Repairing obligations implied terms in tenancy agreements

An obligation for a landlord to keep the dwelling house in good state of repair throughout the tenancy is implied in most agreements.

This content applies to England

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 implies an absolute and non-excludable obligation upon landlords to carry out basic repairs.

It is implied into all tenancy agreements unless the tenancy:

  • began before 24 October 1961

  • is a fixed term of seven years or more (with limited exceptions)

Section 11 is not implied into licence agreements.

The landlord cannot seek to avoid their obligations by using express contractual terms that either attempt to evade the liability[1] or pass them on to the tenant.[2] The obligations imposed cover both private and public landlords.

The landlord or their agent has the right to enter premises to inspect the condition and state of repair. They must give the tenant 24 hours' written notice of their intention to do so.[3]

Landlord's obligations under section 11

The landlord must keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling house and keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling house for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating, and heating water.

Owing to the extent of the implied terms within section 11 it has been subject to detailed examination.

Keep in repair

This is a continuing obligation to keep up the standard of repair throughout the tenancy. It also requires the landlord to put the premises into repair if it was not in good repair at the start of the tenancy.[4]

Whether a disputed item of required work is repair, renewal, maintenance or an improvement will ultimately be decided by the courts based on the facts of the individual case.[5] There is substantial case law on what constitutes repairs.

Dwelling house

The definition of a dwelling house for the purposes of section 11 is a building or part of a building that is let to the tenant wholly or mainly as a private residence.[6]

Keep in proper working order

This refers specifically to the installations in the property. The wording implies that the installations were in proper working order at the start of the tenancy.

If due to disrepair or design fault the item has never been in working order, a landlord with knowledge of the defect continues to be in breach of the implied term.[7]

Installations in the dwelling house

The landlord is obliged to keep in repair and proper working order the installations specifically mentioned in section 11.[8] The provision extends to cover water or gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, and other space heating installations such as vents for under-floor heating.

For tenancies granted before 15 January 1989, the installations must be in the tenant's dwelling. This causes particular problems for tenants with central heating systems outside the actual dwelling, such as those on estates and living in tower blocks. As the heating system is outside the dwelling, this is not covered by section 11.[9] Section 11 was extended by the Housing Act 1988 so that for tenancies granted on or after 15 January 1989, the obligation is extended to any installation which either directly or indirectly serves the dwelling and is either owned or controlled by the landlord.[10]

Where there is a complaint from a group of tenants with a central system, a tenant who benefits from the amendment would be able to take the case forward. This would also benefit those tenants who would not normally be able to use this provision.

Structure and exterior

Repairs that are structural relate to those elements of the dwelling that give it its essential appearance, stability and shape, elements which are distinct from decorations and fittings.[11] Internal and external plaster work is to be treated as part of the structure,[12] as are the staircase and banisters.[13] The exterior is the outside or external part of the dwelling and the implied term covers all outside parts of the building, including drains, gutters, and external pipes.

The existence of rising damp in a dwelling has been held to be the result of a breach of the landlord's duty to repair the structure and exterior of the property.[14]

Standards for section 11 repairs

The repairing obligations implied by section 11 are subject to the qualification that in determining the standard of repair, regard must be had to the age, character, and prospective life of the dwelling house and the locality in which it is situated.[15]

To some extent, the standards of repair required by section 11 are limited by this provision. The limitations do not allow the landlord to escape liability for repair but means that the property does not have to be put into a perfect state. It should be repaired to a standard that would make it fit for occupation.[16]

Notice requirements and time limits for section 11 repairs

A landlord is not liable to carry out any repair until they have been put on notice of the need for repair and have failed to carry out the repair within a reasonable time thereafter.[17] This is an implied term of all tenancy agreements imposing a section 11 repairing obligation on landlords, and applies only where the need for repair arises in relation to parts of the premises demised to the tenant; not over parts over which the landlord retains control.

It is the landlord's knowledge of the defect that is important and it is not always necessary for the tenant to have given notice for the landlord to be considered liable. In one case, the High Court held that where the property had been affected by widespread damp, the landlord had become aware of the disrepair during his visit, despite the tenant’s failure to draw his attention to the individual areas.[18]

A landlord may be in breach without notice or knowledge where they had a duty to inspect, or where the disrepair is outside the area demised to the tenant but still under the landlord's control.[19]

There is no definition of 'reasonable time'. In deciding what may be a reasonable time, the courts considers a number of factors, such as the extent of the disrepair, whether or not the tenant is living in the property, and the availability of replacement parts. For public sector landlords, there may be some indication of timescales through information showing targets for repairs.

Common parts

The common parts are considered to remain in possession of the landlord (within the landlord's control). The general rule is that a tenant is not required to give the landlord notice of any disrepair in the common parts before the landlord's obligation to repair arises.

In the case of a tenancy of an individual flat within a block, where the landlord is not the owner of the block, the requirement to give notice to the landlord applies.

Lettings not covered by section 11

Section 11 does not apply to:

  • tenancies that began before 24 October 1961

  • tenancies of seven years or more apart from:

    • fixed-term local authority flexible and secure tenancies granted on or after 1 April 2012[20]

    • fixed-term assured and assured shorthold tenancies granted by private registered providers of social housing on or after 1 April 2012, with the exception of shared ownership[21]

    • fixed-term tenancies with a break clause allowing the landlord to terminate the fixed-term before the seven years' period is up[22]

  • certain agricultural tenancies covered by the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995

  • most business tenancies[23]

  • certain properties let to local authorities and other public bodies[24]

  • crown tenancies, ie most tenants of Government departments[25]

Lettings for less than seven years

Lettings for less than seven years may not be covered if:[26]

  • the tenant can renew for a further fixed-term that would result in the whole fixed-term lasting for more than seven years in total, and

  • there is no break clause in the fixed-term agreement allowing the landlord to terminate it before seven years

Pre-1961 tenancies

A tenancy that would otherwise be outside section 11 because it started before 24 October 1961 may benefit from the provisions of that section in certain cases.

For example where the:

  • tenancy has had a fair rent registered on the basis that the tenancy is subject to section 11, and the landlord accepts rent. This information is available through the Valuation Office Agency – Electronic rent register search

  • earlier tenancy was ended and replaced by one starting after 1961. A replacement tenancy does not arise where someone succeeds after 1961 to a tenancy that began before that date. This is the case even if a new type of tenancy arises on succession, so, for example, an assured tenancy arising on succession to a Rent Act tenancy is not a replacement tenancy

In both of these cases, the landlord is bound by the section 11 repairing obligation.

Last updated: 15 April 2021


  • [1]

    s.12(1)(a) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [2]

    s.11(4) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985; Kerr & Anor (as Trustees) v Maass [2019] EWHC 95 (Ch).

  • [3]

    s.11(6) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [4]

    Proudfoot v Hart [1890] 25 QBD 40; Luxmore v Robson [1818] B & Ald 584; Saner v Bilton [1878] 7 Ch 815.

  • [5]

    Manprop v O'Dell [1969] 2 Ch 378.

  • [6]

    s.16(b) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [7]

    Liverpool Corporation v Irwin [1977] AC 239.

  • [8]

    s.11(1)(b) and (c) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [9]

    Campden Hill Towers v Gardner [1977] QB 823.

  • [10]

    s.11(1A) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [11]

    Irvine v Moran (1992) 24 HLR 1, QBD.

  • [12]

    Grand v Gill [2011] EWCA Civ 554.

  • [13]

    Hannon v Hillingdon Homes Ltd [2012] EWHC 1437 (QB).

  • [14]

    Uddin and another v Islington LBC [2015] EWCA Civ 369.

  • [15]

    s.11(3) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [16]

    Proudfoot v Hart [1890] 25 QBD 42.

  • [17]

    Makin v Watkinson [1870] LR 6 Ex 25; O'Brien v Robinson [1973] AC 912; Calabar Properties v Sticher [1983] 3 All ER 759 ; Morris v Liverpool (1987) 20 HLR 498; Earle v Charalambous [2006] EWCA Civ 1090.

  • [18]

    Kerr & Anor (as Trustees) v Maass [2019] EWHC 95 (Ch).

  • [19]

    British Telecommunications v Sun Life Assurance [1996] Ch 69 CA; Passley v Wandsworth LBC (1998) HLR 165 , CA.

  • [20]

    s.13(1A) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 as inserted by s.166 Localism Act 2011.

  • [21]

    s.13(1A) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 as inserted by s.166 Localism Act 2011.

  • [22]

    s.13(2)(b) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

  • [23]

    s.32(2) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [24]

    s.14(4) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [25]

    Department of Transport v Egoroff (1986) 18 HLR 326 CA.

  • [26]

    s.13(2)(c) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.