How to avoid property maintenance disputes

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One of the most commonly misunderstood facets of the landlord tenant relationship is where responsibilities for property maintenance lie.

Recent research from a landlord insurance provider shows that both landlords and tenants are mistaken on who is responsible for a number of common maintenance issues, from meter readings to pest control.

A little over a third of tenants know that they need to provide meter readings at the start of a tenancy, for instance. Meanwhile, just under a third of landlords think that pest control is their tenant’s duty, whilst over four fifths of tenants believe the opposite 1.

It’s not always clear cut

As it happens, certain issues – such as pest control – are not always black and white.

An infestation that was present at the onset of the tenancy, or one which occurs due to a problem with the structure or exterior of the property will, in all likelihood, be your responsibility as the landlord to resolve. In the event of any ambiguity, your local environmental health officer (EHO) will need to decide whose responsibility it is.

This is a crucial distinction, because if the infestation is deemed to be a danger to your tenant or any visitors to your property, you could be served with an improvement notice or even be prosecuted.

Responsibilities for some other issues, however, are more clearly delineated, either in legislation or case law. For instance, it is always your responsibility to provide an energy performance certificate (EPC), as well as gas safety certificates for all appliances that come with the property. Repairs to the exterior and structure of the property, electrical wiring, gas appliances, heating, hot water, plumbing and sanitary facilities are also your responsibility by default 2.

Other things, such as taking meter readings and arranging contents insurance for their own belongings, are usually your tenant’s responsibility. And where there does not exist a clear legal split, your tenancy agreement should fill in the blanks.

This is important not just because maintenance issues can strain the relationship between landlord and tenant, but also cause some problems to worsen. If your tenant doesn’t know that a repair is your responsibility they may not report it for fear of incurring the cost; they might even attempt to fix it themselves.

So as well as ensuring that your tenancy agreement clearly states who is responsible for what repairs, and the process for reporting them, consider also providing your tenants with an information pack at the start of the tenancy. This should reiterate all of the most important information included in the agreement, as well as remind the tenant that they need to provide the utilities providers with up-to-date meter readings and set up new payments.

Communication and clarity are vital in ensuring that the relationship between you and your tenant is as smooth as possible, so always do everything you can to encourage them.

 

Written by Ben Gosling at Commercial Trust

 

References

[1]     “Research reveals differences between landlords and tenants on maintenance”. Property Wire. 19 Jun 2015.

[2]     Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, s11


Posted by on 23 June 2015

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