Maintenance……

27 05 2011

Hi from Belvoir Stoke,

Here are a few questions and answers from our legal team dealing with the rights/responsibilities of some maintenance issues. Hope they may be of interest…

Question
We manage a property where the kitchen window has jammed. We have advised the landlord and he has said he doesn’t want to get it fixed! Since it is a kitchen and there is gas, do we have a duty of care to send a contractor in and fix it ?
Answer
The landlord is responsible for keeping the structure and fabric of the house in good repair. Also he has a duty of care to the tenants. A jammed window raises several issues, particularly in the kitchen. There is no ventilation either for gas or cooking fumes and/or steam which is trapped within the house and could cause condensation. A window, which is designed to open which is jammed is blocking a
possible means of escape should fire break out. If contacted by the tenant the local Environmental Health department might consider this a HHSRS issue.

Question
We will inform the Landlord of this, if he still doesn’t want to repair it, would you suggest we go above his head and send someone in to fix it, regardless of what he wants to do about it?
Answer
You are aware of the problem and potential risks and should take action. The landlord may not agree but he employed you and you are the professional.

 

Question
We are unsure on how to proceed with an issue regarding the lighting of a gas cooker. A few months ago the automatic ignition went on the main oven. We sent our gas engineer but he was unable to buy parts from New World so the landlord gave us permission to send a New World engineer to fix the problem at a great cost! Now the same has happened with the top oven which is also the grill. We
have informed the landlord who does not wish to pay for the engineer to come out again. She sent a lighter gun down for the tenants to use. They are not happy using this as they feel it is unsafe to use. Where do we go from here? Do we just tell them what she says and they have to put up with it?
Answer
I can appreciate both sides in this. However, whilst an owner/occupier might be happy to use a gas lighter gun, from the tenants’ point of view they rented the property with a fully working appliance and logically expect this to be maintained. The landlord must have due regard for the health and safety of their tenants. As the tenants have expressed concern regarding safety, if this was ignored and anything happened the landlord could be held liable. In any case turning on gas in an oven (particularly a small one) and possibly putting a hand/arm in to use the lighter might cause injury if there was an accumulation of gas before the lighter spark had succeeded in igniting the gas.

Question
Does this mean that we should insist that the landlord fixes it or do we just write to the landlord and ask her to do it with our recommendations?
Answer
You are the landlord’s agent and can’t insist, so the latter suggestion is preferable However, you have a duty of care both to the tenant and to the landlord in trying to prevent them making a decision that might have unfortunate consequences. If the tenant wishes to make an issue of the safety aspect and takes other advice, they may be encouraged to approach the local environmental health department.
If they chose to inspect the situation, their inspection would not be limited to the cooker, but would include the whole of the property. Whilst, if the rest of the property is risk free there is unlikely to be a problem, the landlord may have found it easier and possibly cheaper to simply repair the cooker.
 

 

Question
We have an issue where a tenant has been complaining about rotten sash windows for a year or so. They have not closed properly and have been letting in the cold and draughts. The landlord has finally agreed to repair and will be completed shortly . The tenant is claiming compensation for extra gas used to heat the property , approx £250. Is there any legal responsibility for the Landlord to pay this ?
Answer
If the tenant can provide evidence that he has incurred a loss, e.g. increased heating bills, he seems to have a good case for compensation. Logically, there will have been an increase in heating costs, due to the nature of the fault and in view of the landlord’s inaction over a long period of time. The landlord should have acted more quickly over his repairing obligations, especially as this could be an
HHSRS issue. You should discuss this with your landlord and if, after viewing the evidence, the amount claimed seems reasonable then the landlord may have to accept this. Alternatively, you may be able to negotiate a lesser figure if you feel this would be fair.

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