What a landlord is responsible for repairing depends partly on what is set out in the tenancy agreement, but there are some repairing responsibilities that are always the landlord’s responsibility, whatever the tenancy agreement says. These are set out in Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
- to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),
- to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
- to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
The ‘structure and exterior’ includes walls, ceilings, floors, windows, staircases and bannister, doors to the outside and the plaster on the inside of the walls, though not the decorations.
The landlord is responsible to the tenant for these repairs, even if the landlord does not own the ‘structure’, for instance, a buy to let flat in a block, which means the landlord may end up liable to their tenant for the head landlord’s failure to carry out repairs in a timely manner.
The obligations on the electricity installation would include light fittings, or electrical sockets, but not replacing light bulbs or changing plugs. The landlord will only be responsible for electrical appliances if they were provided as part of the tenancy.
Basins, sinks and baths will likely include their fitting, so sealant, splash backs and so on would fall under section 11.
There is a requirement that the tenant report any problems within the property. However, if the problems outside the property that is actually let – for example to the roof of a block for flats where the landlord owns the whole block – the landlord’s liability is immediate, whether problems have been reported or not.
Once a problem has been reported – and that doesn’t have to be in writing – the landlord has ‘a reasonable time’ to carry out repairs. What counts as a reasonable time depends on the nature of the problem and what has to be done to fix it. A flooding water tank, or failed heating in cold weather would need urgent repairs, while a reasonable time to fix a defective damp proof course may be a matter of weeks. However, a ‘reasonable time’ does not extend to problems that the landlord may have in getting their usual contractor to carry out works in time – there is no reasonable excuse for delays in carrying out works.
The tenant should give access for works, but is entitled to written notice of when this will be, of at least 24 hours.
Tenants often seek compensation for lack of repair. If the repairs are carried out within a reasonable time, then the tenant is only entitled to compensation if the problem was caused by the landlord’s neglect or negligence in the first place. However, if the repairs are not carried out in a reasonable time, the landlord is in breach of their obligations, and the tenant is entitled to compensation, which is usually calculated as a proportion of the rent for the period when the repairs weren’t done, to reflect the distress, discomfort and inconvenience, and any extra costs the tenant has been put to. The tenant is not entitled to withhold rent, however.