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Which repairs and maintenance can landlords do themselves?

Suzanne Smith learning to fit a bathroom on an Introductino to Plumbing course at Able Skills in Dartford
Suzanne Smith learning how to plumb a bathroom with Able Skills in Dartford

With margins being squeezed, and the shortage of trades people making it a challenge to find someone to do small jobs, which repairs and maintenance can landlords do themselves?

In this blog post I give an overview of landlords’ repairing obligations, before discussing the most common repairs and the average costs that landlords incur. I also list typical repairs that landlords carry out themselves, and how to learn new skills to take on more repairs yourself. Finally, I explain where to draw the line on DIY versus qualified trades, where landlords must use the latter.

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Under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, landlords are obliged to keep in good repair the following:

  • Structure and exterior: roof, drains, gutters, external pipes, windows and exterior doors and main access to the property, fences, gates and garden sheds.
  • Gas, electrical and water installations: boiler, heating, hot water, basins, sinks, baths, showers and toilets, electrical appliances supplied by the landlord.
  • Repairs in communal parts.

Landlords must also keep a property in a condition fit for human habitation, and free from hazards.

For more details on precisely what landlords and tenants are required to do, see the related posts below.

>> Related Post: What are landlords’ obligations for repairs and maintenance?

>> Related Post: What are tenants’ responsibilities for repairs and maintenance?

How much do landlords spend on repairs and maintenance each year?

decorator painting the fascia board and soffits of a Victorian house
Decorator repairing and painting the fascia and soffit of one of my rental properties

As a rule of thumb, landlords spend an average of at least 10% of their gross repairs each year on repairs and maintenance. A 2024 poll in The Independent Landlord Private Facebook Group showed that landlords budgeted from 10-15% of the gross rent on repairs and maintenance.

However, it very much depends on the underlying condition of the property.

For my own properties in the 2023-24 tax year, the percentage of rent that I spent on repairs and maintenance ranged from 3% to 56%, with 25% being the average. This was particularly high as one of my properties needed replacement windows and work to tackle damp and mould. The property where I only spent 3% had been recently fully refurbished, and I was able to carry out small repairs myself.

>> Related Post: How landlords should best tackle damp and mould

What are the most common repairs and maintenance issues for landlords

Based on my experience as a landlord, and a poll in The Independent Landlord Community Facebook Group, these are the most common tasks that landlords need to undertake to keep on top of repairs and maintenance for their rental properties:

  • Plumbing: dripping or broken taps, water leaks, replacing flushing mechanism in toilets, broken pop up waste (plug holes), blocked pipes and drains, needing to replace silicone.
  • Heating: broken boilers, broken thermostatic radiator valves.
  • Gutters and downpipes: clearing cutters and repairing gutters and downpipes.
  • Exterior: repointing brickwork.
  • Electrical: replacing appliances, replacing extractor fan / kitchen chimney hood, broken light fittings.
  • Windows and doors: easing doors after new carpet, broken locks and handles, repairing or replacing windows and doors.
  • Kitchens: fixing cupboard doors and drawers, and replacing the kitchens every 10-15 years.
  • Curtain poles and blinds: re-affixing curtain poles/track when they come away from the wall, replacing blinds.
  • Damp and mould: pinpointing the causes of damp and mould, fixing water leaks, redecorating with anti-mould or anti-condensation paint to reduce risk of recurrence, for instance Ronseal Anti-Mould Paint and Ronseal Anti-Condensation Paint (Amazon links).
  • Painting and decorating: landlords usually redecorate every 5-10 years, although many will “refresh” the paintwork between tenants. External woodwork needs close attention and may need painting every 3-5 years. Tiling needs re-grouting from time to time, and landlords should regularly replace silicone in bathrooms to prevent water damage.
  • Flooring: cleaning carpets between tenants (I invested in a Vax rapid carpet cleaner (Amazon link) to make it cheaper and easier to do this myself, replacing carpet and vinyl every 5-10 years).
  • Garden / outside space: most tenancy agreements will state that the tenant is responsible for maintaining the garden. However, landlords would be responsible for major tree surgery, and replacing broken patio slabs, or replacing rotten decking, broken fences or gates, and any disrepair to a shed that the landlord provides.

Ronseal paint on a decorator's step
I took this picture when applying Ronseal anti-condensation paint in a kitchen

What mark-up do letting agents add to repairs they organise?

Letting agents typically add a markup of 10-15% onto the charges of third party contractors who carry out repairs and maintenance of rental properties that the letting agent manages. The agent may also receive a referral fee from the maintenance company.

For instance, Connells charge landlords a fee of 10% on the net cost of works which exceeds £750, in return for: “Arranging access and assessing costs with contractor; Ensuring work has been carried out in accordance with the specification of works; Retaining any warranty or guarantee as a result of any works.”

Leaders‘ fee is even higher. They charge landlords 12% of the contractor’s invoice to “project manage” any “major works” exceeding £500 + VAT on behalf of the landlord. Their terms and conditions don’t say what “project management” involves.

If a landlord has expensive repairs and maintenance, like replacing a boiler, they should bear this in mind. They might be better off managing the work themselves.

Typical repairs and maintenance that landlords do themselves

Landlords who have a trade or who are good at DIY and happy to take on repairs and maintenance themselves. Other landlords are “hands off”, looking for the elusive “passive income“. They leave all maintenance and repairs to the letting agents to organise on their behalf.

In between, there’s the average landlord, who does a bit of it themselves. Based on my own experience, and comments from members of The Independent Landlord Community Facebook Group.

  • Painting and decorating.
  • Deep clean of the property between tenants.
  • Fitting curtain poles and blinds.
  • Minor repairs.
  • Replacing silicone in the bathroom and kitchen. It is very easy to do this yourself. I learned how to do it on the Able Skills tiling course (see below). The trick is to remove the silicone with this inexpensive Vitrex Silicon Remover & Replace kit (Amazon link). To get the perfect smooth 4mm silicone application, either use the tools on the Vitrex kit, or buy a specialist profiling kit like the Cramer Professional Silicone Tool Kit (Amazon link), which is the one we used on the course.
  • Tiling (see below).
  • Replacing taps.
  • Clearing gutters and downpipes.
  • Putting up fencing.
  • Gardening in between tenants.

>> Related Post: How to do a deep clean of a rental property

How landlords can learn how to do more maintenance themselves

One of the most difficult problems I have as a landlord is trying to persuade the trades to come out for small jobs. A slow turnaround on repairs is bad for tenants, as well as being a hassle for landlords, who have to keep chasing them.

Some landlords already have a trade, and are able to do many maintenance tasks themselves. However, it is possible for those who don’t have a background in construction to learn how to carry out many of the common repairs and maintenance tasks themselves.

It’s a good idea for landlords to learn how to maintain their rental properties. Not only does it save money, but it means the tenants are likely to get a quicker turnaround on repairs.

I speak from experience here. I grew tired of having to keep chasing for small repairs, and decided to do it myself. I completed an Introduction to Plumbing course and an Introduction to Tiling course at Able Skills in Dartford in May 2024. You can read about my experiences here: Student Story: Plumbing and Tiling with Suzanne.

After completing these courses as a complete beginner, I feel confident to be able to tile a kitchen, replace silicone, re-grout tiles, and carry out some of the more basic plumbing repairs. This will save me a lot of money, and hassle, as I won’t need to try and find people to do these small jobs.

I very much recommend these courses by Able Skills. I’m not an affiliate. Just a satisfied customer.

Able Skills is a City & Guilds accredited training centre for the construction industry that provides a wide range courses for beginners, such as myself, up to qualifications at Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as NVQs. The trades offered include carpentry, plastering, bricklaying, electrical, and decorating, as well as the plumbing and tiling I’ve mentioned.

They also offer a Level 3 Certificate in Building Installation and Property Maintenance Skills, which includes 5 different trades, and a City & Guilds assured Property Development Course.

>> Useful Resource: Able Skills post on learning property maintenance skills

Which tasks should landlords employ qualified trades to do?

From a landlord obligation and tenant safety point of view, landlords must use qualified people to carry out gas or electrical work.

It is illegal for landlords to use anyone who is not a Gas Safe engineers to fit a gas appliance or carry out a gas safety check. As all Gas Safe registered engineers carry a Gas Safe ID card with a unique licence number, ask to see it before you allow them to carry out work on a gas installation.

With respect to electrical work, only a “qualified and competent person” can issue an Electrical Installation Condition Report. Landlords should use a registered electrician – here is a link to the Competent Persons Register to check to see if your electrician is registered.

Which repairs and maintenance can landlords do themselves?

2 thoughts on “Which repairs and maintenance can landlords do themselves?”

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve had to learn a lot of basic DIY skills being a landlady to 4 x HMO properties. It is galling to pay £150 + VAT to a plumber to replace and fit a faulty thermostatic shower valve which took them all of 8 mins to do when I can now do it myself. I certainly have gained in confidence to do all decorating, many repairs and in the long term keep our houses clean and in a good state for our 23 tenants.

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