Rental Property Maintenance – Who’s Responsible?

05 May 2016

As a tenant, if I need some maintenance done in my rental property, whose responsibility is it to get it done and why can’t you as my agent arrange it as soon as I report it?

We often get asked by tenants why we can’t get someone out to fix their broken washing machine (for example!) as soon as they report it. The answer is, as their agent, we want to get the problem fixed as quickly as we can, it solves their problem, gets it out of our “inbox” and means we have happy clients! And while we would ideally like to be able to address every maintenance issue on the same day or next day, the reality is that it sometimes doesn’t work out like that. We work under the landlords instruction and at the end of the day, the contract is between the tenant and the landlord and we work as agent for the landlord.

To explain, when a tenant calls into the office and reports that the boiler is not working, the first thing you will normally hear your maintenance manger advise is that they will check the landlords instruction. We tend to have 3 types of landlord instruction – those who instruct us to go ahead without prior authorisation, those who require us to have authorisation before arranging works and those who like to arrange works themselves.

Some landlords advise us as agent to go ahead with maintenance issues without contacting them first, in that case its pretty quick. We will then arrange for one of our preferred tradesman to attend to the property, either using management keys – if its OK with you – or by contacting you directly to arrange access.

In other cases the tenant might report a maintenance issue and the landlords instruction might be to contact them first to get an instruction. That means we as agent CANNOT arrange for a tradesman to attend without authorisation. In fact, if the landlord advises us that we cannot get a tradesman to attend then we are in a difficult situation where we have to work under the landlords instruction, even if we completely disagree.

Some landlords prefer to be notified of maintenance issues and choose to use their own tradesmen or do the works themselves. Normally this works fine and we arrange access with the tenant, however we don’t have knowledge or control over a landlords nominated tradesman.

Most repairs are quickly addressed and solved, however sometimes a part will need ordered and that might mean a slight delay. It’s unfortunate but it happens, and unless the time delay is lengthy, contrary to what some tenants might think, you still need to pay your rent! We generally arrange for oil filled radiators to be delivered to offer some heat while the boiler is down. If the time delay becomes lengthy, and by that perhaps over 4-5 days, the landlord MAY offer some rent rebate while you were without heating but it really depends on the time of year and circumstances.

We fully appreciate that waiting for a landlords instruction can be frustrating, clearly for the tenant, but also at times for us as agents. We want to address your issue, but if we can’t get the landlords instruction, we can’t go ahead and arrange the tradesman. Its unusual that we can’t get in contact with the landlord, usually we manage to get them within a day but if your maintenance manager advises that we haven’t managed to get in contact with your landlord as yet, hopefully you will understand that we CAN’T proceed in some circumstances until we manage to get that landlord!