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If you’re new to renting out property, it’s worth knowing the facts about your responsibilities as a landlord when it comes to repairs and maintenance. Understanding all the legislation and regulations will help make sure you stay on the right side of the law, as well as ensuring your tenants are safe, warm and comfortable and that your property investment is protected.

Basically, you are responsible for most repairs and maintenance relating to the structure of the home. Since a change in the law which came into force in March 2019, you must also ensure the property is fit to live in throughout the tenancy - fail to do so and your tenants could take you to court.

In terms of upgrading your property, you may not be legally obliged to renovate but it could  be in your best interests to do so. Regularly sprucing up your property will keep it in tip top condition and make it easier to let between tenancies.
 

So, which repairs are the landlord’s responsibility?

As a landlord your list of responsibilities includes:
  •     All electrical, wiring and electrical appliances
  •     All gas works and gas appliances
  •     All heating and hot water
  •     All chimneys and ventilation
  •     All drains guttering and external pipework
  •     The structure and exterior of the building, including walls, stairs and bannisters, roofs, external doors and windows.  

You are responsible for all structural problems, but not for problems caused by the tenant’s negligence - a broken window, for example. Once a problem has been fixed, you’ll need to make good the decoration to the same standard as at the start of the tenancy.
 

Fit for habitation

For all tenancies signed after 20 March 2019, the landlord must ensure the home is fit for habitation, which means it is safe and free from hazards and won’t adversely affect the health or cause injury to the tenants. It also means there should be no issues to prevent the tenant from making full use of the home.  
 

Damp and mould

You are responsible for carrying out the structural repairs needed to prevent damp. These could include fixing the causes of penetrating damp, such as leaking internal pipes, faulty guttering or external pipes or cracks in walls and window frames.  

You should also ensure there’s a proper working damp-proof course to tackle rising damp and carry out any repairs to the heating and ventilation that are causing condensation.

Make sure that your tenants understand that they should inform you immediately about any damp, so you can investigate and rectify the problem before damage is caused. Otherwise they could be liable.
 

Rats, mice and pests

You are responsible for carrying out work to prevent rats, mice, cockroaches or other pests from getting into the property – by repairing holes in walls, broken air vents etc. You also need to act if the infestation makes the home unfit for habitation.
 

Gas safety

You need to make sure that the gas supply and all gas appliances in the property are in a safe condition. They should be fitted, repaired and checked every year by a Gas Safe-registered engineer. This applies to gas pipework, gas cookers, gas boilers, gas fires and gas water heaters.
 

Electrical safety

You also need to make sure that wiring, plug sockets and any electrical appliances which you have provided are safe.
 

Appliances

You may be responsible for fixing or replacing white goods, including fridges, washing machines and cookers. But usually, only if included in the tenancy agreement.  

However, you are responsible for ensuring that any appliances, large or small, which you provide are safe. You should organise an inspection by a qualified electrician before your tenants move in, followed by regular basic safety checks. Checked appliances should have a portable appliance test (PAT) sticker on the plug, showing the date tested and when the next inspection is due.
 

Fire safety

As well as checking electrical wiring and appliances, you must make sure that any upholstered furniture you provide is fire resistant. Landlords can be fined and even sent to prison if they don't follow fire safety regulations.

There should be working smoke alarms on each floor and carbon monoxide detectors in any room heated by solid fuel.
 

Your tenants’ responsibilities

Your tenants are responsible for repairs to items which they own as well as minor repairs, such as replacing batteries in smoke alarms. They are also responsible for any damage caused by them or their guests, whether deliberate or accidental. If your tenant damages something you can offer to fix it and charge them a fee which you both agree on.

Tenants aren’t liable for normal wear and tear – a new carpet that shows signs of use for example.   
 

Renovating the rental home

While most tenants will look after their rental home, the general wear and tear of daily living is bound to take its toll on the property. So, maintenance is an important cost to factor in when you’re thinking of buying a property to rent out.  

Deciding when to renovate is about striking a balance.  In most cases you’ll need to carry out the work between tenancies - and the longer the job takes, the longer you’ll be without your rental income. But rush the job and botch things, and you could end up with a costly repair bill.  

It’s important to match your spend on refurbishment to the value of your property, your target tenant and the increase in rental yield any improvements will bring. However, you shouldn’t scrimp too much either – very cheap fixtures, flooring or appliances could be a false economy, costing you more in the long term. Make sure anything you buy for the rental home is durable and easy to keep clean and tidy.

 

If you are thinking about buying-to-let, or renting out an existing property, in the SE1 area, we can help you through the minefield of regulations and legislation and help you source the right tenants. Contact us to find out more about the services we offer.