Access to a Tenanted Flat for Repairs
Landlords need to be aware of the process for accessing tenanted flats to carry out repairs under s11 (ss6) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 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’.
All tenants should be given a procedure to follow when repairs are required and whether the landlord or the letting chooses to be informed verbally or in writing, a record should be kept of all problems reported. Tenants should do the same. Alternatively repair forms can be issued which can be filled in and then passed over for action. If no agent is used there should be an emergency procedure in place such as the issuing of a list of contractors names and numbers. Tenants should never be left with no-one to contact.
Landlords should deal with all repair requests promptly, with the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) outlining the recommended time scales for landlords to respond, depending on the problem:
- 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.
Note: The landlord can include a sum to cover the cost of repairs in the rent but cannot pass the costs to tenants in the form of a separate service charge.
Tenants also need to be aware that andlords 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 the Landlord is Away
We had a situation where there was water pouring from one of the flats which was affecting the flats immediately below. We didn’t have the contact details of the tenants and we couldn’t get hold of the landlady, despite leaving repeated messages. This left us with the possibility of having to break in because if the tenants were at work, they wouldn’t be home for hours. When we finally got hold of her she gave permission for us to do what was necessary and bill her accordingly. So our property manager co-ordinated the locksmith, the police and a plumber to arrive roughly at the same time. However, the locksmith arrived around 6.30pm and stayed till 7.15pm (I signed a piece of paper for him to that effect), the plumber arrived around 8pm and the police didn’t attend at all! Fortunately the tenants arrived shortly after the plumber.
On being invited inside by the tenants, the plumber established that the floorboards were absolutely soaked through but he could not physically do anything because the stopcock for the sanitary water was fully blocked in. However, the tenants advised us that they had made a report to the landlady the previous Saturday about water problems but she told them that no one would attend until around a week later!
Eventually the leak was resolved but by that time the tenants had enough and moved out.
Another tenant moved in and due to the shoddy work of the contractors she used, leaks were again affecting the flat immediately beneath. Again we were invited into the flat as the tenant was somewhat apprehensive about being there on her own. The leak was this time traced to the cold water inlet to the toilet. After replacing a part and installing a ‘flexihose’ (which has it’s own stopcock) to the cistern the leak stopped. There were also two layers of lino which were taken up to allow the floorboards to dry (they were sodden right through) but we expected that some or all of them would be replaced. There would still be some water ingress into the flats below due to any ‘pooled’ water getting through but that should be it.
We were also advised that there were no contact numbers for the tenant to use in case of an emergency and a repair to the toilet was carried out about a month ago!
Shoddy contractors? Most certainly!