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Do you and your tenant agree on repairs?

This guide was last updated 13 March 2018

How a little communication can help you repair your relationship with your tenant (and build your reputation)

Do you know who’s responsible for common problems, like repairing white goods or even changing lightbulbs?

A new study* took 1000 landlords and 1000 tenants from across the UK and asked them about their experiences. The results imply that, when it comes to the issue of repairs, there’s a lot of confusion.

For example, nearly one in 10 think that the landlord is responsible for changing a lightbulb. What’s more surprising is that this number includes some landlords.

The kinds of responsibilities that cause confusion

Perhaps new tenants can be excused for not knowing who’s responsible for the small things, like changing a lightbulb. If you have tenants that attend university, you might not be surprised to learn that 14% of students think their landlord should do this.

When it comes to more serious breakdowns, like broken washing machines, most landlords are willing to take on the responsibility, with 59% of landlords surveyed saying they handle repairing white goods. But of the remaining landlords, around a quarter said it was down to their tenants to fix these appliances.

What about maintaining the exterior and entrance points to the property? Nearly a fifth of landlords, (18%) said that they think the tenant is responsible for repairing broken locks. Naturally, the proportion of tenants who agreed with this was lower, but significant enough, at 10%.

With statistics like these, it’s not surprising that some tenants and landlords end up in long, drawn-out email exchanges about who should be doing (and paying) for what.

Working out who is responsible

The tenancy agreement is a good starting point, but what do you do when it’s not comprehensive enough to list out specific items?

It’s important to familiarise yourself with the legal responsibilities of both parties. You should take some time to look the landlord’s responsibilities on the Government website. There’s also a good summary of tenant responsibilities on the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website too.

Regarding the issues mentioned above, tenants are expected to replace light bulbs, but the repair of locks and boilers is down to you. The landlord is generally responsible for repairs to white goods too, unless the tenants had them installed after moving in.

The only thing that’s clear from the survey results is that landlords and tenants are not communicating. Taking some time to talk about repairs at the beginning of the tenancy could solve a lot of problems. From bulbs to boilers, have the conversation and get your tenants on the same page.

Repairs, relationships and reputations.

When London’s tenants were asked about their top three bugbears, 35% selected ‘landlords that are slow to deal with issues’. When you consider that as many as 13% of London’s landlords thought that issues like a broken boiler should be dealt with within a week, it’s easy to see how expectations can be mismatched.

Our in-house expert, Andrew Montlake, explains the wider implications of the data and the link between repairs, relationships and reputations. “In our experience, the best landlords are the ones who actually show that they care about their tenants and being quick to respond to issues is a major plus point.”

“Piling them in and cutting corners on cost and being slow to react is not a reputation any landlord wants, particularly at the higher ends of the rental market. In fact, at any end of the market, there is no excuse for shoddy service and not looking after tenants properly”.

But how can you start to get ahead of the statistics and build or enhance your reputation? By finding out what’s important to your customers. For example, according to the survey, another major area where tenant and landlord expectations are often mismatched is notice periods for visits.

When London tenants were asked to choose the key attributes they look for in a landlord, nearly a third of them (32%) said ‘not showing up unannounced’ was a top priority. When landlords were asked the same question, only 15% thought this would be a key priority for their tenants.

Andrew’s expertise aligns perfectly with the data as he explains how taking a customer-focused approach will soon start to pay you back, with ‘interest’.

“I have a particular landlord in London who has prospective tenants contacting him keen to rent his flats because of his reputation. This can help to achieve better quality tenants, prepared to pay rents that they know will mean good quality accommodation from a landlord who cares.”

*All results are taken from a recent study.