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What are a landlord’s responsibility for repairs?

by | Jun 9, 2023

Under the landlord and tenant act of 1985, in general, landlord responsibilities include things like the cleanliness, furniture, gas and electrical safety and also the water supply in a property. Any damage to these that aren’t a tenant’s fault, the landlord should repair.

This section of the law can get quite complex however, so it is important to read on and find out what kind of repairs you actually need and whether a landlord can cover the costs of repair using things like insurance or taking out money from a tenant’s deposit. 

What is a landlord responsible for repairing

In the Uk, a landlord should always keep a property in good repair. This is because if the property was in good condition at the start of the tenancy and the property deteriorates over the course of the tenant’s stay in a property, this can then be classed as a breach of an agreement.

If the property inventory that was done at the start of a tenancy agreement changes, then either the agreement has to change or the landlord has to start doing repairs. But what does this look like for the inside and the outside of a property?

a landlord's responsibilities for repair sign

Inside of a property

On the inside of a home, repairs always should cover the following categories at a bare minimum. However, there may be additional features of a property within a tenancy agreement that a landlord and tenant agrees to have.

Cleanliness

If, for whatever reason such as there is mould in a property or the property becomes infested with pests such as ants, rodents or other creatures, this is the responsibility of the landlord to get rid of.

Under the landlord and tenant act of 1985, all landlords should provide a safe home to tenants and if there is a safety issue because of hygiene, this can be a problem and tenants will have a good case to take a landlord to court.

However, there is also a chance that the tenant will have a hard time proving that there is in fact a lack of cleanliness as sometimes this is hard to prove and there is often a level of subjectivity involved to determining how bad an infestation of pests or an area of mould is.

If there is a small amount of mould on a wall for instance, this isn’t necessarily a breach of a tenancy agreement as it is so common, especially in the UK where properties tend to be older and winters are also harsh.

This resource from Lambeth council explains to tenants how they are able to contact their landlord to get them to conduct repairs in a home if there is damp or mould. It is always best to act politely at first and negotiate with your landlord.

If necessary, it may be possible for a tenant to cover some of the costs if repairs are particularly expensive. But this would be something that should be agreed beforehand in a verbal or written agreement.

Furniture

All the furniture supplied within a property should be deemed safe and fit for use by the landlord and there should be fire resistant labels on all furniture too.

This is even more important in HMO properties as there are stricter laws surrounding fire safety.

Landlords also should be aware that if a piece of furniture breaks, it is their responsibility to repair it if the furniture was supplied at the start of the tenancy. 

This highlights the importance of landlords having tenants who will take care of the property and also buying high quality furniture to begin with so it doesn’t break as often. This is particularly important when working out how often a landlord should replace a kitchen.

Electricity safety

Electrical safety is a responsibility because although it is not directly related to repairs, if there are electrics that are unsafe within a premises, this has to be repaired. However, it is the responsibility of the landlord to make sure electricity is working anyway.

This has to be regulated by an electrical safety engineer who has to conduct an electrical installation conditioning report (EICR) every five years in a property in order for a landlord to legally rent out their space.

the electrical safety a landlord is responsible for

Gas safety

On the inside of a property, a landlord is also responsible for any of the appliances that use gas such as a cooker, the piping throughout the property and boilers and radiators. This means if there is a broken gas appliance, the landlord should repair it.

Rather than repairing the gas equipment in a property as and when it is needed, in order to prevent repairs being done on an emergency basis and also to stay safe, a gas safety check must be done every year if you have a property that is being rented out under the law.

Water supply

Any repairs concerning the water supply in a property must also be looked at. 

Although there is no regulation in the UK that states that the piping or the water supply has to be checked every so often as part of planned preventative maintenance, water leaks on the inside of a property are still the landlord’s responsibility.

Having said this, if there is a water leak on the outside of the house such as in the driveway or on the street, this may be the responsibility of the local authority in which case the landlord will have to contact them in order for the council to do repairs.

What is a landlord responsible for repairing on the outside of a property?

On the outside of a building, a landlord is responsible for anything that is damaged as a result of general wear and tear or there being something out of the control of the tenant. 

If not, and there was a roof or guttering system for instance that was damaged by the tenant, the process of getting the money from the tenant would be the same as if there was damage on the inside of the house, by taking money from the tenant’s deposit.

This still has to be done in a legitimate way, by going here, to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), making a claim against a tenant and then granting permission from the scheme to take money away.

It is worth noting that for all of the listed responsibilities below, depending on the type of building insurance a landlord has, sometimes the cost for these may be covered as this type of insurance covers the landlord in case there is unexpected damage to the structure of a home.

The roof

The entire roofing system is the responsibility of the landlord to repair. Therefore it is within the landlord’s best interest to have an allocated budget for repairing a roof every ten years or so and researching how much replacing roof tiles cost.

The drainage systems

Drainage systems are easy to become dysfunctional if they aren’t maintained properly. One of the easiest ways to do this is by making sure the leaves within a gutter are taken out of the gutter every month or so.

This is particularly important after a winter or autumn season when a lot of leaves tend to fall from trees. Either way, a landlord is responsible for doing this and the repair of any of the damage that happens as a result of neglecting this feature of a home.

the drainage system a landlord is responsible for repairing

The condition of outside walls

Outside walls are prone to cracking or the paint peeling off of the walls. However, landlords will be glad to know that unless the exterior damage of a wall is causing a safety hazard or a leak within a property, there is no obligation to repair the wall.

This means if a tenant wants to make their home look better by painting the exterior wall or putting on a fresh coat of plastering, they would have to ask the landlord for permission and do this themself.

Doors, windows and openings

Any damage that happens due to the degradation of a property over time is the responsibility of the landlord. This is because it is likely that this damage is also a security issue for the tenant.

And, under the laws of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, a landlord must “keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling”.

Outdoor space

Generally, unless stated otherwise, it is a landlord’s responsibility to maintain the garden space of a property for major works. However, for smaller tasks such as cutting the grass, this should be done by the tenant if they want it done.

How does a landlord issue a notice to begin repair?

A landlord issues a notice to begin repair when they are sure that it is their responsibility to fix whatever is broken. Often this would have been brought to attention by the tenant anyway and the repairs will be welcomed. So the tenant should be expecting it.

This is not to say that a landlord can enter a property whenever they want on the other hand. As under section 11 of the landlord and tenant act, it states that a landlord must give an inspection notice at least 24 hours before they enter a property.

Tenants in the UK have the right to quiet enjoyment of a property. This means that aside from emergencies, a landlord cannot enter their home at any time without providing a notice at least a day beforehand.

Also, if a tenant doesn’t want a landlord entering their property even after this notice has been served, a landlord must show that they have made reasonable attempts to re-schedule and find a convenient time before they are able to take further action and enter a property through force.

In rare cases, if repairs are going to take a long time or there is going to be significant disruption while a landlord is conducting repairs, a tenant could ask for a reduction in rent for a short period of time which is known as an abatement.

an inspection notice given as a landlord is responsible

How long does a landlord have to conduct repairs?

Two weeks is usually the time frame in which a landlord should fix the repairs in a home. However, this is always within reason. For instance, if there is a broken boiler in a property and it is in the middle of winter and temperatures are cold, this would warrant an earlier fix.

Landlords must always consider this “reasonable” timeframe as if a tenant has enough evidence to show that they are unsafe in their property, they may be able to complain to the local authority who may take a landlord’s rights away to evict a tenant under section 21

Alternatively, if a tenant’s tenancy agreement states this which you can read more about here, you may be able to get a landlord to pay for alternative accommodation while repairs are being made or the property is unfit for habitation.

Can a landlord reduce the chance that they have to repair something?

There are some reasonable ways that landlords can reduce the likelihood that they have to pay for repairs. However, it should be considered part of being a landlord that eventually things are going to break and a property will naturally have expenses in order to maintain it.

In order to reduce your repair bill however, landlords can:

  • Buy more durable furniture
  • Buy fitting that are easily replaceable
  • Only work with qualifies and reliable contractors
  • Have regular landlord inspections to incentivize tenants to take care of things
  • Keep track of the condition of items with a property inventory

How does the landlord and tenant act ensure landlords are responsible for repair?

The Landlord and Tenant Act is a significant piece of legislation that stipulates a landlord’s responsibility to maintain the property in a good state of repair.

The Act explicitly establishes that landlords must keep the structure and exterior of the property, including drains, gutters, and external pipes, “in satisfactory repair and proper working order“.

Furthermore, the landlord is responsible for maintaining installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, and for sanitation, including basins, sinks, baths, and sanitary conveniences.

What does the act cover?

The Landlord and Tenant Act covers a broad spectrum of aspects concerning rental properties.

Primarily, it covers the landlord’s obligations to keep the property in a habitable condition, addressing structural and exterior elements, utilities, and sanitary installations.

The Act also extends to communal areas in multi-dwelling properties, requiring landlords to maintain these shared spaces appropriately.

Additionally, it protects tenants from retaliatory eviction, offering security to those who request repairs or complain about the condition of the property.

What does the act not cover?

While the Landlord and Tenant Act is comprehensive, it does not cover everything.

Notably, it does not oblige landlords to address cosmetic or minor issues such as internal decoration or minor cracks in the walls or ceilings, unless these affect the tenant’s comfort or safety.

The Act also excludes the landlord’s appliances and furniture unless specified in the tenancy agreement. Moreover, it does not compel landlords to repair damages caused by the tenant’s actions or neglect.

Landlord and tenanct act showing a landlord's repair responsibilities

Can a tenant take a landlord to court to get them to do repairs?

Under the Landlord and Tenant Act, tenants do have recourse to legal action if a landlord fails to carry out necessary repairs.

If a landlord does not fulfil their obligations as per the Act and the tenancy agreement, the tenant can apply to the court for an order requiring the landlord to perform the necessary repairs.

Additionally, the court may award damages to the tenant, typically in the form of a rent reduction, to compensate for the inconvenience and any harm caused by the disrepair. It is advised that tenants seek legal advice before proceeding with such action.

Is a tenant responsible for anything?

Yes, tenants are responsible for some things within the property although they don’t tend to be related to repairs, unless the tenant has directly damaged something or it is a menial expense like a light bulb blowing. In general, tenants should:

Make sure the property is clean

When a tenant leaves a property, they should leave the property in the same level of cleanliness that they entered it. This is not to say that any general wear and tear that occurs is the tenant’s responsibility though.

This is just based on the level of dirt and dust in the property and the general state of hygiene. Read up on do tenants have to pay for professional cleaning for more on this topic.

However, if the property is dirty within the duration of the tenancy, there is little a landlord can do about this and it is a tenant’s choice whether they want to leave all cleaning to the end of their tenancy or clean as they go.

Don’t damage the property

Under the law in the UK, a landlord will not be held responsible for repairing any damage caused to the outside or inside of a property if the tenant decides to renovate or alter the existing equipment, like the boiler for instance, without obtaining the landlord’s consent.

Do not smoke

Most tenancy agreements state that smoking is not allowed on the inside of a property. Nonetheless, this is a rule that is often broken as there is little a landlord can do.

Taking action against a tenant because they have been smoking is hard to do as it requires a lot of obvious evidence that there is property damage due to cigarette smoke.

To conclude

All in all, a tenant should not be responsible for the repairs of a property most of the time, unless they are responsible for damages in which case a landlord has the right to take out money from the tenant’s deposit, relative to the amount of damage they have caused.

Other than this, a landlord is responsible for repairs and they must go about fixing the parts of a property in the right way. Including issuing a notice for repairs within 24 hours.

If a landlord also has landlord insurance, they may be able to get out of the costs of repairs.

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andreas gerazis

Andreas Gerazis

Experienced landlord

Andreas is a certified landlord with extensive knowledge about the UK property market as he has been actively investing for half a decade. Founder of the first three-in-one property management software, Lofti Proptech, Andreas has a brilliant understanding of the details surrounding what it takes to grow and run a thriving property portfolio.