Landlords – Responsibilities and liabilities to tenants

Everyone seems to have some sort of advice to a landlord about responsibilities towards tenants – but just what are they and how do they affect the legal obligations of the job?

Here is a brief guide to what the law says a landlord should do. The guide highlights key points and is not legal guidance – if you have any doubts or queries about your rights or obligations as a landlord, then consult a suitably qualified professional, like a solicitor.

Repairs and Maintenance

As a rule, a landlord must keep a rented home in a reasonable state of repair inside and out that withstands normal weather conditions and day-to-day use by tenants.

Specific repair and maintenance responsibilities are often set out in the tenancy agreement.

Any that are covered by law are ‘implied terms’ and are considered part of the agreement even if they are not mentioned.

Avoiding these terms by inserting clauses in the tenancy agreement is likely to flout the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. A court will simply scratch out the clause and order the landlord to act as if it was never inserted.

Damp is a key responsibility. Although condensation is often caused by tenants failing to ventilate their home, landlords need to ensure the home can be ventilated and has no structural issues that cause the problem.

This is relevant as condensation can lead to respiratory problems. Both statutory and common law require a landlord ensures a home has no unacceptable risk to the health and safety of tenants.

Common Law Implied Terms

Over the years, the courts have given landlords and tenants rights – here are some of the most common:

Quiet enjoyment

In simple terms, a landlord cannot turn up to check the home unannounced. Any visit should be by appointment and with good reason.

Looking after the property

Tenants are responsible for running the home – like tidiness, sorting out toilet and sink blockages they have caused, putting the rubbish out and keeping the garden tidy.

Clearing up rubbish

Tenants must ensure the property is not deliberately damaged, is kept clean and free from rubbish inside and out.

Fair wear and tear

The property should be left in the same condition as when the tenants moved in, fair wear and tear excepted. Fair wear and tear means deterioration like scuffs to paint work, wear on carpets and the general condition expected by day-to-day use of the home.

Paying repairs out of rent

Tenants should not withhold rent in lieu of repairs and should report any maintenance needed to the landlord.

Statutory Implied Terms

These terms are derived from three separate laws:

Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

This law requires the landlord to repair and maintain:

  • The structure, interior and exterior of the home
  • The utilities, like water, drainage, gas and electricity
  • Water and heating
  • Communal areas controlled by the landlord

The act also states that the standard of repair depends on the age, type and location of the home.

Two other key areas are dealt with by the act – access and breach of repair obligations


The landlord should have access to a property to view the condition and state of repair. Access can only be at a reasonable time and the tenant should have at least 24 hours’ notice of the inspection in writing.

The law does not deal directly with access to carry out repairs. The right to do this is usually stated in tenancy agreements. If a tenant refuses access for repairs, they are in no position to complain about any lack of repairs nor can they claim damages for any personal injury that might result.

Refusing access that leads to damage worsening could leave the tenant liable for additional costs once the repairs are carried out.

If a tenant refuses access, they breach the tenancy agreement, as right of access is an implied term. In certain cases, the landlord can apply for a possession order to deal with the repairs.

Generally, landlords should not enter a property when tenants are out.

Breach of repair

The landlord can pass on the cost of repairs to the tenant if the tenant’s breach of their obligations led to the need for the work.

Tenants can also take action in the county court if landlords fail to carry out repairs to their home.
Before starting legal proceedings, tenants must comply with a ‘pre-action protocol for housing disrepair’, warning the landlord in writing of their issues. If the protocol is not followed, the landlord can ask the court to delay the claim.

A court is more likely to order the repairs to be carried out for a tenant but at the landlord’s expense. The tenant can also still claim compensation even if repairs are carried out by the time a case is heard in court.

Defective Premises Act 1972

This law details the landlord’s duty of care to tenants and their visitors regarding defects at a property ‘to see that they are reasonably safe from personal injury or from damage to their property caused by a relevant defect’.

A ‘relevant defect’ is anything that a landlord knew, or should have known, about. Just because a defect has not been reported or not inspected does not mean a landlord has no liability.

The law also lets tenants claim compensation for damage to their property or personal injury.

Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957

This act details an occupier’s duty of care to all visitors who visit their property.

This applies to landlords as the legal occupier of, for instance, shared-use areas like lifts, stairs and hallways. In some cases liability extends to car parks and grounds.

The landlord is liable for any injuries to visitors as a result of defects in any part of the building the landlord occupies. The landlord is required ‘in all circumstances to see that the visitor is reasonably safe in using the premises for its purpose’.


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