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Property Maintenance: Who’s Responsibility Is It?

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Property Maintenance - Who's Responsibility Is It

You wake up one morning to discover a burst pipe in your flat’s bathroom. The first thing you may think to yourself is ‘how am I going to pay for this?’

The question should really be, ‘do I need to pay for this?’ You may be surprised at what comes under the list of landlord responsibilities.

It’s not always easy to figure out which maintenance problems are down to the tenant to fix or are part of the landlord obligations. Whether you’re new to rental properties or just want to brush up on your knowledge, we’ve put it all here, in plain English. So, what exactly are the tenant and landlord responsibilities?

The short answer is that it’s a shared responsibility. Helpfully, the law provides some clarity in regard to situations in which the landlord must solve a problem and in which cases the tenant is responsible. Here’s what the law lays down:

Structure and makeup of the property

The law makes it clear that the landlord is usually entirely responsible for the upkeep of the actual building itself. This includes ‘common areas’ – such as entrance halls, stairways and corridors, the exterior of the building i.e. roof, doors, windows, chimney and ventilation, and the interior of the building i.e. walls, stairs, banisters etc. Whilst it may be the case that the tenant should keep their home in a reasonable state and report any issues that arise, it comes under the landlord obligations to put problems right.

Tenants, it’s important to keep in mind that the landlord is only obliged to deal with problems once they know about them, so if you’re wondering why they haven’t got round to fixing the sink that broke two weeks ago, you might want to let them know! In addition to this, once work is done, any redecoration work falls down to the landlord too.

The landlord should also make sure that regular maintenance is done on the building i.e. boiler inspections by a Gas Safe engineer. Don’t forget, landlords – tenants can take legal action if you don’t, so it’s always worth getting a trusted tradesman in to carry out checks.

Appliances and white goods

The law states that it’s the responsibility of the landlord to take care of anything classed as a necessary sanitary item – this includes things like the toilet, bath, shower, kitchen sink (and the plumbing & electrics that come along with them). In addition to this, they must also look after the gas or electric, the heating, hot water & plumbing, drains and any gas appliances.

Outside of that, anything else – a fridge for example – is the tenant’s job to deal with. However, if furniture and any other items are provided in the tenancy agreement, the landlord will have to arrange for repairs or replacement if they break. So watch out, tenants – the next time you try to balance a plate of leftover pizza on that already-overloaded fridge shelf, just remember who’ll have to pay for it when it smashes!

Utilities

Basic utilities come down to the landlord; that includes making sure the gas and heating works, that the water is flowing without problems and that the electricity is in working order. This is where the earlier point about regular maintenance comes in – it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Health and Safety

Landlords have a duty to keep you as a tenant safe, and this means making sure the property is as safe as possible. This entails installation of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms where they are needed, making sure appliances and electrical items are safe, and carrying out work to stop pests entering your home.

So, rental properties involve a lot of landlord obligations, but what is the tenant explicitly responsible for?

Firstly, as the law states, they must pay for repairs to appliances or furniture that belongs to them. landlords are also not responsible for damage caused by the tenants, their family or guests – if they’re nice, they may fix things damaged by the tenant, but will still charge them for it. Landlords may also ask a tenant to pay for repairs for things like drain or toilet blockages if they haven’t taken reasonable care to prevent them. Lastly, any minor repairs on the property that are set out in a tenancy agreement are the responsibility of the tenant to pay for/ fix themselves.

Important things to note…

  • According to the law, a tenant should only carry out repairs if the tenancy agreement says they can;
  • A tenant cannot be forced by a landlord to do any repairs that come under the landlord obligations;
  • If a tenant damages another tenant’s flat (e.g. water damage from an overflowing bath), they have to pay for the repairs.

It’s a good idea to check your tenancy agreement to be extra sure before making any decisions on maintenance, and we always recommend that you seek the help of a professional when it comes to repairs. So, those are the main tenant responsibilities and landlord obligations that occur with rental properties. If you find yourself still with questions unanswered, you can always seek advice and support from fellow landlords.

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October 2019

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