You as a landlord are only responsible for repairs that are reported to you, but that said, how confident are you that your tenants know what they should be reporting? How much effort do you put in explaining to your tenants what you should do and what is up to them?
At the start of the tenancy, you should spend some time going through the tenancy agreement; show them the section about repairs and tell them how you want to be notified when there are issues to be addressed.
Tell the tenant how you want to be notified of repairs – text, telephone or in writing. Explain you will always try to effect repairs at the earliest opportunity, but this may not always be immediate – Councils and housing associations cannot guarantee immediate service either! Of course, if a tenant is left without gas, water or electric, you must pull out all the stops to get the property put to rights and it is worth investigating the repair policies run by the Gas Board and United Utilities, amongst others. It can be difficult getting a plumber out at periods of high demand, ie Winter, and it is distressing to think of anyone living without heating, albeit temporarily, in the depths of Winter.
It is at this stage, whilst going through the tenancy agreement, that you can take the opportunity to advise the tenant what you are responsible for:
- Structure and exterior of the property – doors, window, roofs, chimneys; I would also include aerials, if one is fitted externally
- Sanitary installations – toilets, baths, pipework and drains.
- Installations for heating of space and water – boiler, radiators, etc. – it is not generally considered sufficient to say that the landlord provided a kettle to boil water for washing pots and shaving!
- Though these items seem very specific, they can also be surprisingly broad. If in doubt, ask advice from your association or your local housing standards/environmental Services.
But what are you not responsible for?
To start with, anything that is a result of carelessness of your tenant, or any guest, of your tenant. You will almost certainly be told it was an accident – well good, one would hate to think it was a deliberate act, but does that take responsibility away from the tenant? Of course not, but bear in mind, your tenant may not be able to afford the cost of the repair.
You don’t want repairs left (it may deteriorate further or leave the property insecure) and you don’t want his mate who is quite handy, messing around. Do the job yourself, confirming in writing that it is still the tenants’ liability and you expect to be recompensed by small payments, either weekly or fortnightly. If there is a balance on the repair costs when the tenant vacates, you will expect to deduct it from the deposit, though if there is any dispute, this will be referred to the Dispute Resolution Service.
Should this occur, draw up a simple payment sheet or card along the following lines:
Tenant’s Name: Landlord’s Name:
Remember, anything bought by the tenant, or installed by the tenant, is their responsibility, not yours.
Most landlords do their best for their tenants and offer standards they could not expect to get in the social housing sector. Repairs, often the tenant’s fault, cause frustration and distress. Do what you have to and, if the tenant has caused a lot of damage, don’t argue, don’t threaten, but serve notice. There are people waiting for decent properties, you don’t need a tenant that does not appreciate what you have given them.