Legal Q & A on property maintenance

28 09 2011

Hello from sunny stoke, most unexpected but very welcome for this time of year 🙂

 Here are a few questions and their answers recently put to our legal team.

 Question

Tenant is responsible for trimming hedges, the landlord was not happy how it looked when he did the job last year; he wants a professional to do it. Can the landlord insist that this is done?

Answer

Are the hedges boundary hedges? There have been a couple of cases where it has been successfully argued that boundary hedges, like boundary fences, are the landlords responsibility to maintain and not “gardening” in the sense that it is usually interpreted in the standard tenancy agreement. However, particularly if responsibility for the maintenance of boundary hedges is in the tenancy agreement then, the tenant would be under an obligation to fulfil this duty to an acceptable standard. If you are sure that the tenant is responsible and you agree that the standard of work is not acceptable you should try to persuade the tenant to get professional help. If no agreement can be reached, ultimately this may be the subject of adjudication with regard to the deposit, or even a case for a court to decide.

 Question

A tenant is claiming £185 for a locksmith because he was out with his children and couldn’t get back in. He admits he did not try to contact us, the agent.

Answer

Firstly asked for the locksmith’s report and a complete breakdown of the work, not just the brief invoice. Say you will put the facts before the landlord. If there was not a genuine fault the tenant may withdraw his request. If it is that the tenant just locked himself out he is responsible, but if there is a genuine fault the landlord will be responsible. The agent has a duty to ensure that any charge is genuine and reasonable. Also if the lock has changed the agent would need a new key.

 Question

We had a contractor attend a property but it was discovered that there was no problem with the item just with the tenant not switching it on. The contractor has submitted an invoice. The Landlord, understandably, is not willing to pay but now the tenant is also refusing. Who should the money be recovered from etc.

Answer

The tenant reported a fault without firstly checking there was a genuine fault, therefore they are liable for the call out charge. However, the charge should be reasonable in the circumstances and not punitive.

 Question

A tenant had changed the locks without the landlords or our, the agents, consent. The Landlord is asking the us to attend the property with a locksmith and change the locks to their original condition. Can this be done?

Answer

The tenant, although potentially in breach of their agreement, has the right to quiet enjoyment which means that they should not be harassed or interfered by the landlord or his agents. Attending a property with a locksmith could be deemed as such harassment and it would be wise for the Landlord to issue notice to the tenant to end their tenancy if their request to change the locks to their original state is not adhered too.

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