In law, there is no duty on a landlord to repair or to ensure that the dwelling is habitable

There are limited exceptions to this, such as where a tenant is obliged by his/her tenancy to repair the inside of the dwelling but cannot comply by reason of the exterior being in manifest disrepair

By reason of the limited nature of these exceptions, Parliament has intervened, principally with a set of terms under S11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which are implied into all tenancy agreements of less than seven years (granted on or after 24 October 1961)

S11 imposes on landlords certain repairing obligations which are absolute and cannot be excluded

1.         To keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling (including drains, gutters and external pipes)

2.         To keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for the making use of the supply of water gas or electricity)

3.         To keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for space heating and heating water

(For tenancies granted after 15 January 1989, such obligations also apply to a tenancy of a dwelling which forms part only of a building)

“keep in repair”

This imposes a continuing obligation on the landlord to keep up the standard of repair for the duration of the tenancy (and to put into repair if items are not in good repair at the outset of the tenancy)

“keep in …proper working order”

The use of these words necessarily presupposes that at the start of the tenancy the relevant installations were in proper working order.  Accordingly, the landlord is under a continuing obligation to keep an installation(s) in proper working order for the duration of the tenancy

(What if there is a change in supply?  In O’Connor v. Old Etonians Housing Association Limited (2002) the Court of Appeal held that an installation would be in proper working order if it was able to function under those conditions of supply that it was reasonable to anticipate would prevail)

Standard of repair

S11 repair obligations are subject to an important qualification that, in determining the standard of repair to be required, regard is to be had to the age, character and prospective life of the dwelling and the locality which it is situated

The standard is no higher for a social landlord, than a private landlord

Limitation to S11 obligations

The key limitation to S11 is that no liability can be imposed on a landlord for breach of S11 until the landlord has knowledge of the disrepair complained of (whether directly, or indirectly) and fails to effect repairs within a reasonable period of time thereafter

(It is for the tenant to prove to the Court’s satisfaction the landlord’s knowledge of the disrepair and his/her failure to effect repairs within a reasonable period of time)

Access for the landlord

A landlord has a right of access to carry out repairs and to inspect for repairs, whether by way of implied licence, or under S11 for a reasonable period of time to effect the repair

Use in a tenant-like manner

A landlord is not obliged to do repairs which the tenant is liable to do by virtue of his/her duty to use the dwelling in a tenant-like manner

A tenant is expected ‘to do the little jobs around the place which a reasonable tenant would do’.  For example, to turn off the water when the tenant goes away on holiday, to change light bulbs and to mend fuses, to clean windows and unblock sinks.