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Repair obligations and housing standards

Repair obligations and housing standards

Contents

Landlords have certain statutory obligations to keep the property in repair. In addition to these repairing obligations, they have obligations under health and safety laws. These obligations are imposed by law and the tenancy agreement can't reduce them.

Landlords must take health and safety seriously; a property offered for letting must be free from health and safety hazards. Your tenants may be able to take legal action against you if the property doesn't meet certain health and safety standards and, as a result, poses a health or safety risk to them.

A landlord's health and safety responsibilities include a requirement to meet:

  • Housing standards required for the property to be considered fit for human habitation
  • Gas, electrical and fire safety standards. For the requirement to provide an annual gas safety check and gas safety certificate, see Gas safety

Repair obligations (England and Wales)

The landlord is generally responsible for carrying out maintenance and major repairs to the property. This includes repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, heating and hot water installations, basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary installations. The 'exterior' of a building does not include paths or passageways leading to the building. However the landlord of a flat might be liable to the tenant for disrepair of the common areas in a building not owned by the landlord, if the landlord has rights over the common areas. E.g. a right to use a hallway or staircase to access the flat.

The landlord is only liable to carry out repairs to the areas that are in the possession and control of the tenant after the tenant has made them aware of the disrepair. If, for example the tenancy agreement lets only the interior walls of a flat to the tenant, the landlord will be liable for any disrepair to the exterior or structure whether or not the tenant gives them notice. However, the landlord will only have to repair the interior of the flat (which is in the possession of the tenant) once they have notice of the disrepair.

The landlord of a flat would only be liable to the tenant for loss or injury caused by disrepair of common areas of the building (which the landlord doesn't own but has a right over, such as a right of access) if the tenant had made them of aware of the disrepair.

Housing standards

A property is expected to meet certain housing standards to be considered fit for human habitation. It must be free from health and safety hazards. The landlord must usually make sure that the property meets these standards before the tenancy is set up and at all times throughout the tenancy. If the property you let out does not satisfy these criteria and is a health risk, a tenant may be able to take legal action against you.

England & Wales

You must make sure that:

  • Water, electricity, gas supplies and sanitation are in working order (for example, drains, basins, sinks, baths and WCs)
  • The room and water heating equipment are in working order
  • The property is free from any damp that could damage the health of the occupier

The property must have:

  • Adequate heating, lighting and ventilation
  • An adequate supply of piped, wholesome water, satisfactory facilities for preparing and cooking food, including a sink with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water
  • A suitably located toilet and a suitable sewer and drainage system
  • A suitably located fixed bath or shower and hand basin, each of which has a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water.

Scotland

In Scotland, all private rented housing must meet the 'repairing standard' as set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. The standard must be met prior to the commencement of any lease and at all times during the term of the lease. The 6 requirements of the repairing standard are:

  • The property is wind and watertight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation;
  • The structure and exterior of the property (including drains, gutters and external pipes) are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
  • The installations in the property for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
  • Any fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by the landlords under the tenancy are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
  • Any furnishings provided by the landlords under the tenancy are capable of being used safely for the purpose for which they are designed, and
  • That the property has satisfactory provision for detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire.

Northern Ireland

You must make sure that:

  • The property is structurally stable and free from serious disrepair
  • The property is free from any damp that could damage the health of the occupier

The property must have:

  • Adequate heating, lighting and ventilation
  • An adequate supply of piped, wholesome water, satisfactory facilities for preparing and cooking food, including a sink with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water
  • A suitably located toilet for the exclusive use of the occupants and effective working drains
  • A suitably located fixed bath or shower and hand basin, each of which has a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water.

Gas and electrical safety

You must ensure that all gas appliances and installations you supply are maintained in good order and that an annual safety check is carried out by someone who is registered. In Great Britain, this check must be carried out by someone who is registered with the Gas Safe Register.

You must keep a record of the safety checks, and must usually issue it to the occupier within 28 days of each annual check. Landlords should retain their gas safety records for 2 years. The occupier is responsible for maintaining gas appliances that they own, or is entitled to take with them at the end of the letting.

By law, you must ensure that the electrical system and any electrical appliances supplied with the let such as cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines and immersion heaters are safe to use. If you are supplying new appliances, you should also provide any accompanying instruction booklets.

For more information, see our 'Gas safety' and 'Electrical safety' sections.

Fire safety

Fire safety for any home is important, but if a property has multiple occupants it must be considered seriously since the risk of fire is greater.

As for any other home, it is a good idea to ensure that:

  • All occupiers know their way round the house to help prevention and escape from fire
  • Smoke alarms are fitted; ideally one should be fitted on each floor of the property
  • A fire blanket is placed in the kitchen
  • It has a fire extinguisher

In England, smoke alarms should be installed on every storey of the premises in which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation. A carbon monoxide alarm should be installed in any room with a solid fuel burning combustion appliance (e.g. one burning coal) if that room is wholly or partly used as living accommodation. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms must be in proper working order at the start of tenancies starting on or after 1 October 2015 (unless these tenancies replace or continue immediately after another tenancy for the same property between the same landlord and tenant).

In Scotland, there must be at least one working smoke alarm on each floor of a property. Smoke alarms installed after 3 September 2007 must be mains wired, including replacement alarms. Higher standards apply to Homes in Multiple Occupation.

Fire safety of furniture

If you supply furniture or furnishings with the let, you must ensure that they meet the fire resistance requirements, sometimes known as the 'match test' in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.

For more information, see our 'Fire safety' section.