Health, Safety and Maintenance
When leaseholders purchase a flat with the intention to sublet, not only do they have to abide by the terms of their leases but as individual landlords, the standard of their rentals which are governed by the overarching legislation of Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, specifically under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
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).
When problems with the interior requires the landlords attention, subtenants will approach them first (or their agent if they use one) as it is their responsibility to deal with the issue(s).
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.
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.
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE
Whilst owner-occupiers are responsible for the upkeep of their own flats, there are areas when all management parties are required to work with each other as the leasehold and PRS sectors cross over.
For example condensation might be caused 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). In these situations, the landlord will report it to the freeholder or managing agent and not attempt to carry out any repairs themselves as this is not in their remit. Equally, condensation may be caused by an internal lack of ventilation (the most common cause of the problem) then this falls to the individual landlords to deal with.
Taking our own block as an example, landlords here have not only sealed up the fireplaces but the vents too whilst some vents have been replaced by smaller ones, 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 which belongs to the freeholder. 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 serious problems such as a collapsed ceiling. This photograph shows what happened when our block had one such collapse!