Maintenance and repairs during a tenancy
Article Posted - 17th December 2013
Landlords' responsibilities do not end when a tenancy agreement is signed. Taking a professional approach to being a landlord involves meeting legal obligations and maintaining the rental property in good condition.
It is not only best practice for landlords to keep their properties in a good state of repair – it is also a legal requirement. In addition to any repair responsibilities expressly set out in the tenancy agreement, common law and statutory obligations are implied in all tenancy agreements.
Most landlords find it useful to have a calendar scheduling check-ups on their properties together with a planned programme of maintenance jobs over the course of the year. Experienced landlord, Marion Money who is the NLA Local Representative for Kent, recommends taking a seasonal approach to maintenance tasks. For example, after autumn she arranges for all the gutters in her properties to be cleared, and in spring, she undertakes an exterior painting programme for her properties by rotation.
Regular inspections of the property
By following a schedule of regular inspections, ideally on a quarterly basis, it is easier to identify any issues before they become costly emergencies.
- Inform your tenants about your plans for maintenance and repair visits.
- Check for problems such as fraying electric cables, leaky taps, cracked tiles, or a broken showerhead.
- Look out for any signs of damp or mould throughout the property (see below).
- Check that the toilet flushes and shower and/or bathtub drain properly.
- Make sure the heating and hot water systems work efficiently.
- Check that any stair rails are sturdy.
- Check any guttering and the roof.
- Ask your tenants to alert you as soon as possible to any problems that may arise in the property in the future.
Regular inspections should aim to ensure that your rental property complies with all relevant safety rules and should be followed up with any appropriate maintenance or repair work.
- Check that your tenants have an up-to-date list of emergency contacts
- Make sure any existing electrical installation is in a safe condition. Check for any electrical defects such as frayed wiring, cracks and chips in casings, charring, and burn marks. If in doubt, organise an Electrical Installation Condition Report to identify any deficiencies if you are in England and Wales
- If you need to install a new installation, replace a fuse box, or have work done to electrical circuits in England and Wales, the electrician should provide a (Domestic) Electrical Installation Certificate. A Minor Works Certificate should be provided for alterations or additions to an existing circuit (e.g. extra socket outlet)
- If your property is in Scotland, periodic inspection and testing for electrical safety is required at least every five years by a competent electrician, and at least every three years for Houses in Multiple Occupation.
- Arrange for annual gas safety checks to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
- If you need to have a new gas appliance fitted, make sure this is installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
- Consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm and if your property is in Scotland, make sure you do as it is now a legal obligation.
- Keep all records of annual gas safety checks reports, electrical certificates and reports, receipts and invoices for maintenance and other work done to the rental property.
- It is best practice to carry out a fire risk assessment in your properties. For some properties, such as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), this assessment is a legal obligation on landlords. HMO landlords should check the fire alarm system regularly to ensure it is working properly
All rental properties needs to be free from damp.
If you spot condensation or mould, remove it with a fungicidal treatment and work out where ventilation in the property can be improved.
It may be worth investing in an extractor fan for the bathroom, even if it has a window. Although only new-builds are required by law to supply all bathrooms with extractor fans, if you install one, you will not have to rely on your tenants remembering to open the window after showering. You may also want to try an anti-mould decorative paint to protect against fungal growth.
Watch the NLA's video on damp and mould, here
Machines and appliances
Landlords are responsible for the state of any machines and white goods they provide in the rental property.
- Remove any unsafe machines or appliances.
- If a machine or an appliance is not working properly, take a decision whether to repair or replace it. In the long run it can often work out less costly to buy a replacement.
- Although yearly PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) testing is not obligatory for landlords, it is a good way of ensuring the electrical appliances in your property are safe. The NLA offers a course in PAT testing, see www.landlords.org.uk/advice-support-tips/courses/nla-portable-appliance-testing-pat-course.
An up-to-date log is a practical way of organising your maintenance and repair works. It also forms a record which could come be useful during any disputes with a tenant over the state of the property.
Keep an up-to-date record of:
- the state of the property (include photos)
- what you have checked
- what action has been taken
- repair works that are needed
- repair works that are in progress
- dates for next inspections.
It is not advisable to allow tenants to carry out repairs to your property as you will have no control over quality. It could also invalidate insurance. While allowing tenants to do decoration work may be temptingly inexpensive, this can backfire if the work they do is of poor quality.
It is also not advisable to do specialist repair work yourself, unless you have a relevant qualification and experience. A London landlord was jailed recently for endangering his tenants after he illegally installed a boiler that he then repeatedly tried to fix after it developed a leak.
- Depending on the type of maintenance or repair work, it makes good sense for landlords to build a network of trusted suppliers. The NLA has recently launched a new online scheme of Local Suppliers who are recommended by NLA members and then vetted by the NLA: www.landlords.org.uk/services/local-suppliers.
- Meet with builders and decorators in January, when their business is often slower, to plan works to be done in March/April.
- Be sure to detail every job that is required and the materials needed, and get a firm price for both.
- To keep your suppliers loyal, pay them promptly once you are satisfied the work is completed.
Avoid storm damage
The NLA has published a handy checklist for landlords to minimise damage to their properties which include the following tips:
- Ensure you have a comprehensive property insurance policy in place
- Make sure pipes are adequately insulated
- Clear gutters and drains and check overflow pipes are connected
- Cut back low hanging tree branches
- If the area is prone to flooding, ensure the tenants have a stock of sandbags
- Ask tenants to leave heating on a timer and turn off the water supply if the property is vacated for any period of time.
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