Landlord responsibilities – a guide to property maintenance and repair

Keeping your rental properties well maintained can be a big job. There are certain landlord responsibilities around repairs, and things you’ll want to keep an eye on to prevent damage to your property over the longer term, protecting your investment. 

Read on for a house maintenance checklist and an explanation of landlord obligations. 

Landlord responsibilities – property maintenance and repair

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 clearly sets out your legal repair and maintenance responsibilities. This act applies no matter what you’ve put in your tenancy agreement – it creates something called an “implied term”. 

According to Section 11, landlord obligations include: 

  • the structure and exterior of the property, including roof, walls, windows, drains, and doors
  • pipes supplying gas, electricity, or water
  • heating and hot water
  • gas boilers and ventilation
  • the shared or common areas of a property

Maintaining the structure and exterior of a property 

As mentioned above, keeping the outside of a property up to scratch will include maintenance to these areas.

The roof 

Inspecting your roof regularly will let you catch and fix any damage before it becomes a larger issue. The ideal time to do this is in spring and autumn, before warmer or colder weather makes problems worse. 

You’ll want to look out for broken tiles and slates as well as broken guttering, and clean guttering of any debris. Check if there are any gaps around the chimney and if dormer windows are still flush. 

Get rid of moss and algae too. This pesky green stuff can hold a lot of water, which can rot roofing materials or crack tiles if it freezes in cold weather. 

The walls 

Check for cracks in brickwork and wall coatings, or for any staining that might indicate that there’s a leak. While you’re there, you may as well check and clean any drains attached to the external property walls, as these can cause flooding if they overflow. Any damaged pointing and rendering will need to be fixed too. 

One of the things you need to keep in mind is the threat of subsidence. Subsidence is where all or part of your property starts sinking into the ground, putting a strain on the building and causing cracks to form. This can eventually lead to the rupture of the property’s foundation and damage to its structure. Find out how to deal with subsidence

Windows and doors

You’re responsible for fixing or replacing any damaged windows, broken panes, broken elements, or mould, if the damage is caused by wear and tear. Of course, if a tenant breaks a window then they’ll be eligible for the cost of repair. 

For doors too, you’ll need to ensure they close and lock securely to keep tenants safe. All external doors and windows need to be damp and draught proof. 

Pipes and plumbing

You’ll want to ensure that sinks, baths, and toilets are all working properly, as well as the pipes supplying them. A leaking pipe could be caused by a very small rupture – you’ll see a puddle under the pipe itself or damp patches in walls or ceilings for concealed pipes. 

During cold snaps, you should make an extra effort to look out for frozen pipes, which can cause leaks or even major flooding if a pipe bursts due to increased pressure. Find out more about spotting and dealing with frozen pipes.

Heating and hot water 

You’re legally required to make sure your property can be kept at a certain minimum temperature – 18 degrees in sleeping rooms and 21 degrees in living rooms. 

Tenants must have access to hot water at all times too. Emergency repairs should be fixed within 24 hours as having no hot water or heating constitutes a hazard under the law.

Therefore you’re responsible for servicing any boilers every year. It’s also worth bleeding radiators on an annual basis. 

To prevent problems, you can educate your tenants on how to look after your heating and hot water systems. Ask them to keep an eye on the pressure and turn the heating on a couple of times in the summer to ensure it still works. They shouldn’t leave the property unheated for long periods in the winter, as this can lead to frozen pipes. 

Other guides: 

Gas and electricity 

When it comes to gas, you need to check that the gas supply and appliances you’ve provided are in a safe and working condition, with any fitting or repairs done by a Gas Safe Engineer. You’ll also need to get a Gas Safe Engineer to check them every 12 months and supply a certificate

Another requirement is for an electrician to carry out checks on all electrical installations like light and plug sockets every five years. 

Ventilation, damp, and mould

Damp and mould is a major health hazard and can cause friction between tenants and landlords. While you can advise tenants on how to look after ventilation and heating in the property to reduce the chance of either emerging, it’s ultimately your responsibility to deal with it. 

The government published guidance in late 2023 stating that damp and mould aren’t due to tenant lifestyle choices –  so it’s down to landlords to identify and address the underlying causes of the problem. 

Here are some tips on how to get rid of damp and mould in your rental property. 

Shared or common areas

With many maintenance issues, your responsibility starts as soon as a tenant lets you know about a problem. But landlords must regularly check shared or common areas, like stairwells in a block of flats, for example, for any damage. 

Landlord responsibilities for garden maintenance  

When it comes to maintaining the garden, there are responsibilities for both tenants and landlords. Tenants are responsible for basic upkeep, such as:

  • mowing the lawn
  • removing rubbish and keeping the garden tidy
  • removing weeds
  • keeping smaller shrubs in check

They also must return the garden to the same state that it was in when they moved into the property. It’s worth mentioning this in your tenancy agreement. 

As a landlord, you need to maintain areas of the garden that would be unreasonable to expect a tenant to handle, or might need the help of a professional. Landlord obligations include: 

  • looking after trees
  • pruning and maintaining larger shrubs
  • ensuring climbing plants don’t grow too large

How often should I inspect my rental property? 

While your tenant needs to let you know if there are any issues with your property, regular inspections can help you nip potential problems in the bud. It’s a good idea to do an inspection every three to six months. See a full inspection checklist here

To do this, you’ll need to request access from the tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice. If a representative, such as a letting agent or gas engineer, is carrying out an inspection or assessment for you, the tenant will need to be told in writing. 

The visit also must be within reasonable hours. Check out our tenant’s rights guide for more information. 

How much to budget for a maintenance in a rental property

It’s hard to know exactly how much maintaining your rental will cost you annually. One recommendation is to set aside at least one per cent of the value of the property each year for repairs. 

Another is to set aside 50 per cent of the rental payments per month for maintenance, insurance, and other important costs. 

Are property maintenance fees tax deductible? 

Maintenance and upkeep costs can be claimed as allowable expenses associated with running a business. 

Improving a property, for example, by adding an extension, can’t be claimed as an allowable expense, as it counts as a capital expense that will boost its value. You may be able to claim this against capital gains tax, though. 

Property maintenance: Redecorating and cleaning

Now we’ve covered the basics of property maintenance, there are a few other ways you’ll need to take care of your property to protect your investment and keep tenants happy. 

Redecorating your rental property 

There’s no fixed time scale or legal requirement for how often you need to redecorate your rental property. It’s a good idea to redecorate between tenancies where relevant, and many landlords try to give their property a once over every five years or so. 

As part of the redecoration process, you might like to: 

  • paint walls and ceilings – it’s a good idea to give your property a lick of paint between tenancies, or every five years
  • replace carpets – depending on the amount of use and the quality of the carpets in your property, you could have to replace them every three years, or only every 10. Students and families are likely to get more visitors and create more wear and tear
  • replace the kitchen – most kitchens in rental properties will last around 10 years before needing a full refurbishment. Though you may need to urgently replace broken white goods during a tenancy, such as the oven or the microwave

Other guides:

End of tenancy cleaning

The best time to give your property a deep clean is, of course, between tenancies. You can choose to do the cleaning yourself or hire a cleaning service. In either case, you’ll want to ensure that:

  • there are no scuff marks on walls
  • doors and handles are clean
  • locks are in working order 
  • windows are clean inside and out 
  • cobwebs are removed from ceilings 
  • fixtures and fittings are dusted and polished
  • stains are removed from upholstery and carpets

Remember, bathrooms and kitchens are particularly important. 

You can also provide tenants with guidance on how to clean and maintain tricky appliances to make your end of tenancy clean easier and make sure nothing breaks in the interim. Take a look at our useful end of tenancy checklist for landlords. 

Other guides: 

Ultimately, understanding landlord responsibilities, carrying out regular inspections, and maintaining a warm relationship with tenants will help you keep on top of any issues with your property.

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Lucy England

Lucy England has been writing for and about small businesses for around ten years. Initially working as a journalist covering tech startups, Lucy has extensive experience writing about insurance, fintech, tax and financial services for brands including Moneycorp and Muse Finance. Lucy has also supported a number of small businesses with their marketing, across industries as diverse as engineering and management consulting.

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