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Obligations for repair and maintenance

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Published: 10/04/2018   Last Updated: 17/04/2018  
Author: Christopher Toynbee    Tags: Lettings, Rental Market, Landlords

A fundamental obligation of a landlord, and one governed by legislation as well as contract, is the obligation to repair and maintain certain aspects of the property. Landlords who fail to adhere to this obligation could face penalties such as fines, prosecution and the inability to obtain possession.
 
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 details the scope of the obligation and helps define who is responsible for what repairs and maintenance. This should also be detailed in the assured shorthold tenancy agreement (AST) between the two parties.
 
Section 11 breaks down the landlord’s obligation to repair and maintain:
 
  • The fabric and structure of the property – This includes the roof, walls, ceilings, gutters, downpipes etc.
  • The supply of services to the property, including sanitary ware – this includes electrical wiring, gas pipework, baths, basins, sinks etc.
  • The supply of space heating and hot water – The landlord is obligated to maintain boilers and appliances that supply heat to the property, as well as hot water
 
In order to fulfil this obligation, the landlord has an implied right for access in order to repair and maintain as necessary. This is backed up by section 11 (6) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which confirms the landlord is allowed access for these purposes. Note, however, the tenants right to deny access overrides the above, and if the tenant refuses access the landlord must not attend and must seek court permission to do so.
 
The Landlord is expected to repair the property, or replace items, bearing in mind the age and condition of the property, or the item to be replaced. The tenant cannot expect betterment, nor should they be expected to accept a replacement that is of lesser quality or specification than the original item.
 
It’s not an uncommon occurrence when there are disputes between the two parties for Landlords to hesitate to undertake repairs – almost as a bargaining chip. This is a fundamental breach of section 11 and could have serious consequences going forward. It will leave the landlord in a much worse and weaker position.
 
Of course, there are obligations on the tenants as well, usually detailed within the AST. These include obligations not to damage the property, maintain any gardens, repair or replace any items they have broken or damaged etc. Tenants are further expected to behave in a “Tenant like manner” which is a description put forward by Lord Denning in Warren v Keen 1954. There is a little confusion regarding what exactly this means, but basically it means that there will be certain things that a tenant is expected to take on as part of being a tenant – changing lightbulbs, unblocking sinks, mowing the lawn i.e. everyday remedial issues.

Tenants are also obliged to report any issues as soon as they arise. If the tenant fails to report faults when they knew, or should have known, about them, and as a result the property is further damaged, the tenant would be responsible for the extra cost of repair. This damage is known as ‘permissive’ damage’.
 
Similarly, tenants should not be withholding rent in the event of repairs that they perceive to be necessary not being undertaken. Rent payment is a fundamental obligation of the tenant and knowingly failing to fulfil this – for whatever reason – could actually cause more problems later on.
 
If both sides are fully informed and aware of their rights and obligations prior to entering an AST, then its far less likely that there will be issues or disputes between the parties.