Landlord Repairing Obligations
Landlord repairing obligations under short leases come under s11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. All landlords must have a clear 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. If no agent is used then tenants should be left with a list of the names and number of contractors that the landlord uses. 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.This section does not extend to actually carrying out the repairs, because the law states that the landlord must do the repair, so it is implied he or she has the right to enter to do it.
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.
ACCESS TO A TENANTED FLAT
It stands to reason that landlords must be able to access flats in order to carry out repairs. However, under s11 (ss6) of the same Act there is a process that they must follow. This is implied into the tenancy agreement that landlords (or people authorised by them) have the right to access the property for the purpose of viewing its condition and state of repair.
So landlords wishing to carry out repairs do not have the right to turn up unannounced to check on a property or tenant. It must be agreed mutually beforehand if they wish to enter for a specific purpose, it must be at a reasonable time and after giving the tenant not less than 24 hours notice in writing.
Note: It has been held that breach of the repairing covenants can also be considered to be breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
If the landlord or the contractors attempt to enter without permission the tenant can launch a claim for trespass as they have the right over the premises just as an owner-occupier does. Therefore landlords should be wary about entering the property when the tenant is not there. Where a tenant has given permission, but has advised they will not be at the property themselves, it is recommended that landlords/agents are best accompanied by a witness.