Landlord’s responsibilities for repairs
Private landlords are responsible for most major repairs. Tenants are usually only responsible for minor maintenance, and for putting right any damage they have caused. Tenancy agreements may say that tenants have other responsibilities, but this isn’t always binding.
What is my landlord responsible for?
If your tenancy is for less than 7 years, your landlord is always responsible for repairs to:
- the structure and exterior of the building – such as the walls, roof, external doors and windows
- sinks, baths, toilets and other sanitary fittings, including pipes and drains
- heating and hot water
- all gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- electrical wiring.
The landlord is also responsible for putting right any damage to internal decorations that was caused by the disrepair or while repairs they are responsible for are carried out.
They must also make sure that your home is free from any hazards that could affect the health and safety of anyone in your household.
What am I responsible for?
As a tenant, you have to use your home in a responsible way. This includes;
- keeping it reasonably clean
- not damaging the property, and ensuring that your guests don’t either
- carrying out minor maintenance (eg. checking smoke alarm batteries)
- using the heating properly (eg. not blocking flues or ventilation).
If you cause any damage to the property or the furniture, even if it’s accidental, your landlord will probably be able to charge you for it. Often they keep your deposit (or at least part of it) to cover the cost of any repairs or replacements. You may have some extra responsibilities to carry out repairs if your tenancy agreement says so. Check what it says, but bear in mind that no matter what it says, your landlord is always responsible for certain things (see above).
If your landlord is trying to keep your deposit for repairs or damage, then see our advice pages on tenancy deposits.
Does it matter what my tenancy agreement says?
If your agreement says that you are responsible for something that isn’t your landlord’s legal responsibility (eg. maintaining the garden) then it is probably valid. However, landlords can’t get out of their legal responsibilities no matter what the agreement says. If a clause says that you are responsible for repairing the heating, for instance, or fixing the roof, it probably cannot be enforced as these are things that are automatically the landlord’s legal responsibility.
If you don’t have a written agreement, or it doesn’t say who is responsible for specific things, your landlord still has legal responsibilities (as set out above).
Your landlord may be responsible for replacing or repairing any other items or appliances that are faulty and were provided at the start of your tenancy. However, much will depend on what was agreed between you at the start of the tenancy, and how important the item was to you when you decided to take up the tenancy. Check your tenancy agreement as this may clarify if your landlord is responsible.
What about damp?
Your home could be affected by any of the 3 common types of damp:
- penetrating damp
- rising damp.
It isn’t always easy to work out who is responsible for sorting out problems with damp, because it’s often difficult to identify the cause. However, landlords are usually responsible for getting repairs done if the dampness is the result of:
- leaking pipes
- a structural defect (such as leaking roof or cracked wall)
- an existing damp proof course that is no longer working (if there wasn’t one to begin with, your landlord is not liable).
Condensation is often caused by a lack of ventilation, lack of insulation, or inadequate heating. Where this is the case, the landlord must take steps to remedy the problem, for example, by improving the heating or ventilation in the property. Bear in mind though that condensation can also be caused by drying clothes indoors or not using heating systems properly. If this is the case, your landlord is probably not responsible.
You can contact environmental health or the housing standards team at the council if your landlord doesn’t fix the damp problem. They can inspect the property and take action against the landlord if they think there is damp and/or mould growth causing a hazard.
What about communal areas?
Hallways, stairs and lifts, are usually the responsibility of the landlord. If there are other flats in the building that your landlord doesn’t own, s/he probably shares the responsibility for common areas with the other owners.
What about gardens?
If your tenancy agreement does not say that you have to maintain the garden then it will not be your responsibility. However if the garden is not mentioned at all it might not be anyone’s responsibility.
What about decorating?
Tenants are usually responsible for minor jobs, unless they are caused by disrepair or damp that is the landlord’s responsibility, or are due to normal wear and tear. You should not have to redecorate before you leave unless your agreement says so or you have damaged the decoration. In these situations, the landlord will probably not have to redecorate either.
If you want to redecorate, get the landlord’s agreement first. Bear in mind that you may not be able to do exactly what you want.
Tenants are responsible for not damaging the property, but normal wear and tear is to be expected. Landlords shouldn’t keep your deposit, or expect you to pay for things that have worn out from normal use. See our pages on tenancy deposits for more advice.