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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Liability for repairs

This page is for landlords operating in Northern Ireland.  You can find advice for tenants elsewhere on our website. Private landlords in Northern Ireland can call Landlord Advice on 028 9024 5640 and choosing option 5. 

It's important that you and your tenants understand who is responsible for which repairs in the property. Your tenancy agreement will usually stipulate which repairs you will carry out and which are the responsibility of the tenant. If you don't have a tenancy agreement, the default repairing obligations, laid out in the Private Tenancies Order will apply.

Tenancy agreements

Your tenancy agreement should clearly state responsibility for repairs. Generally, the landlord is responsible for any structural repairs and repairs to any items provided with furnished accommodation. Your tenants should keep the internal decoration in a reasonable state and repair anything that they, or visitors to the property, have damaged through improper use.

Your tenancy agreement should address the following points:

  • the type of repair you are responsible for. You will usually be responsible for structural repairs, repairs to any fixtures or furnishings provided with the letting, repairs to heating, gas, electricity, sanitation and water systems
  • the procedure a tenant should follow to report a repair
  • how damages which have been caused by the tenant will be dealt with
  • whether the tenant must seek permission before changing the internal decoration or changing or adding fixtures to the property, including changing the locks
  • who is responsible for repair and upkeep of common parts of the building and who is responsible for paying any service charges if the property is in a block
  • your rights of access to carry out repairs and how much notice must be given to the tenant.

If you don't have a tenancy agreement or your tenancy agreement does not mention repairs, the default repairing obligations will apply.

Default repairing obligations

The default repairing obligations state that you are responsible for the structure of the property as well as interior items such as:

  • water, gas, electricity and sanitation facilities
  • heating appliances
  • fixtures, fittings and furnishings provided under the terms of the tenancy.

You should also keep the outside paintwork in reasonable order and should keep all common areas in good repair, adequately lit and safe.

If your property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) you will be responsible for ensuring it meets the additional standards imposed on properties of this type and carrying out repairs to any fire safety systems installed in the property.

Under the default obligations, your tenants are required to:

  • take proper care of the premises
  • keep the interior of the premises in reasonable decorative order
  • get your permission before making any alterations to the property
  • repair any damage caused by the tenants, fellow household members or lawful visitors
  • inform you of any repairs which need to be carried out.

Decoration

Your tenancy requirement should insist that tenants seek permission from you before changing the internal decoration of your property. You should provide this consent in writing and keep a copy. You should not refuse consent unless there is a good reason to do so. If your tenants replace an item, such as a sofa, you should ask them to keep the original item or arrange for this to be put in storage.  If you would rather the tenants dispose of the old sofa, inform them in writing. Your tenants will probably take the new sofa with them when they leave.

If your tenants have been renting the property from you for quite a while, you could consider freshening up the paintwork and internal decoration. Carrying out this kind of maintenance for your tenants will often encourage good tenants to stay in the property on a long term basis.

Disputes over repairs

Your tenants may become upset if it takes a long time to get repair work done. Your tenants can ask the local council to inspect the property if the property is in serious disrepair and the council may serve you with a notice requiring you to carry out the repair work by a set date.

Keep your tenants informed when you are trying to organise repairs. If you are finding it difficult to find a contractor or a replacement item, explain your situation to the tenants. You may wish to consider reducing their rent for a period of time to compensate them if they are unable to use part of the property or some of the appliances provided in the property.

If you feel the damage to the property or furnishings is the fault of the tenant, you can use the tenant's deposit to finance the repair. Deposits that were paid on or after 1 April 2013 must be protected in an approved tenancy deposit scheme. If the tenant feels you should not have used the deposit, he or she can raise a dispute with the scheme administrator.  You will need to provide strong evidence to the scheme administrator to show your decision was fair. 

If you decide to do this, you should write to the tenant to inform them of your decision to use the deposit to pay for the repair. You should only do this if you can prove in court that the tenant is to blame for the damage caused. If you use the tenants' deposit to finance a repair, remember that you can only replace "like for like" and cannot end up financially better off as a result of using the deposit.