Repairing obligations and tenancy agreements
As mentioned on Day 13, tenancies with a term of less than 7 years have to comply with’ statutory repairing covenants’. These are set out in section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Under these you must:
(a) keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house, including drains, gutters and external pipes,
(b) keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and
(c) keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
These rules are implied into all tenancies (where the fixed term is less than seven years) and cannot normally be excluded by any clause in the tenancy agreement. So if for example, your tenancy agreement says that the tenant will be responsible for the repair of the boiler, this will be invalid.
As most tenants (any also many landlords) do not know about these rules, it is good practice to include a summary of the law in the tenancy agreement, so everyone knows where they stand. However, you need to be careful how this is worded so as to avoid taking on any extra liability by mistake (as has been known to happen).
Leave of the court!
Incidentally, the only way the implied terms in s11 can be excluded from any tenancy is by a Court Order, as provided by s15 of the Act.
So this would mean making an application to the County Court for a court order, which (if the Judge agreed to make it) should then be referred to in the tenancy agreement and a copy annexed to it.
However, I have never known a case where this was done. I suspect anyway that few Judges would agree to make such an order unless there was a pretty compelling reason.
Prohibitions against alterations in tenancy agreements
As regards repair work not covered by the implied terms, this is something you should agree on separately.
Generally, you will not want tenants to start doing any alterations to the property, particularly structural alternations, and it is all right to forbid this. In fact, this is already covered in the law, as section 81 of the Housing Act, 1980 says that a tenant should not carry out any improvements or alterations to a property without the landlord’s written consent.
This will apply even if there is no written tenancy agreement.
Dealing with redecoration in tenancy agreements
So far as redecoration is concerned, in a long tenancy, this is usually left up to the tenant.
However, for shorter lets where you are going to have to re-let the property to someone else before long, you will want to have some control over the colours and materials used. Not only will this affect your ability to re-let the property (as some colours are proven to be more popular), if the tenant uses dark colours (for example if they paint the walls black), this can be very difficult to cover up.
It is normal, therefore, either for landlords to prohibit re-decoration altogether (unless permission has been obtained in writing, not to be unreasonably refused – see Day 17), or to specify that any re-decoration must be in the same colours and style as the existing decor.
NB Find out more about my Tenancy Agreement Service on Landlord Law.