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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Liability for repairs

A tenancy agreement will usually explain who deals with different repairs. The default repairing obligations set out in The Private Tenancies (NI) Order apply if

  • there is no tenancy agreement, or
  • the tenancy agreement doesn't mention repairs.

Repair clauses in tenancy agreements

Make sure your tenancy agreement is clear about repairs. It should set out

  • what repairs you are responsible for
  • what repairs the tenant handles
  • how the tenant should report repairs
  • an emergency contact number for emergency situations
  • your rights of access to inspect and fix problems
  • what happens if a tenant damages something
  • who deals with problems common parts of a building

Default repairing obligations apply to any tenancy that

  • doesn't have a tenancy agreement, or
  • has a tenancy agreement that doesn't include information about repairs.

Default repairing obligations

Article 7 of the Private Tenancies (NI) Order 2006 says what repairs a landlord should do. 

Unless a tenancy agreement says something different, the landlord has responsibility for 

  • the structure of the property
  • the exterior of the property, including gutters, drains and pipes and exterior paintwork
  • the interior of the property (but the tenant must keep the interior in good decorative order),
  • any installations that supply or use water, gas, electricity and sanitation
  • any installations for heating or heating water
  • any appliances provided under the terms of the tenancy
  • any fixtures, fittings or furnishings provided under the terms of the tenancy

You must make sure all common areas in good repair, adequately lit and safe.

If your property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) you have to make sure it meets extra standards. 

Tenants' responsibilities under default arrangements

Under the default obligations, your tenants must:

  • take proper care of the premises
  • keep the interior of the premises in reasonable decorative order
  • get your permission before making any changes 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.

Tenants should ask you for permission before they make any changes to the property. You can only refuse permission if you have a good reason. Keep a written record of what was agreed. 

Damage caused by tenants

Tenants are responsible for repairs to 

  • anything damaged by the tenant
  • anything damaged by a guest or visitor to the property
  • anything damaged due to the tenant's misuse or neglect.

In most cases, the landlord will deduct the cost of these repairs from a tenant's deposit. Any deductions must be fair and on a like for like basis. You can't deduct the price of a brand new washing machine from the tenant's deposit if the one they broke was 4 years old.  

Decoration

Tenants should get permission before making any changes to the property. You should give written permission for any changes unless you have a good reason to say no. Make sure the tenants understand any conditions attached to your permission. 

Replacing furnishings and furniture

Some tenants may want to replace your furniture with their own or with newer items. Make sure you and the tenants have a written record of what was agreed. This might include information about

  • who pays for the disposal or storage of the old furniture
  • keeping fire safety tags etc attached to the new furniture
  • what happens to the new furniture when the tenancy ends.

Painting and decorating

You are not required to paint the interior at specific intervals. But, a freshly decorated property can be more appealing to people looking for a home. 

You may want to agree to paint at set intervals if you have long-term tenancies. Your tenants may want a say in the decor choices. 

Disputes over repairs

You should do your repairs as quickly as you can. There is no set time frame for repairs in the private sector. The Housing Executive's timescale for repairs is a useful guide. The Housing Executive aims to deal with

  • emergency repairs in 24 hours
  • urgent repairs in 4 working days
  • routine repairs in 4 weeks.

Keep tenants informed of your progress. Let them know if there has been a delay. You could consider offering compensation if this delay causes inconvenience to your tenants. 

Tenants can ask the council to inspect the property if they feel it is in disrepair. The council can force you to carry out work by a set deadline.