One advantage of renting for many people is that there is always someone to call when there is a problem with the property. This is often the letting agency that originally advertised the property but may be the landlord if they choose to manage the property themselves.
Your tenancy agreement will give details of what your landlord is responsible for so it is important to read it, as not all maintenance issues are the responsibility of your landlord. For example you might be required to keep the grass mown if the property has a garden.
Repairs and Maintenance
Landlords have a general “duty of care” to ensure that the property is in good repair and safe and section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 lists the areas that the landlord is legally responsible for. They are not allowed to pass the cost of such repairs onto you, nor can they make you arrange the repair yourself.
Bricks and mortar
Your landlord is legally responsibly for maintaining the exterior of the property including the roof, chimneys, windows and skylights, drains and guttering, external pipes, external doors, the walls and any covering or coating applied to them (for example pebble-dash or shingles), the foundations and drains.
The plumbing is also your landlord’s responsibility. This covers most of the bathroom and kitchen including sinks, baths, showers, basins, toilets and other sanitary fittings including the pipes and drains. It also covers the heating and hot water system including the boiler, pipes, radiators and water tanks.
If the property has gas appliances in it your landlord should make sure that they are fitted by a registered Gas Safe engineer. They or the letting agent will also need to arrange for an annual safety check for each appliance and provide you with a copy of the safety check certificate when you move in and within 28 days of the check taking place. If an appliance fails the check you will not be able to use it until the landlord has fixed or replaced it.
The landlord needs to make sure all the wiring is safe and if the property comes with any appliances, for example cookers or fridges, they also need to be safe.
There should be working smoke alarms on each level and carbon monoxide alarms in any rooms that have a working fireplace or wood-burner. The landlord also needs to ensure that such rooms have adequate ventilation – if necessary by fitting vents to the walls or windows.
The landlord should not do anything to the property that blocks or hinders escape routes (for example nailing up a window) and if they supply and furniture or furnishings they should meet the current fire safety regulations.
If you see a problem with the property you should report it to your landlord or the letting agent as soon as you notice it. They should have told you how to do this when you moved in but a good idea is to phone them then follow up the phone call with a letter or email to make sure it is noted in writing.
If there are common parts of the building, for example an entrance hall to flats, then your landlord will also be responsible for repairs to these areas. It is best to report any issues in communal areas as soon as you notice them as your landlord cannot fix an issue they are not aware of and it is all too easy to assume that one of the other tenants will have reported it already.
Getting it fixed
Whilst there is no prescribed time limit in law to get repairs done, once a problem is reported the landlord has to attempt repairs in a “reasonable” amount of time. A good landlord will probably want to know about even minor issues and fix them quickly before they can become more serious so don’t delay. Additionally the letting agent or landlord may wish to perform an annual inspection to check the structure and condition of the property and during the inspection they may notice that repairs are needed.
Unless it is an emergency (for example a leak in the roof) you should be given 24 hours notice that the landlord or their contractors need access to the property to attempt the repair. The landlord is also responsible for fixing any damage caused by attempting the repair such as repairing plasterwork and repainting after a leak. If you have made them aware of a problem and they have not taken action to remedy it you might have a claim against them for negligence if you, your family or your possessions suffer harm.
Your landlord or letting agent will also need to give you notice if they intend to perform maintenance on the parts of the property that are their responsibility such as painting the front door or when their heating engineer needs to perform the annual safety check on the boiler.
These will be covered in your Tenancy Agreement and will include things like who is responsible for bills (usually the tenant) and the parts of the building not included in the landlord’s legal responsibilities (for example whether or not you can paint the walls).
When you move in your landlord, or the letting agent, is also responsible for ensuring you get a copy of the energy performance certificate and safety certificates for the gas appliances.
Usually you will be asked for a deposit before you move in. The landlord should place this in a deposit protection scheme and give details of how you can reclaim the money when you move out and under what circumstances they would retain any of it.
The letting agent
Whilst it is the landlord that has the legal responsibilities, if they have chosen to use a letting agent to manage the property it will be the letting agent that you deal with when reporting problems and arranging access.