Being a landlord demands a high level of commitment, not only to reduce void periods and keep your property marketable but also to maintain its safety and habitability for tenants.
One issue that commonly arises between landlords and their tenants is which party is responsible for maintenance issues such as plumbing.
With that in mind, here’s a detailed run-through of the facts so you know which plumbing issues you are legally responsible for.
Pre-tenancy plumbing checks
Before a new tenancy begins, it is the landlord’s responsibility to identify and fix any plumbing issues that exist within the property. The property must be in a safe and liveable condition when the tenant moves in. If it’s not, it could lead to enforcement action from the local authority. Your pre-tenancy plumbing checks should include:
+ Taps – Check for any drips or leaks
+ Sinks – Make sure water is draining properly
+ Bathtubs/showers – Replace the seals if necessary and look for signs of damp
+ Pipes – Check for corrosion on metal pipes
+ Drains – Remove any obstructions from the gutters and drains. A pre-tenancy drain clean and inspection will provide peace of mind.
+ Boilers and hot water cylinders – Check that everything is working as it should be. All gas appliances should be inspected annually by a Gas Safe engineer
+ Radiators, fittings and valves – Make sure the radiators are working properly
+ Accessibility – If one or more of your tenants is disabled, you may be required to make reasonable adjustments such as the installation of bathroom handrails
If any plumbing issues are identified before the tenant moves in, then it is your responsibility to fix them. As well as ensuring the safety and habitability of the property, this will also allow you to identify problems early before they develop into serious and more expensive issues.
When the tenant moves in
When the tenant moves in, you should provide them with information they can use in the event of an emergency – for example, the number of an emergency plumber and instructions about how to turn off the mains water and gas supply.
You should also explain the potential damage that can be caused by washing non-biodegradable items and food waste down sinks and drains, and make them aware that any blockages to drains, waste pipes and gullies through misuse will be their responsibility. This can be included in a tenant information pack or communicated verbally.
The responsibility for repairs
Once the tenant has moved into the property, the responsibility for plumbing repairs depends on the reason for the fault and the type of repair. If damage has been caused through misuse by the tenant or a tenant exacerbating a problem by attempting to fix an issue themselves, then they will be required to foot the bill. If a fault is the result of normal wear and tear, then it should be fixed by the landlord. However, if it’s a minor repair, such as a dripping tap, that’s likely to be the responsibility of the tenant depending on the terms stipulated in the lease.
When should repairs be made?
If a tenant contacts you to inform you of a fault, then you should tell them when you expect the repair to be made. This must be within a reasonable timeframe. What constitutes a reasonable timeframe depends on the severity of the fault.
- Urgent repairs – If there is a serious issue that affects the safety or habitability of the property, then it is the responsibility of the landlord to make the repair. Urgent repairs should be attended to within 24 hours whenever possible and include:
- Blocked toilets
- Burst water mains
- Ceiling leaks
- Any other plumbing fault that makes the property unsafe
- Non-urgent repairs – The responsibility for non-urgent repairs will depend on the rental agreement and the reason for the fault. It will include things like leaking taps and blocked drains. This type of fault should be repaired within 14 days.
Extra clarity to keep things flowing
If you’re a new landlord and are not sure where your responsibilities start and finish, or you need a bit of a refresher, hopefully this handy guide will help you avoid conflict and uncomfortable conversations in the future.
Rob Simpson owns the East Anglian Drain Doctor franchise.