Common Areas and Flat Interiors
There are clear lines of responsibility when it comes to repairs (and the health and safety) of the inside of flats and the common areas. Freeholders own these common areas which are comprised of the structure, the roof, the land the building stands on, foundations, load bearing walls, gardens, landings, paths, gates, fences, drives, stairways, and any other outbuildings (which is why leaseholders don’t own the flats, they own a lease). Inside it covers the plant rooms, lift motor rooms, and meter cupboards, and any other areas that are not owned by each leaseholder. This means that it is the freeholders who are responsible for the health, safety, maintenance and repairs of these areas. If they do not manage these areas directly and instead use the services of a managing agent, it is the agent who will take responsibility for these on the freeholders behalf. Where leaseholders live in the flats (owner occupiers) they take responsibiity for the interior according to the terms of their leases. When the flat is rented, these leaseholders not only have to abide by the terms of their leases but as individual landlords the standard of their rentals are governed by the overarching legislation of Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, specifically under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). If the tenants have a problem with the inside of the flat, the outside, (or both) they should first notify their lndlord, and if that landlord uses an agent, then the agent should be contacted. Exterior issues with then be reported to either the freeholder directly or the managing agent.
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, 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.
Access to an Occupied Rental Flat
Where the tenancy does not extend beyond 7 years the installations in the property need to be electrically safe, gas safe, and smoke and carbon monoxide safe. Even if such obligations are not contained within the tenancy agreement they are implied by the statutory obligation under s11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (repairing obligations in short leases). Additionally under s11 (ss6) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 there is a process that all landlords must adhere to when accessing tenanted properties to carry out repairs which reads as follows: ‘in a lease in which the lessor’s repairing covenant is implied there is also implied a covenant by the lessee that the lessor, or any person authorised by him in writing, may at reasonable times of the day and on giving 24 hours’ notice in writing to the occupier, enter the premises comprised in the lease for viewing their 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 a tenant, instead a mutually convenient date and time must be arranged which must be at a reasonable time and after giving the tenant not less than 24 hours notice in writing. More notice can be given if the works are to be prolonged or disruptive and in such cases tenants should be given details of the works to be carried out and a rough idea of a finishing time or completion date.
If the landlord or the contractors attempt to enter without permission the tenant can launch a claim for trespass as they have the same rights 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.
WHEN REPAIR PROBLEMS CROSS OVER
Sometime the problems cross over and become the responsibility of both the freeholder/managing agent and the landlord. For example, condensation might be caused by the lifestyle of the tenants but it can also be contributed to by external factors such as penetrating damp (which can be found at any level) and rising damp (often found on the ground floor blocks of flats but rarely seen in flats above the ground).
By far the most common cause of in my personal experience however is that of a lack of adequate ventilation. For example, landlords on our block have not only sealed up the fireplaces but the vents too. Some vents have been replaced by smaller ones and yet others have been painted over.
Plumbing leaks are another cross over because when a slow leak penetrates through the floor of a flat and through the ceiling of the flat below, not only is it a landlord issue but it also damages the structure. Of course the causes of some leaks are obvious but slow leaks can be difficult to find and if not found and remedied quickly can lead to the situation seen in this photograph.
There are always going to be issues as a building ages. Defective/degraded brickwork, flashings, downpipes, gutters and damp proof courses can all cause problems if not repaired, maintained or replaced. Such issues are not just confined to older buildings but also those which are classed as ‘new build’.
So, the following broad guidelines on how to manage the building as per the legal requirements have been sourced from the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations (FPRA). Not all will apply, (depending on the type of the building) and it is the terms of the lease that should be the definitive guide.
Asbestos Review Report
Buildings Insurance (a condition of purchasing a flat)
Water Risk Assessment
Every 6 Months
Jet Wash Paths
Every 3 Years
Health & Safety – Major Review
Buildings Insurance – Alternative Quotations
Every 5 Years
Communal Electrics – Full Inspection
Every 7 Years
Plant and Equipment
Thorough examination of passenger lifts (and perhaps boilers) are regulatory requirements but (depending on the property) may extend to include equipment such as all lifts – passenger, goods and disabled – steam boilers, pressure vessels, refuse hoists, gantry access equipment and window cleaning equipment.
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.