Standards in rented accommodation vary greatly, along with expectations, and it is often the issue of repairs that can make or break a landlord/tenant relationship. Letting agent and RLA trainer Carrie Kus explains.
What we all look for in a ‘model’ tenant, is someone who will not only pay the rent on time without issue, but someone who will also look after the property through the duration of the tenancy. Ideally, that tenant will settle and make the property a home providing you with a long term tenant and a well kept investment. If you ask your tenants what makes a ‘model’ landlord, they’re going to say someone who provides good quality accommodation and who, crucially, maintains it that way during the tenancy.
It’s a simple formula; if a landlord provides decent, well maintained accommodation at the start of the tenancy, then most tenants will be inclined to keep it that way. However, if repairs aren’t dealt with as they should be, the relationship can quickly sour. As a landlord and letting agent, I’ve seen first-hand how what begins as a perfectly good relationship can quickly turn, often resulting in the tenant leaving at the end of the fixed term and/or the landlord incurring losses. At worse, the landlord could open themselves up to litigation.
What do you need to do?
So how does this happen? And what can you do to prevent it from happening to you? Difficulties usually arise because landlords don’t understand what repairs they are obliged by law to put right or how quickly they are expected to do them. If this is coupled with a reluctance to spend money on the property or perhaps a landlord who says they will fix the leaking roof but never does, things swiftly deteriorate.
Tenant’s also have an obligation to behave in a ‘tenant like manner’ which has been found to include ‘doing the little jobs about the place’ such as unblocking sinks and changing fuses. If a landlord understands their obligations, and indeed those of their tenants, then the parameters are set early on and everyone is happy. Of course, you’ll always get the odd tenant who sulks because you won’t unblock their toilet, or replace the garden shed, but if you know your rights and obligations then you’ll be able to communicate this to your tenant.
A professional working couple are accepted for a property following satisfactory reference checks. They request on application, that the landlord fits a shower above the bath, which the landlord agrees to and this is put in writing. Several weeks after they move in to the property, and several quotes later, the landlord learns that fitting the shower will be too costly for their budget and refuses to fit it. This causes much aggravation and upset to the tenant, particularly since it was agreed in writing but they continue to pay their rent and accept the situation.
Approximately 4 mths in to the initial 6mth fixed term, there is a leak from the bathroom which comes through the ceiling of the kitchen. This leak causes tiles around the cooker to fall off and the kitchen wall unit is water damaged. The landlord is quick to repair the leak but leaves the damaged kitchen unit and tiles. Approximately one month later, the landlord patch repairs the tiles with tiles that don’t match the existing ones, but they refuse to repair/replace the kitchen unit.
Tenant serves notice to leave at the end of the 6mths, citing the condition of the property for the reason they are leaving. They leave the property un-cleaned and with some minor damage. In order to re-let the property, the landlord has to repair the tiles with those that match the existing ones, and repair the kitchen unit. The landlord not only has the cost of the repairs, but also incurs a void period
Do you understand your repairing obligations?
The law on repairs can be complex often with various pieces of legislation causing a layered effect, giving several causes for complaint for a tenant on the same issue.