Landlord Repair Obligations
Where the term of the tenancy does not exceed 7 years, landlords are under an obligation to make sure that:
- The structure and exterior of the property are kept in repair (for houses only: when the flat is rented, then it is the responsibility of the freeholder and/or managing parties
- The installations in the property for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation are kept in repair and working order; and
- The installations for heating and hot water are kept in repair and working order.
These obligations are often contained within the tenancy agreement but even if they are not, they are implied by the statutory obligation under s11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (repairing obligations in short leases).
Note: There is a difference between the obligations of just repair and repair/keep in working order with the latter being a higher obligation requiring those areas to be capable of functioning for the purpose of which they are intended.
LANDLORD FAILURE TO MEET OBLIGATIONS
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. If a payment of compensation is not a sufficient remedy, then s17 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (specific performance of landlord’s repair obligations) means that the County Court can make an injunction requiring the landlord to fulfill the express or implied repairing terms of the tenancy agreement. If the landlord again 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.
Note: It has been held that breach of the repairing covenants can also be considered to be breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment
Tenants can also ask their local authority to carry out an inspection of the property under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, that of the Housing Health and Safety Ratings System. This is where local authority inspectors carry out an assessment of the property to find health and safety defects that include fire risk, damp, overcrowding, poor lighting, and pests. Once the defects are identified they consider the likely harm that could happen as a result of such findings and use a scoring system to decide the seriousness of such defects of which there are 29.
Landlords can be subject to enforcement action which will include paying for any repair works that the local authority has carried out. In addition, a tenant who complains to the local authority about repairs may be able to defend a s21 notice if the local authority serves a formal enforcement notice requiring the landlord to carry out works.