Whether you’re a landlord or tenant, there can often be confusion as to where the responsibility lies when certain things need repairing around the home. This article aims to help you to understand when you are and aren’t obliged to put things right, so you can get things up and running as quickly as possible.
If you rent from a private or social housing landlord, they are responsible for the majority of home repairs. It should be noted that, as a tenant, you have a responsibility to keep your home in a good state or repair and to inform your landlord of any necessary repairwork.
What repair work is my landlord responsible for?
Your landlord must not pass on the cost of any repair work that is their responsibility to you. They also cannot include any terms in your tenancy agreement which would pass any of their responsibilities to the tenant, as this would not be legally enforceable.
In most cases, your landlord is responsible for fixing:
The structure and exterior of the property
- External pipes
- Stairs and banisters
- External doors and windows
- Washbasins and sinks
- Other sanitary fittings
- Water pipes
- Water tanks
- Gas pipes
- Gas fires
- Fitted electric fires or heaters
- Chimneys and ventilation
- Electrical wiring
Appliances provided by the landlord
Any appliances and fittings which were provided by the landlord are the responsibility of the landlord and will usually be included in your inventory. This responsibility includes ensuring that Gas Safety checks are kept up-to-date for all provided gas appliances.
What is the tenant responsible for?
As a tenant, you are responsible for:
- Reporting any necessary repairs to your landlord in a timely manner
- Looking after the property responsibly
- Providing access for any necessary repairwork
- A duty of care to your visitors
- Your own appliances
There may also be some express terms in your tenancy agreement relating to other responsibilities specific to the property, so make sure to check this too. Again, your landlord cannot pass on their repair responsibilities to you in this manner, and they remain responsible for repairs to the structure, exterior, plumbing and heating by law.
Reporting any necessary repairs to your landlord in a timely manner
Your landlord is not responsible for any necessary repairs until they are made aware of them, so you must always make sure to inform them as soon as possible whenever something needs fixing. Reporting repairs is often a condition in your tenancy agreement, so you might be required to report even small problems to your landlord, even if you aren’t particularly concerned about getting them fixed.
This is because the financial responsibility for most repairs lies with the landlord and delayed repair work can lead to more complicated and expensive jobs, which could have been easily and cheaply fixed if reported in a timely manner. Delayed notification of necessary repair works can also be dangerous and cause more damage in the long-run, particularly in the case of gas or electrical faults.
Looking after the property responsibly
As a tenant, you are required to look after the property in a ‘tenant-like’ manner to ensure that you are not causing unnecessary damage or mess. This includes:
- Doing minor repairs yourself, such as replacing light bulbs or fuses
- Keeping the property reasonably clean
- Ensuring that no damage is caused to the property by yourself or visitors
- Ensuring that no damage is caused to the fixtures and fittings by improper use
Providing access for any necessary repair work
Regardless of whether or not it is expressly written in your tenancy agreement, the law implies that the tenant must give access for necessary repair work. This allows the landlord or their agent to access your home to assess and carry out the repairs. They must give you at least 24 hours notice before accessing the property, unless in the case of an emergency.
When emergency repairs are required, such as in a gas leak or flood situation, your landlord is allowed to force entry if necessary. They are, however, responsible for the repair of any damage caused in entering the property.
A duty of care to your visitors
This means ensuring that both your visitors and their belongings are adequately safe when on the property, though it only applies if you invited or allowed the visitor into your home. This links with the need to report necessary repairs as soon as possible, as it will mean providing a safer space for visitors.
Your own appliances
Any appliances, fixtures, fittings or installations which are your own and were not in the property when you moved in are your own responsibility. Any appliances and fittings which were provided by the landlord, and therefore included in your inventory, are the responsibility of the landlord.
Who is responsible for repairs caused by a tenant or visitor?
The tenant is responsible for fixing any damage to the property caused by themselves or a visitor. As with any other repair, you should inform your landlord as soon as possible. The landlord may carry out the repairwork and charge you for the repairs, or they may allow you to fix the damage yourself.
If you do not repair the damage then the cost of repairs will likely be deducted from your deposit when you move out.
Is my landlord responsible for repairs caused by damp?
When it comes to problems arising from damp, it can be hard to say who is responsible for putting them right. It often comes down to which party is at fault for causing the issue in the first place, and whether the fault in question comes under the landlord’s or tenant’s responsibility. To determine the cause of dampness, and thus the responsibility to remedy it, you may need an investigation by a surveyor.
There are things which you can do or not do as a tenant to reduce the risk of damp, and certain actions may mean that you could be considered responsible for causing the damp and thus responsible for remedying it. Actions to avoid include:
- Using portable gas or paraffin heaters
- Drying wet clothes on radiators
- Using a non-condensing tumble dryer without a proper outside vent
- Blocking or closing ventilators
Rising damp is caused when moisture travels up into walls from the ground, usually up to a height of one metre. If you have damp in your walls above this height, or on a storey higher than the ground floor, it won’t be rising damp.
Your landlord is usually responsible for remedying rising damp, as the upkeep of the structure and exterior of the property is their responsibility. If the problem is with an existing damp-proof course (DPC) then your landlord should repair it. If it is, however, due to a lack of DPC then your landlord is not necessarily obliged to have one put in, as it is classed as an improvement and not a repair.
Penetrating damp is caused by water entering the building from the outside, for example from a leaking roof, gutter or drainpipe, a cracked wall, or rotten windows or doors. In many cases, your landlord is responsible for damage caused by this type of disrepair, as they are responsible for the property’s exterior and fittings.
If, however, the leak is due to damage or neglect on the tenant’s part, the repairs may become the tenant’s responsibility. Your tenancy agreement may cover this, for example if a leak is caused by a blocked gutter, and keeping the gutters clear of debris is cited as the tenant’s responsibility in the agreement.
Construction damp is caused by a defect in the property’s design. In these cases, if the design problem does not cause disrepair or affect the property’s structure or interior then your landlord may not be responsible to fix the issue. If it does cause disrepair, damaging plaster, for example, then your landlord will be responsible for its repair.
Condensation damp occurs when a property is not able to cope with the levels of water vapour within it. This is often caused by a lack of ventilation, insulation or heating. There may be an express term in your tenancy agreement saying that your landlord is responsible for keeping the property in ‘good condition’ or ‘fit to live in’ which would make condensation damp or resulting mould growth your landlord’s responsibility.
Even if there is not an express clause then an implied term may mean that your landlord is still be responsible. If it is caused by disrepair pertaining to another area of your landlord’s responsibility, for example if the heating is not working, or if the damp has caused damage to the property’s structure.
What if my landlord doesn’t do anything about the repairs?
If you have reported necessary repairs to your landlord or the landlord’s agent and nothing has been done to remedy them then you may need to take further action. This could involve asking your local authority for help, applying for a grant or taking court action against your landlord.
More information about what you can do in these circumstances can be found at Citizens Advice. There are different options and steps to take depending on whether you are a private or social housing tenant.
VHL offer expert handyman services to assist you with all of your property maintenance and repair needs. For landlords, we offer a maintenance plan for reliable assistance. Contact us today to find out more.