Probably one of the most onerous overhead expenses you face as a landlord is the cost of repairs and maintenance to the property. Indeed, the expense may be almost enough to overlook or to put off to a later date any repairs or maintenance which needs to be done – you may do so at some considerable peril, however.
Here’s why …
Your duty of care
The UK’s housing charity Shelter makes the general point that the majority of repairs to a let property are the responsibility of the landlord rather than the tenant.
As a landlord, you have a duty of care towards your tenants and to any members of the public who may suffer personal injury or loss or damage to their property by coming into contact with your let property. Your negligence of that duty of care may prompt claims for compensation from tenants or members of the public so affected.
In recognition of this peril, landlord insurance typically makes provision for indemnity against property owners’ and public liability claims. Such cover may provide protection up to a minimum of £1 million or more.
In the event of any such claim, however, it is usual for your insurer to take into account any contributory negligence on your own part. If you have failed to take all reasonable steps to adequately maintain your let property or to carry out repairs in a timely fashion, your insurer may judge that you have contributed to the negligence claimed by a tenant or by a member of the public.
In that event, any settlement by your insurer of the claim may be reduced accordingly – leaving you with a potentially considerable contribution towards the cost of any damages awarded to the claimant. In the event of a particularly flagrant failure to maintain your property, the provider of your landlords insurance may reject your claim for indemnity entirely.
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
The system has been in force for nearly ten years now and is described in more detail on the government website and related documents.
It is designed to ensure certain basic standards of health and safety for tenants in rented accommodation. It addresses three principal areas of concern:
- the physiological and psychological well-being of tenants – adequate heating and ventilation, freedom from noise, over-crowding and so on;
- sanitation – a freedom from pests, infestations and the risk of infection; and
- safety – an environment in which the tenant is protected to all reasonable degree against accidents in the let property.
Inspections may be made by your local authority and, if potential breaches of the HHSRS are discovered, a range of remedial and enforcement actions are available to the local authority.
These range from notices advising the need for improvements to be made, through legal enforcement notices, to emergency repairs carried out by the local authority or even compulsory demolition of the affected property.
As may be clear, therefore, a failure to adequately maintain your let property or to carry out repairs when they become necessary may not only invalidate your landlords insurance but run the risk of potentially severe actions on the part of your local authority in the process of enforcing the HHSRS.