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Tenant Advice: Property Maintenance: Your Rights, Responsibilities and Reporting Requests

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Mon 13 Dec 2021

Tenant Advice: Property Maintenance: Your Rights, Responsibilities and Reporting Requests

With the colder, wetter weather here and Christmas ahead, it’s a useful time as a tenant to ensure that you’re fulfilling your obligations when it comes to property maintenance.  No one wants to be stuck with an emergency at Christmastime so now is the ideal time to ensure everything is in place and to be sure of your rights and responsibilities when it comes to property maintenance. Dealing with maintenance in the correct way means that contractors can be prioritised in the best possible so that when help is needed there’s better availability to meet your request.

“Tenant-Like Manner”

As a tenant you are required to treat your home in a “tenant-like manner.”  This means that as well as not causing damage, you are also required to take responsibility for the small jobs that are part of living in any property.  To decide whether a maintenance issue is part of this, it’s helpful to consider “If I owned the property, would I call out a contractor to tend to this?”  If the answer is no, then it’s likely to be covered by this responsibility to resolve the issue yourself, in a tenant-like manner.

Tenant-like manner jobs include:

  • Replacing consumables, such as the batteries in smoke detectors and the bulbs in light fittings;
  • Re-pressurising a combi-boiler (instructions can usually be found in its manual or on YouTube as a video guide) or adjusting the thermostat
  • Bleeding radiators;
  • Checking the fuse box in issues of a power outage;
  • Unblocking toilets and sinks;
  • Regular garden maintenance;
  • Preventing infestations of pests;
  • Taking steps to prevent condensation and mould, including heating the property in an appropriate way, ensuring adequate ventilation and not drying clothes in doors if possible and definitely not using radiators for this
  • Using all gas and electrical facilities correctly and upholding safe practices.

As a tenant, you should also ensure that you have appropriate liability and contents insurance to cover accidental damage to the property as well as your own belongings.

Reporting Maintenance

There will be times when maintenance issues go beyond your responsibilities and your landlord has an obligation to keep the structure and exterior of the property in repair (including drains, gutters, and pipes) and installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation and space of water heating in keep in repair and proper working order.

As a tenant you also have a responsibility to notify your landlord or managing agent of any matters that come under these landlord responsibilities.  At Brittons, non-emergency issues should be logged via the PropertyFile app.  This can be accessed at any time and means that your request is automatically logged as requiring attention. 

An emergency issue, however, should be reported by phone and as a tenant you should make sure that you have the number required to contact your landlord or letting agent both during office hours and when the office is closed.  In this context, an emergency is deemed to have occurred when an unforeseen circumstance arises that if not dealt with quickly would:

  • damage or lead to significant further damage to the property;
  • endanger the occupant or cause them unreasonable discomfort;
  • render the property unfit or unsafe for habitation or insecure.

Emergency issues that should be reported immediately even if they happen out of hours include burst pipes, blocked drains, a break-in if security is breached, fire (in these cases please contact the police or fire brigade first), gas leak (please call 0800 111 999 first), having no heating (between October and May or if a vulnerable person such as a young child or elderly person lives at the property), or having no water.

Issues with drains beyond the perimeter of a property should be reported directly to the appropriate water company – for Brittons tenants this is Anglian Water (03457 145 145) – as this is public land and not part of the tenancy.

Being unable to cook a certain meal because part of the cooker isn’t working, being unable to use a toilet when there is a second toilet in the property or being unable to use the shower are not deemed to be emergency issues and should be reported and processed as a normal maintenance issue.

If you are ever unsure, do get in touch with your landlord or managing agent as they will be able to advise on the best way to proceed.  If it is an issue that is felt you can deal with yourself, the chances are that by following simple instructions you can resolve the issue faster than having to wait for a contractor to be available, in minutes, rather than hours or days.  Be aware that where a contractor is appointed for an issue that could have been resolved yourself or has been caused by mis-use or damage, you are likely to be liable for payment.  You will also be liable for payment for works instructed without prior approval from your managing agent or your landlord.

Maintenance Appointments

Having maintenance issues can be frustrating, but please be kind, polite and respectful when reporting an issue.  Please note, rent payments are still due as per your rent schedule, even when maintenance works are required; you don't have the right to withhold rent because you perceive your landlord as having failed to carry out repairs.

By all means seek an update if you are unsure of what’s due to happen next or haven’t heard from a contractor when you should have.  However, also bear in mind that contractors rarely work exclusively for a letting agent and maintenance requests have to be scheduled as they would be for anyone depending on the priority of the work and having to order parts to complete a job.  The loan of plug-in heaters when there is an issue with the central heating may be offered to ensure that the landlord’s obligations are fulfilled.  However, tenants will only be offered alternative accommodation in the most extreme circumstances where the property is uninhabitable.

To ensure that work can be carried out as swiftly as possible however, tenants should work with their landlord/managing agent and any appointed contractor:

  • Ensure that contact details are up-to-date and accessible;
  • Either ensure that you can be available to be present for access as needed, or if possible*, grant permission for us to be able to provide the contractor with management keys.  (*Please note: you will need to be present if you have a dog/dogs at the property);
  • Advise of any dates/times that you would not be able to accommodate a contractor visit;
  • Respond promptly to appointment requests so that available slots aren’t lost.

For specific advice relating to your tenancy, please check any Tenant Information Pack that you may have been provided with at the start of your tenancy or ask your landlord/letting agent for their policy and contact details when it comes to maintenance.  Knowing in advance what’s expected of you as a tenant and where to turn for help when an issue arises can ensure that any maintenance is dealt with as effectively as possible.

If you are a landlord with rental property in King's Lynn or West Norfolk and would like an experiencced latting agent to manage your property maintenance for you, give us a call on -1553 692828 and let Brittons let for you.