Repairing the Disrepair
The question most commonly asked by landlords is, do I still have to repair items in the property if my tenant isn’t paying their rent?
The answer is yes. Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, sets out the Landlord’s requirements of what they are responsible for repairing and keeping in working order. These include water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and hearing water, which practically means things like, the boiler, drains, sinks, shower, roof, radiators and toilets. A Landlord’s obligation to repair and maintain these items starts as soon as he is notified of the defect and disrepair, and the legislation allows for the Landlord to have reasonable time to arrange a contractor to repair these items. When I say reasonable, if it’s a boiler, I would expect this to be fixed within a week of a Tenant notifying a Landlord of the fault, any longer than that, and the Landlord might have to consider some compensation or have a very good reason as to the delay.
Not only can the Tenant use Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 198, in 2018, but the Government also introduced the ‘Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018’, which applies to all new tenancies granted from 20th March 2019. The Act says that ‘ a dwelling is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and continues to be fit for human habitation’…’a dwelling is unfit for human habitation if it is so far defective in one or more of the following matters that it is reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition’, the matters being:
- Freedom from damp
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage/sanitary conveniences
- Facilities for the preparation and cooking of food
- Facilities for the disposal of wastewater
- A prescribed hazard ( examples of these being, damp and mould growth, asbestos, biocides, lead, radiation and electrical hazards
Just as I can hear Landlords saying ‘ what AREN’T I responsible for?’, well panic not. A Landlord cannot be responsible for repairs he has not been informed of, and I would suggest that a landlord keeps a log of repairs undertaken, along with the corresponding invoices. Therefore, if a Tenant bypasses their landlord and simply reports their issues directly to a local Council or Solicitor, the Landlord is not responsible until they have been informed of the disrepair, and have had a reasonable opportunity to organise and carry out the repair. A tenant must also allow the Landlord/and or his contractor’s access to the property, and a Judge may look unfavourably on a Tenant who has not reported the issues to their Landlord, but simply contacts the relevant authority and then seeks damages or who will not grant the Landlord and his contractor access to the property to carry out any rectification works.
A Landlord is also not obliged to make any improvement works that the Tenant wants or asks to be carried out to the property, improvement works cannot be classed as disrepair, as the works would be making the property – and ultimately their tenancy – better. The Landlord is also not responsible for carrying out works that are the fault of the Tenant (such as a windowpane broken by the tenant), or items that are not part of the structure or interior or is in a part of a building not owned by the Landlord. When I talk about the structure and exterior – this would relate to things like the roof, walls, windows, gutters and drains – all of these the landlord is responsible for. So if a Tenant had a faulty boiler that was leading to the radiators not working, and no hot water throughout the property or an issue with the roof, which is leaking into a bedroom, these would all be the responsibility of the landlord to rectify- and as quickly as possible. However, if there was a loose toilet seat or a faulty fridge then this may not be the landlord’s responsibility to rectify.
This would also be the case in terms of vermin, if it is evident that the vermin have got into the property because the Tenant has made the property filthy, then it is likely that the Landlord would not be liable. However, if they had got into the property because there was mould present due to a potential item of disrepair, then it may well be that this will fall under the Landlord’s jurisdiction, so not only has the Landlord got to remedy the disrepair, but he must also resolve the vermin issue too.
As I have said previously, even if there is no rent being paid, the Landlord’s responsibilities do not stop, nor do they stop if the Landlord has a lack of funds. There is a case where the Court ordered a landlord to repair a lift in a property, even though it was likely that the cost of doing so would bankrupt him.
For a landlord to determine if it is their responsibility or not, they simply need to think – does this fundamentally affect the day to day living of the tenant? If yes, then its likely to be the Landlord’s responsibility, and I would strongly recommend that action be taken as soon as possible. For a Tenant – be prepared to negotiate. You must let your Landlord in, and don’t be unreasonable, however, if they are constantly requiring access or there are issues at the property, you may want to consider how much time of your own time you are giving up to arrange this, that said, do not stop paying your rent, because it simply gives your landlord a reason to issue Court proceedings against you.
If you’re having issues with a tenant not paying their rent or you’re a tenant who feels like their landlord should be making repairs – get in touch with our Dispute Resolution team for expert legal advice by calling 01903 229999 or by emailing email@example.com