Landlord responsibilities for common areas
Entrance door, hall, and stairs. Find out who’s responsible for these communal areas in a tenanted property.
Many tenanted properties have communal areas, such as the entrance door, hallway, stairs, and garden. But who’s responsible for the maintenance and repair of these shared spaces?
In this post, with support from the British Landlord Association, we’ll outline the landlord’s responsibility for common areas, and what aspects fall to the tenant.
Landlord responsibilities for common areas
The tenancy agreement will usually state who’s responsible for the maintenance and repair of communal areas. As a rule of thumb, a landlord is generally responsible, especially if the tenancy is an Assured shorthold for making necessary repairs to a rental property, and a tenant is responsible for maintaining it.
- A tenant should only carry out repairs if this is outlined in the tenancy agreement.
- A tenant cannot be forced to do repairs that are the landlord’s responsibility.
- The cost of repairs that are a landlord’s responsibility cannot be passed on to the tenant.
The Defective Premises Act 1972
A landlord must keep a tenanted property safe and free from hazards.
The Defective Premises Act 1972 sets out the duties of care a landlord owes a tenant. Landlords have a duty of care to prevent personal injury (to the tenants, their families, and visitors) or damage to property caused by defects in the property.
The duty is owed where the landlord is under an obligation to repair or maintain the rented property (or has a right to enter the property to carry out maintenance or repairs). The duty of care under this act is owed if the landlord knows, or should have known, about the repair.
This often relates to common areas, as the landlord controls this part of the building, i.e. they should be able to identify repairs themselves, without the tenant informing them.
Landlord responsibility for a communal entrance door
So what’s a landlord’s legal responsibility for the communal entrance door of a tenanted property?
Well, when it comes to the communal entrance door, a landlord is responsible for:
- The repair of defective external doors, saddles, and door frames.
- Hinges, locks, handles, trapper bars, and letterboxes on external doors.
- The door entry system to a communal entrance.
The tenant should contact the landlord or letting agent as soon as a problem is identified to ensure the property is safe and secure.
Landlord regulations for the stairs and hallway
A landlord’s responsibility for the stairs and hallway includes:
- Walls, staircases, and all structural timbers.
- Architraves, skirting boards, timber sills, and other internal decorative woodwork.
- Floor tiling.
- Any airbricks and ventilators.
- Any electrical wiring in the hallway, socket outlets, and switches.
- Ceiling roses, lamp holders, and flexes.
A landlord must also follow fire safety regulations. This includes smoke alarms, access to escape routes, and fire alarms and extinguishers if the property is a large house in multiple occupation (HMO).
The law implies a condition into every tenancy agreement that the tenant must use their home in a ‘tenant-like’ way. This includes the tenant (and their visitors) not causing any damage to the property. If a tenant does cause damage to the communal areas, the landlord should be notified immediately so the necessary repairs and associated costs can be discussed.
Landlord garden responsibilities
When it comes to the garden, a landlord is responsible for the tasks that would be unreasonable for the tenant to do themselves. Typically, this includes hedge trimming, tree maintenance, and pruning shrubs.
As long as they were installed by the landlord, the landlord is responsible for repairs to:
The tenant is responsible for general maintenance, i.e. jobs that need to be done regularly. This normally includes tasks such as cleaning, lawn mowing, weeding, and sweeping.
Our post on landlord garden maintenance covers this area in more detail. It also explains what to do in the event of a dispute over landlord or tenant garden responsibility.
Landlord fence responsibilities
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Housing Act 2004 both define the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the structure and interior of a property as being down to the landlord. This includes the exterior of the property, not forgetting the fences.
A landlord is responsible for the fences in a tenanted property that they have installed. They are also responsible for the cost of repair or replacement of fences that have been damaged by natural forces, e.g. a storm or flood.
A tenant is responsible for the cost of repair to fencing if:
- The tenant has installed the fencing.
- The tenant has caused damage to the fencing that the landlord has installed.
- The fencing has been damaged due to the tenant’s negligence or anything that breaches the terms of the tenancy agreement.
If a landlord needs to carry out repair work to a communal area, such as the garden, they do not have to inform the tenant.
What to do if a landlord is not taking responsibility for communal areas
If a landlord fails to make the necessary repairs to their tenanted property, the tenant should contact the environmental health department at the local council. In Scotland, contact the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP).
If the rented property is unsafe or unfit for human habitation, a tenant should ask for the housing department at the local council. They will do a Housing Health and Safety Rating System assessment and will take action if they deem your home to have serious health and safety hazards. There are different procedures for tenants in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Our post on property maintenance costs will help landlords budget for some of the most common maintenance jobs. To find a property maintenance specialist in your local area, use our search function below.
What regulations are there for stairs?
A landlord should make sure that the treads, risers, nosings, balustrades, and handrails are complete and in good condition. Ideally, the stairs should be at least 900mm wide to allow an adult and child to use the stairs side-by-side in the event of an emergency. There should be good lighting (and switches for lighting) at the top and bottom of the stairs. In an HMO property, landlords are responsible for the stair covering and making sure the stairs are not obstructed.
What is a landlord’s legal responsibility for a communal entrance door?
A landlord’s legal responsibility for a communal entrance door includes the door itself and any hardware – hinges, locks, handles, trapper bars, and letterboxes. The landlord’s responsibility also extends to the door entry system to a communal entrance.
Can a tenant sue a landlord for falling down the stairs?
This is not a clear-cut ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Should a tenant fall down the stairs of their tenanted property, many aspects would be considered, including whether there were any defects to the stairs, and whether the landlord had been informed of those defects.