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What costs are landlords responsible for?

Published: 18/08/2020

Being the owner of a property comes with the associated costs of looking after it, whether it's your own home or a rental investment. Just as with us humans, your property will show signs of age as it gets older, some of which will add a natural character that makes it all the more attractive, and some of which will need regular attention to keep things looking their best.

Most responsibility for maintenance and repairs by landlords is fairly clear cut: things that are either a part of the structure (windows, brickwork, gutters, roofs, drains, doors, etc), and things that are supplied by you (kitchen cupboards, appliances, bathroom fittings, pipework, electrics, boilers, furniture, etc) are your responsibility to maintain, repair or replace as necessary through natural usage, but what about other parts of your property and when the unexpected happens?

Knowing what you are responsible for as a landlord means you can budget for ongoing maintenance to keep your property looking great, and also to sustain and increase its value. It will also help you avoid unexpected financial shocks, to be clear with your tenants over who pays for what, and to create a healthy relationship with your tenants around mutual respect for each other and your property.

The key thing is clarity from the outset: for you as a landlord when working out your costs, and for your tenants in knowing how to deal with anything that may arise during the course of their tenancy.

It's also essential to make a detailed and accurate inventory at the start of each tenancy that is signed by you and your tenants to help both parties reach an agreement in the event of any disputes.

Let's take a look at five common areas of costs and who is responsible for them.


COMMUNAL AREAS
It's the responsibility of landlords and owner occupiers to ensure that any communal areas are properly maintained, cleaned and repaired wherever necessary.

It's very easy for these areas to become neglected, particularly when properties are rented out, but having them well maintained has a number of benefits: it sends a good message to tenants that looking after things matters; it helps to attract better tenants in the first place; it adds value to your property should you decide to sell or refinance.

So it's wise to have an agreement over what can and can't be left in communal areas – and how they should be used by residents and visitors – to ensure that everyone sees the value in keeping things looking great.


WEAR & TEAR
Even in your own home – and even as the most careful of homeowners – the act of simply living somewhere causes wear and tear on a property. Moving around and using things will always leave their mark and it would be an impossible ask of even the most fastidious person – whether tenant or owner – to maintain a state of absolute perfection throughout their time in residence.

Things like minor scuff marks on walls, faded paintwork, light scratches on timber floors and worn carpets are natural occurrences and are not something you would normally charge a tenant for. They should be accepted as costs that come with owning a property and that are compensated for by receiving an income from the people living there.

Budgeting for periodic redecoration is very sensible and the pride you take in presenting your rental property to the market will always help you attract the best tenants and rent.


BREAKAGES & DAMAGE

Accidents are a fact of life and whether you're living in your own home, or you're a tenant living in someone else's property, the chances are that something at some point is going to happen.

As with most accidents, the person who causes it is the person who is responsible for it, and you may well find that your tenants simply get on with the job of repairing whatever it is they broke or damaged with nobody being any the wiser.

If a breakage or damage is reported to you then, depending on your relationship with the tenant, you may choose to let them simply get on with sorting it out, or you may wish to obtain quotes yourself and then agree a cost with the tenant.

Remember that tenants are only responsible for the breakage or damage they cause. So, for instance, if they were to damage a section of timber flooring, they would not be responsible for the entire cost of replacing the whole floor if that was the action you decided to take.

Tenants do have the option of liability insurance to cover any items supplied by the landlord, so you could make that clear to them at the outset of the tenancy.


NEGLECT
Neglect is a two-way street. A landlord may neglect their property by failing to maintain it and make repairs, while a tenant may neglect a property by either misuse, or by failing to report an issue early on which then becomes a bigger deal.

As a landlord your best course of action is to take an interest in looking after your property to set a good example to your tenants, and to make clear the importance of reporting issues early to save them becoming responsible for a bigger bill that could have been avoided by saying something sooner. This is particularly important with any matters involving water or electricity: very often a small leak can be prevented from turning into a deluge by getting to it fast.

It pays to inspect your property during a tenancy in case something has gone unnoticed, because it's difficult to prove that a tenant has deliberately kept you uninformed of something they knew about for a long time.


PRIVATE GARDENS
Usually speaking it's your tenant's responsibility to maintain any garden that is private to your property, so it's sensible to make it easy for them by having a garden that is easy to care for: e.g. outdoor areas that are paved or decked require far less maintenance than lawns.

If you do have a garden that is more complicated and stocked with a wide and varied range of plants and flowers – this can be the case for landlords who rent out a property that was once their home – and where it's important to you that it's kept looking its best (maybe you intend to move back in later on), then you could decide to include the cost of a periodic visit from a gardener within the rent. Or you might get lucky and find a particularly green-fingered tenant!

For communal gardens, the costs of maintaining these are usually covered within a building's service charges.


We hope we've given you some perspective on your responsibilities when it comes to the upkeep of your rental property, but if you'd like to talk about any aspect of maintenance or being a landlord, our lettings team would love to help.

Tring office: 01442 820420
Berkhamsted office: 01442 863000