What are a landlord’s responsibilities?
Q What will a landlord typically expect of me?
Any tenant faced for the first time with a new tenancy agreement – or even at a landlord and tenant interview – will know what that landlord expects them to use their new home in a responsible way; to keep the property clean; not to cause damage and to make sure their guests don’t either.
There will also usually be a fairly long list of potential repairs for which the tenant is responsible, which might include anything from replacing a light bulb or fuse, to the regular internal decoration of the property.
Q Will the tenancy agreement cover all the relevant laws?
Not necessarily. Most tenants will have a written tenancy agreement which details who is responsible for repairs. For example, it might say if your landlord is responsible for repairing or replacing faulty items or appliances provided by them, such as furniture or a fridge or freezer. But, as well as the repair responsibilities listed in your tenancy agreement, your landlord also has obligations that come from law.
There are currently around 150 laws that apply to landlords when they let out residential properties. Broadly, these can be divided into two areas: those that relate to repair and those that relate to the safety of the property being rented.
Q What repairs will my landlord be responsible for?
Regardless of what’s covered in your tenancy agreement, your landlord will also be responsible for keeping in good repair:
the exterior and structure of the property – including the roof, chimneys, walls, guttering and drains – and any windows or external doors to the building.
bathroom and other water fittings, including basins, sinks, baths, toilets and pipework.
if you live in an apartment, the common parts of the building, such as entrance halls, communal stairways and any other shared space.
By law (under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985), these responsibilities cannot be removed by any wording to the contrary in your tenancy agreement. Neither can your landlord pass on to you the cost of any repair work that is their responsibility.
Q How about health and safety?
In terms of health and safety, your landlord should make sure your home is free from any hazards that could affect anyone in your household. These hazards include damp, mould, pests and vermin. If your property is furnished, your landlord should also make sure any furniture provided meets safety standards.
Crucially, landlords must make sure the equipment for supplying electricity, water and gas are in safe working order.
Gas safety Landlords are legally responsible for the gas safety of their properties. They must ensure gas equipment is safely installed and has a gas safety check carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
A copy of the Gas Safety Record must be given to any ingoing tenant before they move into a rented property, as should be any subsequent renewals within 28 days of certification. Records should be kept for at least two years.
Hazard alarms Your landlord must install a smoke alarm on each floor, and carbon monoxide detectors in any room with a coal fire or wood-burning stove.
Checks must be made by the landlord (or letting agent) that each alarm is in proper working order on the first day of the tenancy. NB: doesn’t apply if the landlord lives in the building.
Electricity Landlords have a legal duty to ensure the rental property and any electrical appliances provided are safe. This includes the electrical system itself as well as cookers and kettles etc. Landlords should provide tenants with a record of any electrical inspections carried out.
Q How and when should I tell my landlord about any repairs needed?
Report any necessary repairs to your landlord as soon as possible, even if the problem is minor. Your landlord’s responsibility under statute is dependent on them knowing about the need for repair. Landlords don’t have to fix problems in their rentals until they know about them.
Always make your request for repair in writing if you can. If you can only report a repair in person or by phone, follow it up in writing and keep a copy of your letter or email. If your landlord doesn’t do anything, and you want to take further action, having written proof of having reported the problem – and evidence of when – will make a claim much easier to pursue.
Emma WarnEr-rEEd is a qualified lawyer, legal academic and author. She’s our expert on law.