An issue that comes up repeatedly with just about any tenancy is that of repairs – what needs repairing, and whose responsibility is it?
There’s obviously a balance to be struck. The landlord can’t be expected to send in a decorator every time a slight crack appears in the plasterwork, similarly the tenant shouldn’t be penalised for it when they move out.
So what are the tenant's and landlord's responsibilities to do repairs, and what options does the tenant have if the landlord doesn't meet their obligations?
The law states that tenants must use their home in a ‘tenant-like’ way. This generally means:
doing minor repairs yourself, such as changing light bulbs
keeping the property reasonably clean
not causing any damage to the property
making sure visitors don’t cause any damage
using all fixtures and fittings properly, eg: not blocking a toilet by flushing something unsuitable down it
Your tenancy agreement may also set out some specific responsibilities for repairs, which you must respect if you decide to sign the agreement.
Your landlord is responsible for ensuring the property does not fall into "disrepair", which means a condition where some part of your home is in a worse condition than it was at some earlier point in time, usually the day you moved in.
Generally, your landlord is responsible for repairing, and paying for repairs to:
the structure and exterior of your home - walls, roof, foundations, drains, guttering and external pipes, windows and external doors
basins, sinks, baths, toilets and associated pipework
water and gas pipes, water tanks, boilers and radiators,
electrical wiring, gas fires, fitted electric fires or heaters
A repair is generally different from an improvement, although a good landlord will often take the opportunity to improve the property when something needs fixing, such as replacing a broken old window with a new double-glazed unit.
In some cases, a problem with a property is actually caused by the bad design of the building, for example condensation can be caused by poor insulation and ventilation. If a problem is caused by a design defect then it may not count as disrepair. This can be very difficult issue to resolve and one reason you would want a letting agent to mediate and help get the problem fixed.
Unlike furnished accommodation, there are no requirements about the condition of unfurnished accommodation on the day that it's let to you, so it’s important to check the property thoroughly before agreeing to the tenancy. Of course renting via a reputable letting agency like Newlife Lettings will protect you from accidentally renting a house or flat in poor condition.