Landlord responsibilities: fixtures and fittings guide
Landlords of both domestic and commercial properties have a legal duty to keep it in a safe and good condition, which means carrying out certain repairs in a timely manner.
In fact, if you ever find yourself in the positions of having to evict a tenant, failure to undertake repairs raised by them could result in the eviction process being delayed significantly. In some cases, if unresolved repairs are raised once eviction is instigated the whole process will be unable to start until repairs have been remedied. With long notice periods this could lead to considerable delays and potential loss of income if your tenant has stopped paying rent.
However, tenants are also expected to look after the property, including any landlord’s fixtures and fittings provided, and are likely to be responsible for minor repairs.
Here, we’ll look at the specific responsibilities relating to fixtures and fittings.
We’ve broken it down into the following sections so you can quickly find the information you need:
- What are fixtures and fittings?
- What fixtures and fittings is a landlord responsible for?
- What should a tenant repair?
- How to insure fixtures and fittings
- Fixtures and fittings in commercial properties
Fixtures and fittings is often thought of as a catch-all term for items attached to a property but, while the term ‘fittings’ has no legal definition, there is a broadly accepted distinction between the two. Fixtures are items that are permanently attached – or fixed – to the property, like a fitted kitchen, boiler, baths, sinks and toilets. Such items would almost always be included in the sale of a house.
Fittings can also be attached to the property, but are generally more temporary in nature, and can include things like mirrors, curtains or blinds, and some shelving or cabinets hung on a wall.
The tenancy agreement should list what types of fixtures and fittings the landlord is responsible for repairing, and the tenants’ duty to look after things and not to cause any damage beyond normal wear and tear.
Broadly, as a landlord, you will be responsible for anything that was in the property when the tenant moved in, such as:
- Permanent bathroom and kitchen fittings
- Boilers and other heating equipment like radiators, pipes, gas fires
- Supplied appliances like cookers and washing machines if included in the tenancy agreement
- Drainage, water pipes and gutters
- Electrical wiring and permanent light fittings
- Chimneys, flues and ventilation
- Structural items like roofing material, broken floorboards and bannisters, faulty windows and doors
Tenants are expected to carry out minor repairs that most competent people could do themselves, such as changing light bulbs and fuses, and unblocking sinks or baths, and redecorating any walls they damage. Depending on the terms of the tenancy agreement, the tenant may also be responsible for keeping the garden in the same condition as when they moved in.
Can landlords refuse to carry out repairs?
Although landlords are responsible for repairing fixtures and fittings under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, there are some exceptions where either the tenant is responsible or no action is required by law.
Specifically, these are:
- Damage caused by the tenant misusing equipment or deliberately or recklessly damaging it
- If there is destruction or damage by fire, tempest, flood or other inevitable accident, the landlord is not required to rebuild or reinstate the property
- Damage to anything the tenant has brought into the property and is entitled to remove
If the tenant decides to install their own washing machine, they are responsible both for its safety and maintenance, and for repairing any damage it may cause, such as water damage following a leak.
What happens if a fixture or fitting needs repairing?
The landlord is required to carry out necessary repairs to fixtures and fittings only once they have been notified of a problem by the tenant.
Once you have been notified by the tenant, you can arrange to visit the property for an inspection, giving a minimum of 24 hours’ notice, or whatever time period is specified in the tenancy agreement.
You may sometimes be happy for the tenant to arrange the repair themselves, but cannot force them to do so if you are legally responsible. It’s worth asking the tenant to get more than one estimate – after all, you’re paying the bill.
Where you either want to do the repair yourself or arrange for a tradesperson to carry it out, you must again give the required notice period. If you fail to carry out repairs for which you are legally responsible, the tenant may have the right to go to court for “housing disrepair” compensation.
Landlords are responsible for insuring their own fixtures and fittings, but do not have to provide cover for anything brought into the property by tenants.
Does contents insurance cover fixtures and fittings?
Alan Boswell’s landlord contents insurance includes cover for domestic furniture and furnishings including carpets, curtains, blinds, light fittings and white goods.
Things like external pipes, drains, guttering etc, can be covered under landlord buildings insurance, which includes up to £5,000 of cover for landlord’s fixtures, fittings and white goods.
Things get slightly more complicated for fixtures and fittings in commercial premises, as tenants will often make alterations to the interior of a building or install fixtures that specifically relate to their business.
In essence, fixtures and fittings belonging to the landlord must be safe to use and maintained by them, while the tenant is responsible for any that they install.
Much will depend on the exact terms of the lease, which will specify who is responsible for what. Where a property is rented out to multiple tenants, landlords are likely to be responsible for all fixtures and fittings in communal areas.