Before reading this section, first get an overview of your legal obligations as a landlord by reading Landlord Obligations: What You Need to Know .
Here you’ll find specific information on what your landlord repair obligations are, including what to do about mould, and what time frame you’re expected to carry out repairs in.
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to keep your property and its contents in “a good state of repair” for your tenants.
Section 11 of the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act (which you should definitely be familiar with) outlines in detail what your landlord repair obligations are for tenants on a short-term lease.
The Act states that you are responsible for maintaining:
As a landlord, you’re not permitted to pass on the cost of any repair work that relates to these parts of the property to your tenant.
If your tenants report that there is mould in your property, the first step is to get a professional to identify the root cause. In terms of your legal obligations as set out in Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, if you get a diagnosis of rising or penetrating damp this makes it a structural issue, which means it’s your responsibility to fix.
In some cases, damp can be caused by condensation. This is often a result of the tenant’s lifestyle. Even if you have the most conscientious tenants in the country, whenever they hang out washing to dry, take a shower, cook food, or even boil a kettle, they’re creating moisture. If this moisture can’t escape due to a lack of ventilation in the property, you’ll get condensation which can lead to mould and damp problems.
Although condensation can be somewhat reduced by lifestyle changes, it’s impossible for anyone to prevent it completely. Especially if you’re property is well-insulated. As a landlord, it’s recommended that you invest in properly ventilating your property. You can do this is by installing effective extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom, and / or providing tenants with a good dehumidifier. Not doing anything to prevent condensation could ultimately result in damage to the property’s structure and reduce its value.
In addition to your legal obligations around structural damage caused by damp, you must also abide by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This provides guidance for non-specialists, particularly private landlords, about the requirements under the Housing Act 2004.
The guidance states that as a landlord you must ensure mould doesn’t adversely affect a tenant’s physical and mental health. Not only is mould unpleasant to live with, it can cause illness and breathing difficulties. If you have tenants who suffer from asthma or conditions affecting the respiratory system such as rhinitis, they could suffer from more serious health problems if exposed to mould.
The Residential Landlords Association specifies that you should respond to repair requests from your tenants within 14 days of receiving them. This is what constitutes a reasonable landlord repairs time frame.
At the beginning of a tenancy, it’s a good idea to provide your tenants with a repairs request form that they can fill in and send to you. Not only does this show right away that you’re willing to comply with the policy, it also makes life much easier for you when it comes to managing the process of making repairs. This way, you ensure that you have all the information you need from the moment the repair is requested.
Not taking appropriate action to address repairs within a reasonable time might result in a claim of negligence against you. For example, if a tenant gets injured, or their personal belongings get damaged as a result of delayed repairs, you could be liable for damages. You could also be liable if the repairs you make are substandard, which is why it’s important to only employ trusted contractors.
The best way to avoid a claim of negligence is to communicate and build a good relationship with your tenants right from the start. This includes having a comprehensive tenancy agreement, a detailed inventory, and a clear reporting process in place for any issues that might arise.
Of course, a tenancy agreement goes both ways. Within your tenancy agreement you should clearly set out what your tenants’ responsibilities are in regard to repairs. For example, if your tenant breaks or damages a window or item of furniture (whether it’s accidental or not) it should be their responsibility to cover the cost of the repair or replacement. They might be required to cover this cost themselves, reimburse you for it, or it could be withheld from their deposit at the end of their tenancy.
Having a full inventory in place at the start of a tenancy will help to remove confusion or dispute as to who is responsible for repair costs.
When it comes to preventing mould and damp, you can also set out in the tenancy agreement guidance as to how the property should be ventilated. For example, you may prohibit the drying of clothing indoors unless a room is ventilated, or request that bathrooms be ventilated properly by opening the windows following use of the shower.
If you aren’t sure what your landlord insurance covers with regard to repairs, it’s a good idea to speak to one of our expert advisors who will help you understand the differences between the types of cover available and how to choose the cover that’s most appropriate for you.
Malicious damage cover, for example, is often a separate cover, but sometimes necessary should your property sustain intentional damage at any point; whether that’s from your