Landlord and property

Who's responsible for repairs - the tenant, or the landlord?


Are you and your tenants clear about who is responsible for repairs? If you’re new to the buy-to-let market, then you might not be entirely sure on who should be responsible for specific tasks, such as changing a lightbulb or reading meters. And even if you are an experienced landlord, it’s still important to check that your assumptions are aligned with both government legislation, and the specifics of the tenancy agreement.

NatWest’s Landlords and Tenants survey quizzed 1000 tenants and 1000 landlords across the UK on various aspects of renting, such as what’s important on viewings and, of course, who should do repairs. Below are some examples of where landlords and tenants disagreed on certain responsibilities:

Light bulbs

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding lightbulbs, it seems. In fact, nearly 1 in 10 surveyed thought the landlord was responsible for changing them (this number includes both tenants and landlords). Small tasks that need doing around the house, such as changing lightbulbs and bleeding radiators, are generally considered the tenants’ responsibility.

Locks

Landlords were asked who is responsible for broken locks. Nearly a fifth (18%) think the tenant should handle a broken lock at their property. Tenants were asked the same question, and only 10% of them agreed. Landlords are usually responsible for all repairs to the structure and exterior of the rental property.

White goods

The majority of landlords were willing to take on the responsibility for things like broken fridge freezers. However, while 59% said they would fix this, a quarter (25%) thought the tenants should handle this kind of repair.

Working out who is responsible for what

The start of a tenancy is a good time to get ahead of any potential issues, but you’ll find that a lot of the information online conflicts when it comes to who is responsible for different types of repair. Chris Horne, portfolio landlord and founder of Property Hawk, thinks that “the starting point for any maintenance questions should be the tenancy agreement or lease. Even with written tenancy agreements, these documents are rarely explicit on every item”.

It’s important to always take care of repairs for which you’re legally responsible, and the Government does offer some advice on the types of repairs landlords should undertake. But, in the spirit of tackling vague tenancy agreements head-on, Chris recommended the following principle; “Generally, the rule of thumb is that if the items were there when the tenant moved in, then it’s the landlords’ responsibility; otherwise, the responsibility lies with the tenant”.

A lot of the mismatched expectations the survey unearthed can be attributed to the fact that landlords and tenants aren’t communicating effectively when it comes to property repairs. If you want to make sure repairs are handled fuss free, then it’s important to remember that communication is key to a happy tenancy agreement.

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