If you’re a landlord, you’ve probably heard the term ‘reasonable repair time’ bandied about, but what actually counts as reasonable time, and what are you obliged to repair?
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What are my repair responsibilities as a landlord?
The responsibilities you have for repairs to your property can vary depending on the terms of your tenancy agreement, the type of property you let, and what, if any, other items you supply your tenants with.
Structural and exterior repairs are usually the landlord’s responsibility. Say, for example, a van scraped against a house you rent out and broke a window, it would likely be your responsibility to repair the damage.
If, however, such a thing happened to a flat where you are the leaseholder, it could instead be the duty of the freeholder to conduct the repairs - you would have to check your own contract to see if this was the case.
Sanitary items such as pipes and drains are also the landlord’s responsibility, as well as wiring, heating, hot water and ventilation. If your property has a chimney, keeping it in good working order is likely your responsibility too.
Check out our full list of landlords and tenants responsibilities if you’re still unsure.
What is ‘reasonable time’ for landlords to make repairs?
If part of your property or something within it for which you’re responsible is damaged or malfunctions, you are obliged to repair or replace it within a ‘reasonable’ time frame.
However, there is very little guidance as to what counts as ‘reasonable time’ when it comes to completing repairs on your property, making it difficult for landlords to know whether they’re obeying the law.
In order to help avoid legal difficulties, it’s a good idea to keep your tenant in the loop about the status of the repairs. If you’ve called in a plumber but are yet to find out when they’ll be available to work on the property, let them know.
Knowing you’re trying to resolve the issue is going to help them feel you’re taking the problem seriously and will help keep your relationship cordial.
What happens if I don’t make repairs in reasonable time?
If your tenant feels that you’re taking too long to address the problems with the property, they may withhold rent, or pay for the repairs themselves out of the rent they owe.
While withholding rent because repairs haven’t been completed is illegal, it isn’t illegal for tenants to deduct the cost of repairs from rent if they have contacted you about the problem and felt that you did not respond within a reasonable time frame.
This is why it’s important to keep tenants in the loop, and to keep a copy of all your correspondence, so that should you need to take legal action against them you have the evidence to back up your side of the story.
Make sure you seek legal advice before taking action against tenants withholding rent.
Have you ever had problems with your tenants because of disputes over repairs? Let us know in the comments