Changes to the Repairing Standard

Hamish Lean dissects the new legislation and how it will impact on holiday lets and houses let under the Agricultural Holdings Acts, the Crofting Acts and the Small Landholders Acts.

1 April 2019

Most landlords letting out private residential property know that they must comply with the Repairing Standard. 

A private rented house meets the Repairing Standard if it is wind and watertight, the walls and roof are in a reasonable condition, the water, gas, electricity, sanitation and heating systems are in a reasonable state of repair and working order, it is fitted with suitable fire detection devices and a carbon monoxide detector and that electrical safety inspections are carried out by a qualified electrician at least once every 5 years.  

A recent change to the legislation provides that the Repairing Standard will not apply to holiday lets where the period of the let is for less than 31 days. 

However, in a potentially very far-reaching change, the new rules provide that with effect from the 28th March 2027 houses let under the Agricultural Holdings Acts, the Crofting Acts and the Small Landholders Acts will also be made subject to the Repairing Standard. 

Previously, for example, farmhouses and farm cottages held under a secure tenancy or under a fixed duration tenancy did not have to comply with the Repairing Standard. In a traditional secure tenancy, for example, the Landlord’s responsibility in law was only to replace and renew items that had worn out through fair wear and tear and that to the standard that applied at the start of the tenancy.

Many such tenancies can be very old indeed.

The standard that applied in 1960 for example is quite different from the standard that applies today!  Landlords in many cases may have to make a considerable investment in the next seven or eight years to make sure that the houses within their agricultural tenancies will meet the Repairing Standard.  

Will this need for increased investment lead to an increase in rents? Will landlords who are faced with making a substantial investment look to recover at least part of that cost from the sitting tenant by alleging that the tenant has failed to carry out repairs and maintenance? How will the tenants be compensated for their own improvements that have brought the house up to the Repairing Standard?

These and other questions, at least for the moment, remain unanswered.