The accidental landlord: who is responsible for white goods in a rental property?

Victoria Whitlock debates who should deal with faulty white goods in rented properties
When most brides walk down the aisle I expect they worry they're going to trip, or cry, or fluff their lines. Me? I was wondering if a washing machine repair man, who was scheduled to turn up at my rental property at precisely that moment, had arrived on time.

Normally, I would have gone to the flat to ensure that the repair was properly carried out but, it being my wedding day, I'd taken the risk of paying for the work in advance and asked the tenants to supervise.

However, one of my wedding guests told me what I should have known already, that landlords aren't legally responsible for maintaining so-called white goods supplied with the properties, so when the tenants called to tell me the washing machine was broken I could have told them to deal with it.

I'd always taken it for granted that if a landlord provided electrical items such as washing machines, dishwashers and fridges they were responsible for keeping them in good working order. However, this newbie landlord who was just in the process of acquiring his first buy-to-let pointed me to Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, which expressly states that landlords must maintain basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences (I think that's legal speak for the loo) but NOT other fixtures, fittings and appliances.

So if the washing machine floods or the oven conks out or the freezer no longer freezes, landlords don't have to sort out the repairs or foot the bill. How about that? To avoid any argument with tenants over who is or isn't responsible when an appliance breaks, the newbie landlord told me he plans to insert a clause in the tenancy agreement to make it clear to tenants that they will have to arrange and pay for repairs to white goods, not him.

I do know that such a clause won't take in gas appliances such as hobs or boilers, and landlords are legally obliged to maintain any heating and hot water systems. Even so, I think the whole issue of white goods could still be a bit of a grey area, if you'll excuse the pun.

If washing machines, fridges and the like are included in the particulars of a property - and especially if they are featured in any advertisements - surely there's an assumption that they will work throughout the tenancy? Also, landlords are legally responsible for making sure that all electrical appliances are safe — there's no wriggling out of that obligation — so what happens if the fault makes the appliance dangerous? What if the washing machine is overheating, for example? Also, if the appliance is beyond repair, who foots the bill to replace it - landlord or tenant? And if the tenant buys a new one, is it then theirs to keep? Or what if the tenant does a botch job of the repairs? Does the landlord charge them to put it right? And another thing: while I doff my cap to any landlord who has found cunning ways to cut their costs, I don't think it's entirely fair to make a tenant responsible for an appliance they inherit. If the item is brand spanking new, then it ought to be covered by the manufacturer's guarantee.

So I think I'll continue to pay for the maintenance of all appliances that I provide and, as I'm not planning another wedding any time soon, I'll try to supervise the work myself.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

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