21st April 2018
Q: I have just purchased a BTL property. What are my maintenance responsibilities? And do my tenants have any responsibilities?
A: This is a question that comes up every now and then, even with the most experienced of landlords.
Basically, you offer and maintain the property to basic requirements, such as weather proofing, heat, water, electricity, sanitary, and a structurally safe home.
Local councils typically set specific standards, such as the minimum requirements for light, ventilation, and electrical wiring.
As of October 2016, all properties require smoke alarms and CO alarms where solid fuel may be used; furthermore in April this year, you also need to make sure that the your property meets the minimum energy efficiency rating E. As always, there are severe penalties for non-compliance. These are just a couple of examples of the legal requirements of a landlord.
On the other hand, tenants have a responsibility to keep their own property clean and sanitary. If they do not, the tenants can’t come to you and request repairs that are due to their negligence, for example, infestations of pests such as ants and rats. In that case you as the landlord could have the work done and send the bill to the tenants (not all the time, but in some scenarios).
You may at some point, depending on who your tenant is, be able to request the repair to be arranged or carried out by the tenant, in exchange for a reduction in rent (if the tenant agrees). If the tenant fails to do the job well, you as the landlord are not excused from your responsibility to keep the property in a habitable condition.
If you try and avoid your responsibility to make required repairs, a tenant usually has several options, depending on the problem. These options include but are not limited to:
- making the necessary repairs and deducting the costs from the next month’s rent
- withholding the entire rent until the problem is fixed
- paying less rent while the property remains substandard
- calling the local Council, who can usually order you to make repairs
- moving out without paying for future rent, even in the middle of an agreement
You may also find yourself being sued by the tenant for a partial refund of past rent, and in some circumstances, can sue for the discomfort, annoyance, and emotional distress caused by the poor conditions.
Your best bet is to handle repairs as soon as possible. Take care of major problems, such as plumbing or heating problems, within 24 hours. For minor problems, respond in 48 hours. Always keep tenants informed as to when and how the repairs will be made, and the reasons for any delays.
The chances are, you thought your property investment would look after itself, but it actually involves hard work if you manage it all yourself. At Sow & Reap we can handle all this for you, leaving you with more time and less hassle. Get in touch to discuss your needs.