Managing Landlord and Tenant relationships: Who should repair what in a rented property?

7th February 2018

One of the most common grey areas for first-time landlords, and for tenants, is where the responsibility lies when it comes to making repairs. Every single property is different, and in addition each landlord will have their own systems for dealing with tenant enquiries and repair requests. A lot of landlords choose to use a Property Management Agency or Letting Agency to help them manage the tenancy. In this scenario the agents will be able to give impartial advice on both sides, and provide a responsive service at times when the landlord wouldn’t be available.

Flats versus houses: Landlord repairs

In a detached house, it is normally very obvious which repairs a Landlord would be responsible for. Any part of the structure of the house such as the external walls, roof, windows and doors all belong solely to that building. However, where terraced houses, semi-detached houses or flats are concerned, the responsibility for external repairs may be shared by a collection of freeholders for example where a wall is shared by two houses, or in a flat, there may be many leaseholders, or a block management company that might be responsible for the roof, for example. In this case, the Landlord or their agent would need to liaise with the Block Manager or other Leaseholders to organise and fund repairs, and this can mean things can take a little longer. Either way, a Landlord or their agency will still be acting within the tenants’ best interests and pushing for a resolution as soon as possible.

Washing machines, ovens, and other appliances

If a rented property’s kitchen has integrated appliances, and these have been listed on the property inventory as part of the rental agreement, then it is down to the Landlord to repair and maintain these appliances. However, if a tenant moved into the property and the previous tenant had left a working washing machine and it was agreed the new tenant could keep it for free, it would be down to the new tenant to repair or dispose of the washing machine if it stopped working. Appliances and their condition should always be listed on an inventory if included with the property, but testing of the appliances isn’t something an inventory clerk would be able to do, so any problems should be reported to the Agent or Landlord. Tenants can easily download instruction manuals online and find details for a helpline to the manufacturer if necessary. In a scenario where it is clear that an appliance has been misused or poorly looked after by the tenant, the Landlord would be entitled, at their discretion, to charge the tenant for repairs. Misuse might include failing to clean an oven properly, or overfilling a washing machine for example.

Loose hinges, peeling sealant and other minor repairs

Although not all tenants will be DIY fanatics, when it comes to minor repairs it could save the tenant a lot of time and energy if they are willing to make a small repair instead of calling the Landlord or Agency, providing the repair could be carried out to a good standard. Missing sealant in bathrooms and kitchens can cause leaks and potential water damage to ceilings, cupboard and floors so sometimes it’s sensible to make a minor repair before waiting for a contractor to come and visit. Loose cupboard doors for example are sometimes just down to a screw needing a quick tighten with a screwdriver.

Tenants should use common sense when it comes to very minor repairs and think about whether it is worth calling a professional at some expense to the Landlord or whether it is worth the tenant having to take time off work to allow a workman in to make repairs. On the other hand, Landlords should take into account the ability of each tenant on a case-by-case basis as to whether it would be reasonable for them to make their own repairs – usually things can be talked through informally to make a decision.

Broken or smashed windows

If there was an accident that meant the glass in a window in a rented property was broken by the tenant, the tenant would need to pay for repairs. Although window repairs can be costly, the Landlord or their agent would need to give the tenant advice about the type of window it was to ensure that any repairs are in keeping with the style of the property, the quality of the original window and within planning permission regulations. If the window is a special type of unit, it could be necessary for the Landlord or their agent to arrange the repairs themselves and then charge the work to the tenant. The tenant would need to make sure that they kept the property secure to protect their belongings until the glass was replaced, and the Landlord or their agent should offer help and advice about this.

If a pane of glass in a window fell out because the window was faulty or badly maintained, then it would be the Landlord that would be responsible for all costs associated with the repair. Again, the tenant should take responsibility of securing their own belongings during any time that there might be a security issue, for example keeping valuable items at a friend’s house or making sure there is always one person in the house.

Experienced Property Management Teams will always be able to help maintain a happy balance between Landlord repair costs and Tenant satisfaction. There are many common repairs that will be spotted on an agency’s property inspection round that can be dealt with before they begin to cause any problems. Tenants that have access to a reputable, high street based Letting Agent throughout their tenancy are much more likely to feel valued and supported when they need to ask for help. If you would like to enlist the help of a professional agency to manage your rented property, please get in touch with our Lettings team.

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