Landlord Repair Procedures and Failure to Repair
Landlords should always have a repairs procedure in place for tenants to follow when repairs are required and whether informed verbally or in writing, both parties should keep a record of all problems reported. Repair forms can also be filled in and then passed over for action and there should also be an emergency procedure in place to follow if an agent is not used, for example, the provision of a list of contractors names and numbers. Tenants should never be left with no-one to contact.
The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) has outlined the recommended time scales for landlords to respond to a request for repairs. Depending on the problem, some need to be treated more urgently than others:
- Emergency response – gas and water leaks, serious electrical faults;
- 24 Hour response – heating and water systems and other non life threatening electrical problems eg broken windows if not caused by tenant negligence;
- 72 Hour response – kitchen appliances and other items that affect the daily life of a tenant;
- Less urgent responses – broken lawn mowers, a fallen fence panel or a dripping tap.
Properties must be fit to rent before and during a tenancy so in addition to repairs, the properties must be kept gas safe, electrically safe, and fire and carbon monoxide safe.
Failure to Repair
If landlords fail to meet their obligations then the tenant can take civil action in the County Court, claiming compensation for damage and inconvenience resulting from the breach and asking their local authority to carry out an inspection of the property under the Housing Act 2004, specifically the Housing Health and Safety Ratings System.
Where there has been a breach, but the payment of compensation may not be sufficient remedy, s17 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires specific performance which means that the County Court can make an injunction requiring the landlord to fulfil the express or implied repairing terms of the tenancy agreement. If the landlord fails to carry out the works required by the court order, the landlord, (or his agent), can in very extreme situations be committed to prison for contempt. The County Court can alternatively direct that the repairs be undertaken by, or on behalf of, the tenant at the landlord’s expense.
Damages (compensation) can still be claimed even if the works have been carried out by the time the case reaches court.
A significant court case concerning repairs is that of Edwards v Kumarasami  UKSC40 and the landlord’s obligation to repair in relation to flats. The tenant was not injured in the rented flat but tripped on a path outside of the flat. The landlord of the rented flat didn’t own the path and nor was he aware of any problems with it. A final decision on whether the landlord needed to be notified of the defective path came from the Supreme Court which overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal in two key areas, which can be read in the post from Nearly Legal.