Repair responsibilities of landlords, tenants and occupiers
The repairing rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant and the duty of care owed by an occupier.
Covid-19: Repairs and safety during the pandemic
During the coronavirus pandemic, the statutory repairing obligations remain unchanged. Works and inspections should be carried out in line with the current public health advice.
The revised non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants contains the latest advice on how landlords can meet their repairing obligations safely during the Covid-19 pandemic, including where the tenant is self-isolating. The guidance changes regularly.
Local authority enforcement and inspections
The local authorities' powers and duties in relation to enforcement of housing standards remain unchanged during the coronavirus pandemic.
The non-statutory guidance for local authorities advises on how enforcement interventions can be safely carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic, including where the tenant is self-isolating. The guidance changes regularly.
The Gas Safe Register (GSR) guidance currently states that GSR inspections will take place following social distancing guidelines.
The repairing responsibilities of the landlord can be found in the express and implied terms of the tenancy.
Repairs to the structure and interior under section 11
Probably the most important term is the implied term under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, that landlords of most tenancies must keep the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house in repair. They must also keep the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and heating water in good repair and proper working order.
The landlord can be liable for disrepair that is not covered by the terms of the tenancy. This liability arises most commonly from the torts of negligence and nuisance, and the Defective Premises Act 1972.
Where a local authority carries out an inspection of rented housing and finds that it contains hazards, the authority may take enforcement action against the landlord.
In addition, landlords have specific responsibilities in respect to gas and electrical safety, fire safety, furnishings, asbestos, refuse and vermin.
Houses in multiple occupation
The landlord of a house in multiple occupation also has responsibilities regarding fire safety, management, the number of occupiers and the condition of the property.
Parts of property retained for occupation by the landlord
The landlord also has certain responsibilities for parts of the property which they have retained for their occupation.
This could be a room in the property or common parts such as entrance steps, a courtyard or the roof. The occupier's responsibilities are covered below.
Like the landlord, the tenant has repairing responsibilities that are found in the express and implied terms of the tenancy:
To behave in a 'tenant-like manner' – implied term
There is an implied term for the tenant to maintain the property in a 'tenant-like manner'.
In one case this was described as meaning that the tenant is obliged to avoid or repair wilful or negligent damage, and do the minor acts necessary to keep the premises in a reasonable state. Examples were given of repairing the electric light if it fuses and unblocking the sink if it becomes blocked by waste. The tenant's duty includes turning off the water and emptying the boiler if going away for the winter, but not if going away for a relatively short period.
The duty does not cover fair wear and tear, which is the landlord's responsibility.
To allow access for repairs – implied term
The tenant has an implied obligation to the landlord to give access for repairs.
The tenant is obliged to give access to the property at reasonable times of the day to allow the landlord/landlord's representative to view the condition of the property following 24 hours' notice in writing, or to carry out repairs following reasonable notice. Regulated and assured tenants are required to give access to the property and reasonable facilities for repairs to be carried out.
While there is no statutory obligation on the tenant to respond to the landlord’s notice and grant access in advance, preventing the landlord/landlord's representative from exercising their right to enter on the date specified in the landlord's notice could amount to a breach of contract.
Under the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases, the tenant must allow their landlord reasonable access for inspection and repair in accordance with their tenancy agreement.  Where a landlord is finding it difficult to get access to a property, they should communicate this to the tenant in response to any claim from the tenant in relation to a repair being carried out.
In one case, the County Court agreed to make an injunction to compel a housing association tenant to provide access to her property (in accordance with her tenancy agreement) to allow repairs to be carried out. The Court stated that the landlord had complied fully with the Pre-action protocol, and that the fact that there was some outstanding disagreement on the full extent of the landlord's liability for repairs did not mean that those repairs which had been agreed should not be carried out according to the landlord's schedule.
Express terms of the tenancy
The tenancy agreement, whether written or oral, may contain express terms in relation to repairs, maintenance and the landlord's right to enter to inspect or carry out repairs.
A repairing obligation in the tenancy agreement is only binding on the tenant if it is both not an unfair term, and does not relate to repairs for which the landlord has an implied statutory obligation under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
A tenancy agreement may impose express terms on the tenant in relation to facilitating the landlord’s access for the purpose of carrying out inspections and repair works. Such terms should be fair and the landlord should have regard to the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of their home.
In one case, where a term in the contract required a long leaseholder to ‘permit’ the landlord access for inspection on notice, the fact that the occupier failed to respond to the landlord’s notice and grant access in advance did not amount to a breach of contract – as the landlord did not actually seek to enter the property on the specified day, there was no evidence that the tenant refused access.
As an occupier
The tenant also has certain responsibilities as an occupier of the property.
Occupier responsibilities and duty of care
The occupier of a property has certain repairing obligations. This applies whether the occupier is a tenant, an owner-occupier, a licensee, or a landlord. The landlord's liability extends to parts of the property that they have retained for their occupation. This could be a room in the property or common parts such as entrance steps, a courtyard or the roof.
The occupier has a duty of care to a visitor to the property, so far as is reasonable, to ensure that they are reasonably safe while using the premises. The duty only applies to the purposes for which the visitor is invited or permitted by the occupier to be in the premises. The liability is to the visitor and to the visitor's property.
The occupier also has a duty to a person other than a visitor, such as a trespasser, if the:
occupier is aware of the danger or has reasonable grounds to believe that it exists
occupier knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is in or may come into the vicinity of the danger, and
risk is one against which, in all the circumstances of the case, the occupier may reasonably be expected to offer some protection
In this situation the liability is to the person alone and not for damage to the person's property.
Last updated: 17 March 2021
s.11(2)(a) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Wycombe Area Health Authority v Barnett (1982) 5 HLR 84, CA.
s.11(6) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Granada Theatres v Freehold Investment (Leytonstone)  1 WLR 570.
s.148 Rent Act 1977; s.16 Housing Act 1988.
New Crane Wharf Freehold Ltd v Dovener  UKUT 98 (LC).
7.6 Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases, Ministry of Justice, 30 January 2017.
6.3(c) Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair Cases, Ministry of Justice, 30 January 2017
Liverpool Mutual Homes v Mensah 2017, County Court at Liverpool, Case No: D70LV094, August 2017.
s.11(4) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
New Crane Wharf Freehold Ltd v Dovener  UKUT 98 (LC).
s.2(2) Occupiers' Liability Act 1957.
s.1 Occupiers' Liability Act 1984.