Repair obligations with lease covenants
The first place to check the landlord’s obligation to repair is within the lease agreement. Landlords will typically be obliged to ensure the maintenance and undertake the repair of the:
- Main structure of the property and its exterior – including the foundations, walls, windows, doors, guttering, roof, chimney, and external pipes, and drainage.
- Plumbing – including water, toilets, sinks, baths, hot water, radiators, internal pipework, and heating systems
- Electrics – wiring, sockets, switches, consumer unit, and light sockets etc.
Statutory repair obligations
Secondly, it is important to understand the landlord’s repair obligations in statutory law to avoid the potential for a claim for damages, or a mandatory injunction to carry out repair work. There are two main acts which impose repair obligations, as follows:
- Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (LTA) – section 11 of the LTA applies if a tenancy is fixed for less than seven years and contains an ‘implied covenant’ for the landlord to maintain and repair the structure, exterior, and installations for the supply of essential services. Section 9A of the LTA, which was added by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, imposes an obligation on the landlord to ensure the property being rented is fit for human habitation.
- Defective Premises Act 1972 – section 4 of this act states landlords with an obligation (whether implied or expressed) to repair or maintain a property, or have a right to enter the property to carry out certain repairs owe “a duty of care to ensure that all people who could reasonably be affected by 'relevant defects' in the state of the premises are reasonably safe from personal injury or damage to their property resulting from the defects”. This duty is owed to tenants, members of the tenant’s household, and visitors alike.
Responding to a notice of disrepair
As a landlord, if you do receive a notice of disrepair (a letter informing the landlord of the need for repair) from your tenant, it is essential to consider your response carefully and constructively, in terms of the wording, tone, and timing. Ideally, the response letter should include:
- Acknowledgement of receipt of the notice
- A request for further information if needed
- A request to allow an inspection to be carried out to determine if repairs are needed
- Confirmation that repairs will be carried out (when established)
- How and when repairs will be completed
- An offer of compensation for disrepair (if applicable)
- Refusal to complete repairs (e.g. if the repair is outside the scope of the landlord’s repair obligations).
By failing to respond in a professional and proper way to a notice of disrepair, the landlord may be in further breach of their repair obligations, for which the tenant can then pursue a range of legal remedies. These include applying to the Court for an order for specific performance to force the landlord to complete repairs, applying for a mandatory injunction for repairs outside of the lease contract, seek a declaration from the Court which can be used to justify the tenant carrying out repairs and a claim for damages.
Can a Landlord Make a Tenant Pay for Repairs?
Tenants have an obligation to look after the property they are leasing in a ‘tenant like’ manner. This includes ensuring the property is adequately ventilated, using electric appliances in a safe manner, and keeping the property tidy and clean. They must also inform the landlord if repairs are needed and allow access to the property for repair when needed.
In some cases, while the landlord may be obliged to undertake a repair, if it can be established that problem was caused by the negligence of the tenant, it may be possible to request they pay for the remedial work, if it is reasonable to do so. For example, if damage has arisen due to a toilet overflowing because the tenant didn’t keep it free of blockages, they may be financially responsible for any costs associated. Likewise, if the tenant, a member of the household, or a guest has caused deliberate damage, the tenant may be responsible for the cost of repairs.
If repair is required due to normal wear and tear, the landlord cannot withhold part of the security deposit or charge the tenant. This applies to decoration, fixtures and fittings, and any furniture provided by the landlord.
Conclusions on a Landlord's Repair Obligations
As a landlord, understanding your legal obligations and ensuring your lease agreement is drafted in a fair and transparent manner, you can avoid repair related disputes which can be costly, stressful, and erode the mutual trust between landlord and tenant. If you are unsure how to proceed with regard to repairs, do speak to a residential property solicitor, who will be able to promptly advise you on your legal position and the recommended course of action. Doing so will be in your interests and that of your investment property.
Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced team of property dispute solicitors, landlord lawyers and tenant lawyers who can assist you with who can assist you with any repair related matters. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.