Often, confusion reigns regarding who may be liable for the cost of various elements that can occur within a residential rental. Sadly, more often than not, landlords unfairly assume much liability is the responsibility of the tenant, when it is in actual fact their responsibility as the property owner.
The regulations are clear that the obligation of any landlord is to offer the property at the rental commencement in a condition ‘reasonably fit for the purpose for which it was let’. The regulations further expand that the landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance as defined in the lease or as found at the ‘incoming inspection’ of the property.
The landlord is also required to keep and maintain the property in accordance with Health and Safety standards and any local and relevant law.
Many unreasonable leases will place the entire maintenance and repair of the interior of the property squarely on the tenant’s shoulders. However, this does not exclude the landlord from responsibility in this regard. This generally accepted norm of tenants being responsible for the interior, and landlords for the exterior, is simply too vague and wrought with potential conflict and simply places unreasonableexpectation on the tenant to maintain the interior.
The blocking of drains
Often this occurs due to roots growing in gardens and blocking gullies and drainpipes, but often this is caused by the hair of tenants blocking bath and shower drains. The merit of each scenario needs to be considered and ideally the plumber should be able to adequately report the cause so the liability can be established.
Light fittings, switches and bulbs
It is generally accepted that the changing of lightbulbs is the tenant’s responsibility. However, the repair to faulty switches and fittings should essentially be the responsibility of the landlord, unless the use of these has been negligent or with malice.
Mould, damp and leaks
These elements can be found in many homes, especially at the coast. Generally speaking, mildew formation in a bathroom is a result of steam build-up and condensation on walls and ceilings. It is a common misunderstanding that opening a window will remedy this. However, the prevention of this is often not very simple. Old paint can sometimes result in more severe cases, so the merits need to be considered in each case and cannot always be assumed to be the tenant’s responsibility. Furthermore, leaks and rising damp relate specifically to the structure and maintenance of the building and cannot be deemed the tenant’s responsibility.
Painting and damage or tarnishing of paintwork
It is quite acceptable to have a long-term tenant accessorise a residential home by hanging pictures on the walls, and it is reasonable to do so. However, the remedy of this is often where the problems come in as the repair is often poorly done. Expectations regarding the painting of the entire wall versus merely patching and spot painting holes need to be made clear at the start.
Gardens and pools
Ideally a regular service appointment should be made that both parties can agree on, so that the care of these elements becomes the responsibility of the service provider. However, the repair of damages can become a bone of contention so it is critical that this is addressed within the lease agreement.
Tenants should caution against signing any lease that places too much onus on the tenant to handle interior repair and maintenance, as these agreements are often too heavily weighted in the landlord’s favour.
At all times the landlord should offer the tenant a flexible and fair response to requests for repair and maintenance.
• Information courtesy of Private Property.