of damage or just because of the welfare of the tenant it is the landlord’s responsibility to do basic things like change a light bulb for example.

Proper use of appliances

If a tenant is leaving the property they are required to use common sense in preventing damage to the property. For example, if they are going away in the winter, they would be expected to turn off the taps and empty the boiler.

In addition, reasonably using appliances for what they were made for is also an expected obligation for tenants.

Kitchen appliances covered under section 11

Keeping the property clean

Most of the time, the duty of cleanliness in the property will be the responsibility of the tenant. In very rare cases will a landlord agree to the cleaning of a property in a tenancy agreement and cleaning is something a tenant will likely want to do anyway to maintain a decent standard of living.

However, if the tenant neglects the property and damage is caused as a result of not cleaning. For example, they damaged furniture due to pure neglect. This can be taken to court and the landlord can evict the tenant under section 8 or evict them for no reason once their agreement comes to an end under section 21.

It is quite subjective as to whether the damage from furniture could be wear and tear in general from the misuse of the item so it is the landlord’s responsibility to know the condition in which items of furniture are in before they bring on a new tenant.

Trying to ensure that drains aren’t blocked

In addition, despite it being the responsibility of the landlord to take care of the drains, a tenant must not use the drains inappropriately. For example, throwing food down the sink or blocking drains with hard materials like cement.

Following rules on smoking and pets

Unless stated otherwise, most of the time smoking isn’t allowed and some tenancies don’t allow pets. If a tenant breaks these rules and there is damage to the property as a result, this means the landlord is not responsible to repair it under section11.

In a case like this where there is a clear breach of a tenancy agreement a landlord could attempt to evict a tenant under section 8 of the housing act 1988 for nuisance behaviour or they could take the tenant’s deposit for repairs on the property once the tenant leaves.

Deposits are protected by the tenancy deposit scheme so the landlord still has to make a strong case in order to keep the tenant’s deposit.

How quickly should a landlord repair a property under section 11?

There is no maximum time period in which repairs have to be carried out. As you can imagine, the range of repairs a landlord faces is extremely broad. Some types of repair simply don’t need the same level of urgency as others.

As an example, a tenant could complain there is no heating in their house and a reasonable period of time to fix this would be a few days or as fast as possible. 

However, if one of the microwaves in a property breaks, this wouldn’t have to be treated as seriously.

Is there a time limit for repairs?

What is peculiar about section 11 of the landlord and tenants act of 1985 is the time scale in which a landlord must repair anything on a property is very vague. The section says a landlord should conduct repairs in a “reasonable” timeframe.

The court usually decides what a reasonable timeframe is based on a variety of factors including how severely the property is damaged, whether the tenant is currently living in the property, how urgent the repairs seem to be and how many tenants have lived in the property in the past.

This means that a reasonable timescale can be entirely case-by-case dependent and in part subjective.

Man conducting repairs under section 11

To which type of lettings Section 11 does not apply?

Every tenancy agreement can be classed under section 11 apart from those agreements that last more than seven years. After seven years the tenant is seen to bear some responsibility.

This house also cannot be a shared ownership lease or be classed under social housing that isn’t in the public sector. For example a private registered provider of social housing. For a list of privately registered social housing companies helping those in need such as the homeless click here

Lettings for less than seven years

Lettings that are less than seven years are the only types of tenancies that section 11 applies to. An example of this could be a lease opinion agreement where a tenant pays rent for a long period of time with the option to buy the property in the future. As the lease option comes to an end, the tenant would probably start to adopt the costs of the repairs.

Pre-1961 tenancies

Tenancies that were initially signed before the 24th of October 1961 do not fall under section 11. However, in rare cases, there may be an argument that a landlord should have taken better care of the property under section 11.

As an example, if a tenancy signed before 1961 ended and was resigned after this date, perhaps with a change of landlord. Especially if the type of tenancy was changed. Also, if a landlord has charged a tenant with fair rent and they accept payment of that rent. This will fall under section 11. You can find out about how fair rent works here.

In summary

There are many strange rules around section 11 and overall the rules around what is reasonable and what is mandatory for landlords are quite subjects. However, to stay on the safe side of the law, a best practice would be for landlords to always create a safe environment for tenants despite that they are troublesome or you think they have broken the tenancy agreement.

It is best to fight a battle like this separately, stick to your side of the agreement and move on with a section 8 agreement down the line.