It has always been your responsibility as a landlord to keep your rental property in a good state of repair and ensure all heating, water and electrical systems are working properly.

However, since new laws around retaliatory evictions in England came into force last year, it’s now even more important that you respond to tenants’ complaints about the condition of their home. If you don’t, you’re unlikely to be able to evict them should that become necessary.

There isn’t an exhaustive list of exactly what a landlord must legally do and what the tenant’s responsibility is, but there are some rules. Other things simply require you to act ‘reasonably’ and that can be a grey area.

What I’d say is that you should always err on the side of safety and try to go above and beyond the bare minimum the law requires you to do. If anything should happen to either the property or your tenants, you need to be able to prove that you’ve been diligent and taken reasonable steps to keep both safe and secure.

What are a landlord’s property maintenance responsibilities?

You should have a maintenance schedule for each property you own, detailing what needs to be carried out and when. Gas and electric are both very important.

  • Gas Safety check – this must be carried out annually by an engineer who is on the Gas Safe register (http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk). The certificate must be made available to your tenants

  • Electrical installation check – this should be carried out by a ‘Part P’ registered electrician at least every 5 years. This is a legal requirement in Scotland.

The other thing you should do – although it isn’t a strict legal requirement – is carry out a fire safety risk assessment. You may feel you’re qualified to do this yourself, but it’s advisable to have a fire safety professional carry it out, so speak to your local fire safety office.

Smoke detectors, heat sensors and carbon monoxide detectors should all be tested as advised and a record kept of when those tests were carried out. You must also carry out a legionella assessment to show your analysis of whether there is any risk of stagnant water that could harbour the lethal bacteria.

For general maintenance, the tenancy agreement should list what things you’re responsible for maintaining and what the tenant needs to look after. Generally speaking, anything to do with the property’s décor and fixtures is the landlord’s responsibility – anything that was there when the tenant moved in.

For their part, the tenant must keep the property in a good state of repair, so not do anything to damage it beyond what might reasonably be called normal wear and tear. Smaller jobs, such as replacing light bulbs and keeping plugholes clear are usually down to tenants and they need to advise the landlord of problems such as leaks which need fixing.

In many cases the landlord retains responsibility for the exterior fabric of the building (the building’s roof, floor slabs, walls, windows, and doors) and pruning of trees and shrubs, paths being safe. Tenants are simply required to mow the lawn and keep the garden in good order.

The important thing to remember is that your landlord insurance will likely have a ‘Reasonable Precautions’ condition. This means that the landlord must ‘take all reasonable precautions to prevent or minimise loss, destruction, damage, accident or injury and maintain the premises, machinery, equipment and furnishings to a good state of repair’.

So it’ll likely mean the property needs to be kept free from potential risks or hazards, for example by ensuring:

  • gutters and drains are clear

  • banisters are fixed and not loose

  • pavements or internal flooring are in good order and aren’t trip hazards

  • that roof tiles are replaced or repaired

  • that all portable electrical appliances work and are maintained in a safe condition.

It’s in your interest to keep as much of that under your control as possible. Simply blaming a tenant for negligence won’t help when you’re trying to make an insurance claim.

Re-post from Direct Line for Business

At RFM Trading we offer all manner of property maintenance services for homeowners and landlords. We have a number of fully certified and registered electricians, plumbers and gas safe engineers, as well as highly skilled professionals such as joiners and glaziers who can help with any home maintenance or renovations issues. Please contact RFM Trading on 0161 667 3739 or email [email protected], to discuss you property maintenance landlord responsibilities,  we will be happy to help.