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Tips for tenants when renting a property

Renting a property can be tricky business and depending on your landlord, it can be stressful too.

Two in every five households in the UK are rented, be that through the private sector or in social housing. That means that two in every five households have a split responsibility for repairing damage, and that can often create tension between a landlord and a tenant.

With more than 20 million people in the UK working from home in recent months, the potential for damage around the home is increasing significantly. Who is responsible for fixing problems caused by damage? To avoid reaching an impasse with your landlord, we have put together a comprehensive guide for you to refer to in the event of damage occurring at your property.

Fundamentally, your landlord should be responsible for most instances of damage repair around the property, but there are instances where you may need to rectify the problem yourself. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 sets clear guidelines as to who should repair damage. In section 11 it states that a tenant is responsible for: “Making good any damage to the property caused by the behaviour or negligence of the tenant, members of his/her household or any other person lawfully visiting or living in the property.” That means if you have people over and one of them breaks the bannister on the stairs, you should fix it. Bristol Council detail how damage caused by botched DIY is a repair you must pay for. If damage is caused by neglect, such as leaving a bath to overflow and cause significant water damage, that will also be your responsibility.

Other than that, repairs needed for damage you have not caused should be down to your landlord. For instance, if a fence on your property is brought down by high winds, the landlord would need to repair it. If a tile comes loose on the roof and water gets into the property, that too is the landlord’s responsibility. However, there is a certain onus on you to ensure swift reporting of such problems. Having a clear and concise line of communication with your landlord is essential and when a problem does occur, you must seek to inform them swiftly and effectively. When you do so, try to keep a record of the report too, for future reference. It is advisable to take photos with a date stamp and email them over, as this creates a viable chain which can be referred to in the event of a dispute. Be very clear about the extent of the damage too. If you find a small problem, fail to report it and months later in becomes a serious problem, the landlord may hold you liable for the damage by neglect. Had you reported it earlier, then it could have been resolved.

It may be that you must report a problem to a third party, rather than your landlord. If they have a landlord’s policy on the property, you may be reporting any problems to the provider, rather than the landlord. A comparison guide to landlord coverage on HomeServe highlights that one benefit to the landlord is the tenant can deal directly with the provider, resulting in swift attention and hopefully a resolution to the problem. However, even if you report it to a third party, it is always worth keeping your landlord up to date with any problems. After all, it is their investment you are living in and they will always want to know what is happening at the property.

The basic rule of thumb is this – if you or someone connected to you such as a friend or family cause the damage, it is up to you to sort out. Otherwise, it will be down to the landlord to fix but, whoever caused it, always keep them informed and aware of any situation to prevent problems further down the line.

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© 2017 Jackie Annett