Abide by this law to keep your reputation intact
In my last post, I examined Section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and your landlord obligations. This piece of law is pretty detailed when it comes to what repairs you’re expected to make as a landlord. It also provides a lot of guidance about how your tenant should treat your property. And what you can expect them to do by way of repairs and maintenance.
In this article, I’ll outline where your repair and upkeep responsibilities as a landlord end. And where the tenant will be held accountable.
The law on landlord responsibilities isn’t always an ass
It was Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens who said, “If the law supposes that, the law is an ass.” Fortunately, the landlord laws aren’t always an ass. Sometimes they make the right supposition.
For example, the Section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 law says that you’re responsible for carrying out almost all repairs that concern structural, safety, or (in some cases such as heating water and space heating) living standards. The law recognises that repair responsibility can only fall on a landlord if they know about it.
In other words, if the tenant hasn’t told you that the roof has blown off in last night’s storm, you can’t be held accountable for any damage caused by having no roof.
Tenants needs to tell you about repairs needed; a responsibility conveyed to the lessee.
You’ve got to be given time to make a repair
The tenant also has to give you time to make a repair. Fixing a few tiles off the roof can take a day or two. Rebuilding the porch knocked down by a drunk driver ploughing through your garden, may take a few days or weeks. (Yes, I know someone who this happened to. The repair took three months with the involvement of insurance companies.)
Your tenant should act like a normal person
I know that the word ‘normal’ seems to have a pretty broad and debatable definition today, but the law says that you can expect your tenant to make sure the property:
- is clean;
- not damaged by them or anyone else; and
- basic maintenance is their responsibility
Your tenant should also use the heating and hot water systems responsibly, and mustn’t make any changes or alterations without your permission. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like the magnolia emulsion walls; unless you tell them they can repaint a different colour, they can forget about the 1970s avocado green décor they’ve always craved.
Your tenant can’t make any structural changes without your express permission. Forget about that useful hatch between the kitchen and dining room. The one that goes so well with the new avocado paintwork. It’s not allowed unless you say so.
Your recourse if the tenant does any of this sort of DIY without your permission is to charge them for the repair work needed to put it right. You can deduct these costs from the deposit. You could also evict the tenant under these circumstances, perhaps by issuing a Section 21 notice.
Make your tenancy agreement watertight
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenants Act 1985 is the overarching law that you need to adhere to. You can’t abdicate your landlord responsibilities by writing a bunch of clauses in the tenancy agreement that, for example, make the tenant responsible for the central heating system. But you can put other responsibilities onto the tenant.
You might, for example, decide to make your tenant responsible for the upkeep of the garden. Stipulating that the tenant is responsible for basic repairs and maintenance – such as replacing light bulbs and clogged air filters – is a good idea.
If you have rented your property with white goods included, you might want to include a clause that maintenance and upkeep are the responsibility of the tenant. Hopefully, you’ll stop a motorbike enthusiast using the dishwasher to steam clean his engine.
I’d recommend a solicitor to check your tenancy agreement to make sure there’s no wiggle room that your tenant could use to squirm out of their responsibilities. All the tenancy agreements and clauses that we use when setting up tenancies have had the i’s dotted and t’s crossed by our solicitor.
The law isn’t against you, even though many landlords think it is. You can use the law to your advantage – you just have to understand how. Example, make sure you always include the 10 essential tenancy terms and conditions in every tenancy agreement you write.
If you’re concerned by your landlord obligations, or you want advice on tenancy agreements. Feel free to contact us by phone on +44 1522 503 717 to get the information you need.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA