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Do I have to rehouse my tenant if I make repairs?

As a private landlord, it's your responsibility to ensure your property is safe. That it's in good repair and fit to live in. If the property is damaged or in need of repair it's you and not the tenant who must carry out the repairs. Whether it's fixing a sink or something far more serious like fire damage.

Most repairs can be undertaken whilst the tenant is in situ. This sometimes takes a lot of organising and will need the cooperation of the tenant. But it's possible to do fairly large scale repairs without the tenant moving out.

But what happens when this isn't possible? When there is no option but for the tenant to move out. Do you need to rehouse your tenant while you make repairs?

Fire, flood and pestilence

You're unlikely to be troubled by the later. But fire and floods are real threats. Properties are also at risk from other disasters. Burst pipes, electrical faults or other issues can all make a house uninhabitable.

If for whatever reason your tenant has to move out during repairs what are your responsibilities as a private landlord?

Section 11

Before discussing re-housing the tenant let's remind ourselves about section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The gist, of course, is that the private landlord is responsible for the repair and upkeep of the property.

Clause 1 of section 11 spells this out in more detail:

(a) to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),

(b) to 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) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.

No matter what the scale of work then it's the private landlord's responsibility to make sure the property is in good repair. You must carry out any necessary repairs. Even if that means the tenant has to temporarily leave the property.

Does this mean I have to rehouse my tenant?

No. Unlike local councils and housing associations, private landlords are under no legal obligation to rehouse a tenant when a property becomes uninhabitable and needs repairs. However, there's a caveat here.

If you are in breach of section 11 than you will be deemed to be at fault for the repairs being necessary. If you neglected to act on information from the tenant it could mean you are liable. For example, if the tenant informed you of a problem with the wiring. You do nothing and a couple of weeks later there is an electrical fire. In circumstances such as these, you haven't complied with section 11.

You still don't need to rehouse the tenant but you will be responsible for the costs of alternative accommodation. But if you have complied with section 11 you will not be responsible for those costs.

What happens to the rent?

There are a couple of scenarios here. But the rent does need to be paid. If the tenant only needs to move out for a few days you may well have to provide a rebate or rent-free period until your they're able to move back into the property. It's always best to agree on any rebate with the tenant before they move out. This saves complications and disputes further down the line.

But if the repairs are extensive and will take some time decisions must be made. For example, if the property was partially or wholly destroyed in a fire. It may well be that it's best for all parties if the tenant surrenders the tenancy. In this case, you can claim the loss of rent back from your landlords insurance policy. Assuming rent loss was included in the policy.

Of course insurance policies are complicated things. It's worthwhile checking with your broker exactly what cover your policy provides in the case of major repairs forcing your tenant to leave the property.

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