Article - Landlord & Tenant

My property is falling into disrepair.  As the landlord, am I responsible for repairing the property or is that the duty of the tenant?

Overview

Repair and maintenance of dwellings causes much argument and anger between landlord and tenant.  A landlord is generally responsible for major repairs in the case of periodic lettings such as weekly or monthly lettings.  Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (LTA) applies for a lease which is for less than seven years.  If the lease contains an option to renew which, if exercised, will extend beyond seven years then the LTA will not apply.  This therefore includes assured tenancies under the Housing Act 1988, secure tenancies under the Housing Act 1985, or protected or statutory tenancies under the Rent Act 1977.

Under general law, the landlord cannot be required to cure unfitness which is not a disrepair.  This means that a perfectly functioning metal window, which is prone to high levels of condensation, need not be replaced with PVC windows by the landlord to reduce the levels of condensation.  The window does not need repair Ė it functions perfectly well as it is.

Landlordís Duty

Section 11 of the LTA implies the following conditions on the landlord:

  • A duty to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling house (including drains, gutters and external pipes); and
  • A duty 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 no other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity) and installations for space heating and heating water.

If the lease is of a flat then the duty extends to any part of the structure or exterior of the building in which the landlord has an estate or interest.  For example, this would include common parts or the roof.  If access is required over property to which the landlord does not have rights then it is a defence for a landlord who has not carried out repairs if he sought to acquire this right using his best endeavours.

Exceptions to this Duty

Section 11(2) of the LTA expressly absolvers the landlord from liability:

  • For repairs attributable to the tenantís failure to use the premises in a tenant-like manner;
  • To rebuild, or reinstate the premises as a result of damage by fire, tempest, floor or other inevitable accident; and
  • To repair or maintain any tenantsí fixtures.

Liability for the above three matters may therefore be passed onto the tenant in the tenancy agreement.

In order to determine the standard of the repair to be carried out, the court will look at the age, character and prospective life of the house and the locality in which it is situated.

A landlord, or a person authorised by him in writing, also has a right of entry into the premises to view the state of repair of the premises.  This is exercisable at reasonable times of the day and 24 hours notice must be given.  There is also the additional right to enter the premises as above to carry out any required repairs.

It is an important point for a landlord to note that the above provisions cannot be contracted out of.  These provisions are implied by statute law and therefore the landlord must adhere to them.

Assuming the landlord bears these issues in mind when leasing to tenants, little argument or anger should be generated over the repair and maintenance of a property.

Article First Published: 15 September 2003

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