Landlords’ Responsibilities for Repair and Maintenance:
A landlords repairing obligation is set out in the tenancy agreement, common law and statute, all of which imply terms to the agreement between landlord and tenant.
Implied Terms in Tenancy Agreements: These are terms considered to be part of a legal lease, tenancy agreement or licence even though they are not actually written down in that document. Implied terms can arise from common law and/or statute.
Any attempts to evade statutory or common law rights and responsibilities by way of any standard term in the tenancy agreement, may result in the relevant term being found void under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. Examples might include a clause requiring rent to be paid without set-off (as this would be an attempt to exclude the tenant’s common law right to set off against the rent any debt owed to the tenant by the landlord) or a clause term requiring the tenant to be responsible for repairs to the gas appliances (as this is the landlord’s statutory responsibility).
Common Law Implied Terms: The main terms implied by common law are;
- The Right of a Tenant to Quiet Enjoyment of a Rented Property without Intrusion or Disturbance by a Landlord
- The tenant must use the Property in a Tenant-like Manner
- The tenant has the responsibility to ensure the property is not damaged deliberately and is kept clean and free from rubbish during the course of the tenancy
- The tenant should leave the property in the same condition as when they took possession, fair wear and tear excepted
- The Tenant must not use the Rent to pay for Repairs, except in very Limited Circumstances
Statutory Implied Terms
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985: (LTA85): Section 11 implies a term into tenancy agreements for less than seven years that the landlord shall keep in repair:
- the structure and exterior of the dwelling
- the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and
- the installations for the supply of space heating and water
- the communal areas and installations associated with the dwelling (section 11 as amended by section 116 of the Housing Act 1988), where these are controlled by the landlord
The Act also provides that the standard of repair necessary will vary depending on the ‘age, character, and prospective life of the property and its location’.
Access to Property: LTA85 Section 11 implies a term into the tenancy agreement that landlords with section 11 repairing responsibilities (or people authorised by them) have the right to access the property for the purpose of viewing its condition and state of repair. Access can only be at reasonable times of the day and after giving the tenant not less than 24 hours’ notice in writing. If the tenant refuses to allow the landlord access to carry out the repairs, the tenant will not be in a position to complain about the property or to claim for damages for disrepair or for personal injury caused by the disrepair.
The tenant’s failure to allow the landlord access to do the works results in further deterioration or damage to the property, the tenant maybe liable to the landlord (entitling the landlord, for example, to deduct the additional costs incurred from the damage deposit). If the particular appointment time is inconvenient, the tenant will be expected to consent to an appointment at another time. If the tenant refuses to allow the landlord access at all then as a landlord you should seek legal advice to clarify the best way as in fact the tenant will be in breach of their tenancy agreement.
Generally, landlords should be wary about entering the property when the tenant is not there. Where a tenant has given permission, but has advised they will not be at the property themselves, it is recommended that landlords/agents are best accompanied by a witness.
Defective Premises Act 1972: Section 4 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 places a duty of care on the landlord in relation to any person who might be affected by a defect, ‘to take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances to see that they are reasonably safe from personal injury or from damage to their property caused by a relevant defect’. In this case the premises include the whole of the letting - i.e. including gardens, patios, walls, etc - and can be applied to the communal areas of estates or multi-occupancy buildings, including lifts, rubbish chutes, stairs and corridors. Section 4 provides tenants or other affected persons with the right to seek compensation for personal injury or damage to property.
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System: The Housing Act 2004 places a statutory duty on local authorities to identify hazards and to assess tenants’ risks to health and safety. Local authorities are required to use a system called the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to identify and assess risks. Although not a general legal obligation, it is useful for landlords to be able to identify and risk-assess health and safety hazards at their properties and take remedial action where necessary. You can find more information on the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) page.
Gas Safety: Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998: The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 make it mandatory that gas appliances are maintained in a safe condition at all times. Landlords are required by the regulations to ensure that all gas appliances are adequately maintained and that an annual safety check is carried out by a registered gas engineer. From March 2009 the Gas Safe Register has replaced CORGI gas registration in Great Britain and is now the official industry stamp for gas safety. For further information visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk.
It is very important that the gas regulations are complied with and all necessary repairs carried out as soon as possible. Defective gas appliances are very dangerous and some tenants have died as a result. Culpable landlords could be subject to legal action. A landlord must:
- Have gas appliances provided by them checked for safety by a registered gas installer within 12 months of their installation and then ensure further checks at least once every 12 months after that
- Ensure a gas safety check has been carried out on each appliance and flue every 12 months, except where the appliance was installed less than 12 months ago. Gas pipe work should also be inspected to ensure it is not leaking. The registered gas installer must take action to leave the appliance safe, if it fails a safety check. This could be remedial action, disconnection and/or a warning notice
- Give a copy of the gas safety record to any new tenant when they move in or to an existing tenant(s) within 28 days of the check
- Keep a record of the gas safety check made for each appliance for two years
- Ensure that gas appliances, fittings, and flues are maintained in a safe condition
Danger signs to look for are include; stains, soot or discolouring around a gas appliance indicating that the flue or chimney is blocked, in which case carbon monoxide can build up in the room; a yellow or orange flame on a gas fire or water heater. The most effective indication of a combustion problem would be the activation of a properly installed carbon monoxide detector.
Electrical Safety and Electrical Goods: Landlords should have a clear understanding of their responsibilities in relation to electrical installations and appliances and the duties and responsibilities placed on a landlord by the following regulations:
- Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
- Consumer Protection Act 1987
- Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
- Building Regulations 2000
Legislation places obligations on landlords to ensure that all electrical appliances supplied by the landlord are safe at the date of supply. Landlords need to ensure that the electrical installation and all electrical appliances are ‘safe’ with little risk of injury or death to humans, or risk of damage to property.
For further guidance about electrical safety and the competency of electricians and installers to carry out new work or undertake the formal periodic inspection and test of an existing installation, refer to the information provided on the Electrical Safety Council’s website: www.esc.org.uk.
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988: Since 1 January 1997 persons who hire out furniture in the course of a business (and this includes furniture provided with rented accommodation) are required to comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 which set safety standards for fire and flame-retarding requirements for upholstered furniture manufactured after 1950 or where the tenancy commenced after March 1993. The regulations relate to:
- furniture meeting a cigarette resistance test
- cover fabric, whether for use in permanent or loose covers, meeting a match resistance test and
- filling materials for all furniture meeting ignitability tests
Tenancies that commenced prior to 1993 are exempt, but all additional or replacement furniture added after 1993 must comply with fire resistance requirements. A new tenant after 1993 means that all relevant furniture must comply.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO): Special requirements apply to types of properties known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which place special responsibilities on landlords and agents. To view detailed guidance on the licensing requirements visit the houses in multiple occupation page.
Duties on the Manager of an HMO: The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006 and 2007 place specific duties on the manager of an HMO. Failure to comply with the regulations is a criminal offence, leading to fines of up to £5,000 on conviction. Details concerning the Management regulations including specific obligations on the occupiers can be found on the Management Responsibilities page.