Landlord vs tenant: who’s responsible for what in a rental property?

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Image of a landlord and a couple after signing a rental agreement

Who’s responsible for keeping a rental property in tip-top condition – the landlord who owns the property, or the tenants who live in it?

Here, we look at a landlord’s legal obligations for fixing and maintaining their property.

Landlord legal obligations for maintenance and repairs

As a landlord, you’re legally responsible for most repairs in your rental property. 

Landlord and tenants’ rights are set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act, which covers all leases and tenancies agreed for less than seven years.

The act states that a landlord is responsible for the following repairs: 

  • electrical wiring
  • gas pipes and boilers
  • heating and hot water
  • chimneys and ventilation
  • sinks, baths, toilets, pipes and drains
  • your home’s structure and exterior, like walls and external doors

Landlords must also keep the property in ‘good repair’ throughout the tenancy according to the Act.

It also states landlords must give at least 24 hours’ notice to enter a property and visits must be made at a reasonable time of day, unless in an emergency.

Landlord legal obligations for the home’s safety

As part of your landlord duty of care, you must make sure the rental property is fit to live in throughout the tenancy. 

As the landlord, you’re responsible for managing: 

Damp and mould

The landlord is responsible for damp and, sometimes, condensation if, for example, it’s caused by poor ventilation.

However, tenants are also responsible for making sure their behaviour doesn’t contribute to condensation, like blocking vents.

Condensation itself isn’t a problem, but it can lead to mould in your property, which can become toxic if untreated.

Rats, mice and other pests

The landlord is responsible for making sure pests such as mice, rats, wasps and hornets don’t get into the home. They’re also responsible dealing with an outbreak.

Your tenants need to tell you about an infestation as soon as possible. You should call the local council or a pest control company immediately so the problem can be dealt with quickly. 

Pests are covered by Landlord Emergency Cover, with some exclusions.

Gas safety

You’re legally obliged to arrange annual checks with a Gas Safety engineer.

Electrical installations and appliances

Ensure that wiring, plug sockets and any electrical appliances you provide are safe.

Fire safety

As part of your fire safety responsibilities as a landlord, you must install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms on every floor. 

Is a landlord responsible for fences?

It depends on whether any damage to the fence poses a safety risk or not. 

As the landlord, you’re responsible for the structure of the property, extending to the exterior, with an obligation to protect tenants’ safety and wellbeing.

If your tenant requests repairs to cosmetic damage, however, you’re not obliged to carry those out.

How landlords can reduce the likelihood of dealing with repairs

By taking proactive measures, you could keep your rental property in good condition for longer, reducing the need for repairs. 

Regular inspections

It’s a good idea to carry out regular inspections of the property. That way, you can identify potential issues before they become major problems and address small repairs before they escalate.

Tenant education

Make sure your tenants are aware of how to maintain the property. You could provide a handbook or notes when they move in with guidelines on how to use appliances and systems to damage, for example. Encourage them to report any issues promptly. 

Background checks

A thorough tenant screening process can help you find responsible and reliable tenants with a good track record. 

Use durable materials

If you’re doing improvements or renovations, use durable materials that don’t require frequent maintenance and are less prone to wear and tear.

Regular maintenance

Make sure essential systems are maintained regularly to prevent breakdowns and extend the lifespan of appliances. Setting reminders in your diary could help.

In case of emergency

Provide your tenants with information on what to do in case of emergencies, such as shutting off water valves in the event of a leak. It could minimise damage and the need for extensive repairs.

Landlord insurance

While it’s isn’t compulsory, taking out a comprehensive landlord insurance policy that covers potential damages and repairs could help alleviate the financial burden and give you peace of mind. 

Prompt repairs

You’re legally obliged to carry out repairs within a reasonable period. Timely repairs can also prevent minor problems from turning into major ones.

Quality appliances

Invest in quality appliances and fixtures that are less likely to break down or malfunction. While this may involve a higher upfront cost, it’s likely to pay off in terms on reduced maintenance costs in the long term. 

Encourage communication

Foster open communication with your tenants and encourage them to report issues promptly, providing a convenient way for them to do so.

Tenancy agreements

While tenancy agreements aren’t compulsory, they can be useful to set additional landlord and tenant responsibilities in a clear way. 

For example, you could include a clause in the tenancy agreement stating that the tenants must maintain the garden, or to specify that you’ll carry out repairs if the washing machine breaks.

Tenant responsibilities for repair and maintenance

There are certain things that it falls to the tenants in the property to do.

Giving access to the landlord

Tenants are obliged to give you access to the property to inspect it or carry out repairs, as long as you give at least 24 hours’ notice.  

Keeping the property well-maintained

They’re also expected to keep the property in a clean, well-maintained condition and carry out minor maintenance like changing light bulbs.

Paying for repair problems

Tenants should pay for a repair problem that they caused, even if the landlord would normally be responsible. For example, a blocked drain if your tenants haven’t taken care to keep it free of blockages. 

Garden maintenance

Tenants are normally responsible for basic garden maintenance, like weeding and mowing the lawn, unless something different is stated in a tenancy agreement.

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