This article is designed to tell Landlords and Tenants about the responsibilities for repairs under shorthold tenancy agreements in residential properties. Shorthold tenancy agreements are for any lease under seven years long and can include periodic tenancies where the tenant has not got a fixed term agreement and occupies the property from month to month or week to week.
Responsibility for repairs
Who is responsible?
Unless the tenancy has a fixed term of more than seven years, the landlord is responsible for repairs to:
- The structure and exterior of the property
- Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary installations in the property
- Heating and hot water installations
The landlord is not generally responsible for repairs arising from damage caused by the tenant, or for rebuilding the property in the case of damage by fire, floor or other inevitable accident. The landlord also does not have to repair anything which the tenant has a right to take away unless the damage was caused as a result of the landlord’s failure to carry out repair obligations. eg tenant’s property being damaged to a leak which had not been repaired by a landlord.
What about repairs to other parts of the property not listed above?
Responsibility for these repairs depends on the terms of the agreement between the landlord and tenant. If a landlord, in doing repairs which they are obliged to do, spoils the in decoration then they should make the damage good.
Safety of gas and electric appliances
The landlord is required by law to ensure that all gas appliances are maintained in good order and that an annual safety check is carried out by a registered engineer. The landlord must keep a record of the safety checks and issue it to the tenant within 28 days of each annual check. The tenant is responsible for maintaining gas appliances which he or she is entitled to take with him or her at the end of the letting.
The landlord should also ensure that the electrical installation (fixed wiring, etc) and any electrical appliances supplied (cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines, immersion heaters, etc) are safe to use.
The law requires the landlord to ensure the electrical installation is safe when the tenancy begins and that it is maintained in a safe condition throughout that tenancy. One way of ensuring safety is to undertake a regular inspection of the installation, looking for any obvious signs of damage on items such as cables, sockets etc. In addition, it is recommended that a combined inspection and test is carried out at least once every five years. Testing should only be undertaken by someone competent to do such work, such as a qualified electrician. Combined inspection and testing should be more frequent where the risk is found to be greater, for instance where the installation is very old, where damage is regularly found during inspections, etc.
If the landlord provides any electrical appliances as part of the tenancy then the regulations require them to ensure the appliances are safe when first supplied.
Each time the property is re-let, it will be classed as supplying to that tenant for the first time. The landlord therefore needs to maintain the electrical equipment he or she supplies, taking precautions to ensure the appliances are safe.
Fire Safety of furniture and furnishings
The landlord must ensure that any furniture and furnishings supplied meets the fire resistance requirements, unless the property is being let on a temporary basis while, for example, working away from home. The regulations apply if the let is for a longer period or for a series of lets, where the property is regarded primarily as a source of income rather than a home. All new and second-hand furniture provided in accommodation that is let for the first time, or replacement furniture in existing let accommodation, must meet the fire resistance requirements unless it was made before 1950. Most furniture will have a manufacturer’s label on it saying if it meets the requirements.
What are the tenant’s responsibilities?
Under common law, a tenant must use the property in a responsible way. He or she must take proper care of it. For example, he or she should turn off the water if there is a risk of burst pipes when he or she is going away and unblock the sink when it is clogged up by waste. The tenant should not damage the property and should make sure that any guests do not do so either. If any damage is caused, then the tenant may be responsible for the damage.
The landlord can seek possession where the tenant or someone living with him or her has damaged the property. Apart from the duty to take care of the property, the tenant generally only must do repairs if the terms if the tenancy agreement says so. The tenant cannot, under the terms of the tenancy agreement, be made to do repairs for which the landlord is by law responsible.
Getting repairs done.
The tenancy agreement will normally set out the rights and liabilities of the parties and may cover the procedure for getting repairs done.
If the landlord fails to get repairs done after being told about them:
- The tenant can sue the landlord in court. The court can award damages, and order repairs to be done.
- Where the landlord has been told about the need for repairs, and failed to do them, a tenant can contact their local council who have powers to carry out an assessment of the property using the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
HHSRS is used to assess potential risks to the health and safety of occupants in residential properties in England and Wales. Local authorities are responsible for operating the HHSRS.
Does the landlord have the right of entry to carry out repairs?
There is an implied term in tenancy most agreements that the tenant will let the landlord have access to the property, and all reasonable facilities, to carry out repairs which they are entitled to do. In the case of tenancies where the landlord is responsible for repairs as described previously, they, or an authorised agent in writing may, at reasonable times of the day, enter the property to inspect its condition and state of repair.
The tenant must be given at least 24 hours notice in writing before any such an inspection.
If a tenant will not give his or her consent for work to be carried out for which the landlord has a local authority grant, then the landlord may apply to the court for an order to enter and carry out the works. An order can be made subject to conditions about the time at which the work is carried out and about alternative accommodation arrangements.
Can the landlord make a tenant give up the tenancy so that the repairs can be carried out?
A secure or assured tenant can only be made to leave his or her home if the landlord obtains a court order on one of a number of specified grounds. A landlord cannot repossess the home simply because he or she needs or wants to do repairs. The landlord may be able to obtain an order if he or she can provide suitable alternative accommodation or, in the case of assured tenancies, if he or she wishes to develop the property or do substantial works. A tenant can also agree to leave his or her home temporarily while work is carried out, but if he or she does so he or she should make sure that the agreement with the landlord sets out clearly the basis on which they are leaving the property and the right to return. It should also include details of the alternative accommodation provided.
Is the tenant expected to do any work on the property?
A tenant has the right to carry out certain improvements but must, in each case obtain written permission from the landlord who can state conditions or refuse permission, if for a reasonable reason. If the tenant does not satisfy the conditions imposed by the landlord, they may be breaking their agreement and the landlord might be able to regain possession.
If the repairs are not done properly, what can the tenants do about it?
Take the matter up with the landlord or property managing agent. If the negotiations with the landlord or agent are unsuccessful get legal advice
Andrea Wild, Lettings Manager says: “we work with our landlords and tenants to ensure all repairs are done in a timely manner and to a good standard. We have very good relationships with our trusted contractors and also our sister company called Horizon Build”
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