Tenant's repairing obligations

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    Tenant's repairing obligations

    At common law, but including the Statute of Marlborough 1267, and if the terms of the tenancy make no provision, the liability of a tenant to carry out repairs is as follows:

    Fixed term tenancy: To keep the premises as he took them.

    Yearly tenancy: To keep the premises wind- and water-tight, fair wear and tear excepted.

    Weekly tenancy: No obligation to repair, but must “take proper care of the place.” (https://swarb.co.uk/warren-v-keen-ca-1954/)

    Other periodic tenancies: Probably as weekly tenancies, but no authority confirms that so far as I am aware.

    Statute does of course intervene. In particular and in relation to tenancies of dwellings for less than seven years, section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 imposes certain obligations on a landlord which cannot normally be imposed on a tenant.

    If the terms of the tenancy impose any obligations on the tenant to repair then, whatever the obligations are, they replace the common law obligations - subject to statute and the limitations imposed by various cases.

    If you want to know what the tenant’s repairing obligations are you must first look at the terms of the tenancy. If they make provision you need go no further – subject to statute and precedent.

    It is often asserted, as some sort of default, not only that a tenant must return the premises as he took them, fair wear and tear excepted, but also that there can be no requirement to return them in a better condition than he found them. Neither is the case. Where the tenant’s obligations are set out those are the obligations – subject to statute and precedent.

    If the terms of the tenancy say that the tenant is to keep the interior of the property in good repair then that is what he must do and keeping in repair includes putting in repair that which needs repairing at the start of the tenancy.

    We can though immediately go on to say that the obligation is subject to the following limitations:

    · Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

    · Section 18 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927 which restricts the damages recoverable by landlords for breaches of the tenant’s repairing obligations

    · Judicial decisions which hold that when interpreting a repairing obligation various factors need to be taken into account including the age and location of the property and the general state of the property at the start of the tenancy. That means that the same repair clause can have different effects in different cases. Essentially, a landlord cannot expect to get back something different from what he let. In fact it can go a bit further and a court may hold that if the tenant has been in occupation for more than short term a landlord cannot complain if the premises are a little tired and must assume that any new tenant will spruce them up.

    The parties can of course limit the tenant’s obligations by reference to a schedule of condition. However, doing that is “a shield and not a sword”. If something is beyond repair a tenant needs to ensure that it is excluded from his repairing obligations altogether.

    Are you able to break this one down Barney style for me so that an idiot like me can understand.

    Can you give examples of the expectations and responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants?


      There is legislation beyond that.

      Consumer legislation gives tenants rights that things are of reasonable quality (in various ways) and elements of a property that are not working as might be expected should be brought to a tenants attention before they decide to rent. So something that needed repairing by a tenant at the start of the tenancy would need to have been known by the tenant before the start.

      The Unfair terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 would (well should) prevent a tenant being bound by any contractual term "which has not been individually negotiated ... if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer." So contractual terms have to maintain that balance - terms requiring betterment would probably struggle to pass that test, for example.

      The Tenant Fees Act 2019 has a list of payments that are not prohibited.
      The list is intended to be exhaustive, so anything else is prohibited.
      It doesn't include payments for repairs (or maintenance events) or even cleaning.

      That doesn't overcome a landlord's ability to claim compensation for loss, but does mean (I think) that they can't require the tenant to do anything that the tenant couldn't be expected to do themselves, because they'd be compelled to pay someone else to do it or purchase equipment to do it.

      That's an untested area of law, but, at one extreme, would mean that a tenant with no lawnmower couldn't be compelled to keep the lawn mowed (which is obviously daft) but would probably mean that a contractual term requiring the customer to decorate every few years isn't allowed.
      That's obviously a very "strict" reading of the legislation, but I think the general construction of the Act is intended that the tenant pays the absolute minimum apart from rent.
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


        Originally posted by ExpertInAField View Post
        Are you able to break this one down Barney style for me so that an idiot like me can understand.

        Can you give examples of the expectations and responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants?
        On this and other questions much misinformation has been sown on the internet to the extent that many (including some lawyers) have come to believe that the law is different from what it is simply because the incorrect information has been repeated so often.

        Over at least the last hundred years or so, Parliament has worked fairly hard, and seems to be continuing to do so, to curb the expectations of landlords because it considers them to be unreasonable. Going back further, the law in general may be said to allow a man to drive a hard bargain, but not to allow him to abuse his bargaining power by imposing unreasonable conditions in his dealings.

        When it comes to repairs the law recognises that over a period buildings deteriorate. When it comes to commercial property the law leaves it to market forces and the parties are free to agree whatever they want, though damages awarded for a failure to repair are limited. With respect to residential property the law provides that the obligations which can be imposed on short term tenants are less onerous than those which can be imposed on long term tenants.

        In summary, the law provides as follows with respect to short term residential tenancies:

        · The landlord cannot impose on a tenant an obligation to repair, or contribute to the cost of reparing, the structure, exterior, service media, hot water and heating installations.
        . Subject to that, the tenant can be obliged by the terms of the tenancy to keep the interior in repair and decorative order and his obligations will be as set out.
        · Any damages awarded for a breach of the tenant's repairing obligations are limited and cannot exceed the landlord's loss which is deemed to be the decrease in value of the property.
        · In assessing whether the tenant is in breach allowance must be made for fair wear and tear. Different standards of repair may apply according to the age of the property, its location and condition at the start of the tenancy. A landlord cannot expect to get his property back exactly as he let it.
        · A tenant must compensate the landlord for any damage he does to the property, though that obligation may be removed if the landlord can claim on his insurance.


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