Managing Property Maintenance For Buy to Lets: What Landlords Need To Know

Property maintenance is an essential part of managing a buy-to-let. We outline the main things landlords need to know and stay on top of.

Property Maintenance

Property maintenance is an essential part of managing a buy-to-let. Appliances break, walls need to be repainted, carpets replaced, plumping repaired and a whole host of other small and large jobs.

While some repairs are superficial, dealing with a bit of peeling paint or old carpets, some jobs are more serious. As a landlord, you have a legal responsibility to ensure your property is safe and habitable. Maintenance issues, such as broken fire alarms, faulty wiring, and dangerous appliances could endanger your tenants and lead to legal issues and fines should they not be remedied promptly and effectively.

However, even those minor aesthetic maintenance issues could cost you more money than they’re worth. They will bring the overall value of your buy to let down and could result in extended vacancy periods.

If you want to run a professional and profitable buy-to-let business you need to stay on top of your property’s maintenance management.

Find out how you can stay on top of your property maintenance with Landlord Studio

When is property maintenance the landlord’s responsibility?

The landlord’s responsibilities regarding repairs and maintenance are mainly outlined in two specific laws, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which pertains to areas such as heating and ventilation, water and sanitation, freedom from pests and dampness, water tightness, general safety, and more. According to these laws, landlords must ensure rental properties meet the minimum standards for human habitation.

Repairs generally fall into the following categories:

  • Repairs to the property’s structure, including walls, windows, and doors.
  • Repairs to the property’s exterior, including roofs and gutters.
  • Repairs to sinks, baths, and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains.
  • Repairs to the heating and hot water systems, including boilers, central heating, and fires.
  • Repairs to gas appliances, pipes, flues, and ventilation. This includes an annual gas safety check.
  • Repairs to electrical wiring. This includes a periodic electrical safety inspection.
  • Repairs to damages that are caused by other maintenance issues. (Such as if a roof leak damages internal plaster and decoration.)
  • The upkeep of any appliance supplied by the landlord.

For more detail: A Guide to Landlord Responsibilities: Maintenance and Repairs

When is property maintenance the tenant’s responsibility?

Not all maintenance issues are the domain of the landlord, however. Tenants are responsible for the general upkeep of the property and the repair of any damage (beyond general wear and tear) they cause.

The following repairs are a few examples of maintenance that are the tenant’s responsibility:

  • Cleaning of the property.
  • Garden maintenance such as mowing the lawn and weeding.
  • Maintenance of their own belongings.
  • Minor maintenance such as replacing light bulbs.
  • Damage caused by the tenant or their guests.

If the damage caused by tenants is serious it is recommended that the tenant consult with the landlord and use one of their preferred contractors rather than handling the actual repairs themselves. The landlord is then entitled to charge the tenant for the cost of the repairs.

tenant property maintenance

Dealing with mould in your buy-to-let

One common maintenance issue is mould. This is especially common in older properties and in winter when tenants are less likely to properly ventilate their homes.

Who’s responsibility is mould?

If the mould is caused by an obvious structural issue, such as a leaky pipe, then the root cause (ie. the leaky pipe) needs to be fixed, and this is the landlord’s responsibility.

More commonly, however, mould is caused by inadequate heating and lack of ventilation. These are lifestyle habits and can’t realistically be remedied by the landlord and so it falls to the tenant to clean the mould off and ensure prevention. It’s a good idea to supply them with the necessary information and even equipment (such as an anti-mould solution or a de-humidifier) to help mitigate the issue.

How to deal with mould?

Diagnose: Make sure you are in fact dealing with mould and check for potential causes.

Cleaning: Once any structural repairs have been made (if any were needed) mould needs to be thoroughly cleaned off of all surfaces with bleach or anti-mould solutions.

Repainting: The bleach may strip the paint from the wall and in severe cases mild can penetrate the top surface of the paint. If you’re worried about mould returning you can buy anti-mould paint.

Prevention: In most cases cranking the heating up during the colder months and opening will help prevent further mould infestations. However, to be extra certain you could also supply your tenants with a dehumidifier, and install a dryer to prevent them from drying wet clothes inside.

Accurately tracking property maintenance expenses

Repairs to your property are an important and potentially large allowable expense. It’s important to note, that the HMRC makes a clear distinction between repairs and replacements.

A repair is any work undertaken that returns the property to its original condition. Examples of this include repainting the property between a tenancy, mending broken appliances or plumbing, and repairs to structural damage. Importantly, these repairs are only classified as such if they do not increase the value of the property.

A replacement on the other hand is when an asset is not repairable and is replaced with an item of equal value. For example, you might replace curtains, light fixtures, or the carpet after several years to return the property to its original condition. Again, any increase in value is not an allowable expense.

When making claims for repairs you can also include the cost of materials and any fees paid to specialists that carry out the work.

You can easily track maintenance jobs as well as taxable income and allowable expenses within Landlord Studio. Find out more →

About fair wear and tear

Normal wear and tear is the gradual deterioration of the property over time. Examples of normal wear and tear include worn carpets, minor scuffs, and scrapes on the walls or floors, faded curtains due to sunlight, and other minor unavoidable damages.

Generally, normal wear and tear will occur over a number of years and most likely isn’t the result of a single tenant in habitation. As a landlord, you cannot legally charge the costs to repair normal wear and tear to a tenant.

Deducting maintenance expenses from the security deposit

Should your tenant cause damage to the property, damage that is beyond fair wear and tear, then you may be able to reclaim the costs of the repairs or maintenance from the tenant’s deposit.

In order to do this, you will need to have detailed evidence of the condition of the property before the tenant moved in and after they exit the property. This is one of the reasons carrying out a thorough inventory (with photographs) of the property before and after a tenancy, as well as undertaking regular property inspections is so important.

For more detail: Fair Wear and Tear vs Damage for Rental

Final words

Managing property maintenance for your rentals is an essential job for property managers and landlords. It will not only prevent potential fines should it fail health and safety standards and checks but will make your property more desirable to renters. Spending a little money on regular preventative maintenance will thus keep vacancy periods to a minimum, and prevent small issues from snowballing into potentially far more costly repairs – saving you money in the long run.

With Landlord Studio’s property maintenance feature easily create, track and prioritise your maintenance jobs to ensure nothing slips through the cracks again. Plus, use our reminders and document storage for things like routine inspections and EPC and EICR renewals and gas safety inspections.

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