Legal requirements for landlords: the rights and the wrongs
Colin Moran, a partner at Property People Estate Agents, has some useful information for all landlords. In this article he will explore issues surrounding repairing obligations, tenants' rights, ending a tenancy and lawful evictions.
Landlord repairing obligations
The landlord must ensure that the property is suitable for human habitation. All properties that are paid for by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (via housing benefit) must be inspected by the local district council to ensure that the property meets the basic standards fit for human occupation and if the property meets the standard a certificate of fitness is issued by the local council.
- The structure and exterior of the property, including exterior paintwork, drains, gutters and external pipes.
- The interior of the property other than matters covered under tenant responsibilities.
- Any installations for the supply and use of water, gas, electricity, and sanitation (including baths, sinks, wash-hand basins and toilets).
- Any appliances provided by the landlord under the tenancy for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity.
- Any installations for space heating and water heating.
- Any fixtures, fittings and furniture provided by the landlord under the terms of the tenancy.
- Keeping in good repair any common areas or areas required for access.
- Keeping any area required for access adequately lit and safe to use.
Tenant repairing obligations
Tenants obligations should be clearly set out in the terms and conditions of the leased agreement. Here are some examples of tenant terms and conditions that relate to the upkeep and repair of the property during the tenancy.
- Generally taking care of the property including the fixtures, fittings and furnishings during the term of the tenancy.
- Making good or repairing any damage to the property, fittings, fixtures and furnishings caused by the tenant, tenant’s family or anyone on the property with the tenant’s permission.
- Keeping and maintaining the property the interior and exterior of the property.
- Ensuring the property is adequately heated, ventilated and avoid condensation
- Reporting any repair issues promptly to the landlord or landlords agent promptly
- Not to undertake any decoration or alteration to the property without first obtaining permission form the landlord
- Ensuring that refuse is kept in the appropriate closed receptacle and is made available for collection by the council on the appropriate days.
The tenant has the right to lawfully enjoy the possession of the property during the term of the tenancy whist adhering to the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement. In other words that tenant who is paying rent on time and looking after the property should be able to peacefully enjoy the property without any interference or intrusion from the landlord. Landlords must seek permission from the tenant to access the property even to carry out repairs (except in the case of an emergency). Repairs must be carried out at reasonable times during the day and with prior notice. If a landlord enters the property without permission or prior notice this behaviour can be deemed as harassment.
Ending a tenancy
Both landlords and tenants can lawfully end a tenancy at the end of the tenancy term by giving either party 28 days notice. However if the tenant has failed to keep the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement the landlord can issue the tenant with the 28 days notice to quit before this. During the 28 day notice period the landlord cannot
- Change the locks while the tenant is out of the property
- Withdraw or with hold services e.g. heating, electricity or water
- Threaten the tenant or act in any way that interferes with the tenants peace or comfort.
If the landlord does any of the above they would be liable for illegal eviction and harassment and would be open to prosecution.
After the 28 day notice period has lapsed if the tenant has not moved on the landlord can then start court proceedings for a possession order.
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