Landlords have a common law obligation to maintain a let property reasonably free from disrepair. The local authority may take enforcement action if they identify risks including, but not limited to, items of repair under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004. Letting/renting a house in multiple occupation (HMO) adds specific management obligations for landlords and occupiers. These obligations are detailed in Chapter 2 of this manual.
The landlord, or some responsible person acting on the landlord’s behalf, should visit the house regularly. Visits can also be carried out at any other reasonable time if the tenant reports a problem. This is both to identify and to prioritise repairs and other works which may need doing and to ascertain whether the tenancy conditions are being met. It is good practice to visit at least six monthly. As conditions within residential premises are now risk- assessed under the HHSRS the person undertaking the visits should also be looking out for hazards.
Some visits will need to be undertaken by a qualified and competent person, for example, a suitably qualified gas engineer for annual gas safety checks or a competent electrician for periodic fire alarm checks.
Tenants must have a means of contacting the landlord or letting agent at all times and there must be a procedure in place to deal adequately with emergencies. Any works, however identified, need to be resolved within a reasonable time period depending on their seriousness.
It is good practice to keep a record of all visits and/or referrals from the tenant, including the proposed solution and outcome. Some landlords have a standard checklist, which provides a useful prompt of things to look for and a record of what was found. Some landlords give a copy to their tenants.
Receipts should be kept when repairs are undertaken, for which the cost may be recovered through any of the tenancy deposit schemes and for tax purposes.
It is important to note that, unless the tenant agrees otherwise, a landlord must give adequate, at least 24 hours’ written notice of any visit and its purpose. Some landlords include a note saying they will change the appointment to a mutually convenient date if requested and that unless the tenant objects they will let themselves in to conduct the inspection. If this procedure is used it should be incorporated into any tenancy agreement.
Visits must not be intrusive. If they were, this could constitute harassment. Any terms in the tenancy agreement regarding access must be reasonable.
These conditions apply only to areas where the tenant or tenants (in the case of a joint tenancy) have exclusive possession. Landlords can access communal areas which remain under their control at all reasonable hours. It is normally courteous to give tenants notice of any works in these communal areas that may cause them inconvenience.