Coronavirus: Information for landlords on repairs and safety inspections

As we navigate our way through the coronavirus crisis, a recurring question from landlords is: how do I meet my legal obligations regarding repairs and safety inspections?

A quick recap of Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 reminds us of the obligations, which are to:

  1. Keep the structure and exterior in repair to include drains and gutters
  2. Keep in repair the supply of gas, electricity and water to include sanitation such as toilets, basins, baths, showers and sinks
  3. Keep in repair space and water heating.

Section 11 obligations

The coronavirus crisis does not remove a landlord’s obligation to comply with Section 11 repair requests from tenants. However, considering the Government advice on social distancing and minimising travel, it would be prudent to take a common sense approach to all tenant requests, and make sure you have sufficient evidence to back up your decision as to why a repair has either been or not been conducted. For example, a leaking tap would not be deemed to be urgent, but it would be reasonable to define a non-working boiler as urgent. Explaining this clearly to a tenant would be good practice.

Urgent landlord repairs

If you are unable to conduct work which you have classed as ‘urgent’ for a particular reason – for example, the lack of a contractor, because parts can’t be sourced, or because the tenant has made you aware they are self-isolating – then it would be prudent to ensure you have sufficient evidence to defend any court action taken at a later stage. This can be achieved by obtaining a witness statement from a contractor stating they are unable/refusing to work, or if parts cannot be sourced because merchants/suppliers have closed or run out of supplies.

Gas safety inspections during the coronavirus pandemic

In relation to conducting a gas safety, as at the time of writing this blog, such a requirement is still required by law. Gas Safe, the body that oversees the gas inspection sector, has confirmed that it is currently awaiting Government advice on whether or not gas safety inspections should continue. The importance of gas safety inspections cannot be underestimated for not only health reasons but also allowing a landlord to validly serve a Section 21 notice. As we have seen in numerous court decisions recently, if a landlord is unable to evidence that a gas safety inspection has been conducted within the required time period, any subsequently served Section 21 would be seen as invalid. This could have serious consequences for a landlord, as that would only allow them to seek possession under a Section 8 notice, which is not the notice most commonly used when a tenant has breached the terms of the tenancy.

Therefore the importance of collating and retaining evidence of why a gas safety inspection could not be undertaken becomes crucial. As advised earlier, collating witness statements from relevant parties would be ideal. This should include their name, address, tenancy address, and a brief summary of why the gas safety inspection could not be conducted. In addition, this should be signed and dated to include a sentence stating that the facts contained within the statement are true.

If you have further questions or repairing obligations, please do not hesitate to contact us. Email us at lettings@foxes.co.uk or call 01202 299600

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