Repairs carried out on a rented house: who foots the bill?
As an owner, you are in charge of major maintenance, major repairs as well as necessary repairs, above and beyond those required due to the age and use of the property. You cannot make any other arrangements with your tenant.
If, during the tenancy, any damage is incurred in the house or flat that you are letting, there is often a discussion about who exactly should be responsible for the costs incurred. The tenant will probably ask you to pay for the repairs, while, on your part, you might believe that it is your tenant who is responsible. We have summed up the regulations in a few words.
The concept If you rent out a house or a flat that is your tenant’s principal residence, the law determines who is responsible for the repairs to be carried out. More precisely, you as the owner should take care of all major repairs, major maintenance and repairs required above and beyond the age and use of the property. On their part, your tenant is responsible for what are called leaseholder repairs. These are all the smaller and more frequent repairs, linked to the use of the property and not due to an event of force majeure, wear and tear or age. Your tenant should also carry out repairs for damage caused by them (or by people who have visited them).
A few examples As an owner, you should, for example, pay for the cost of major repair work to a boiler, water heater or gas stove amongst others. Likewise, if your fridge or your fitted oven in the kitchen needs to be replaced because it is too old, it is you who incurs the costs. Your tenant, on their part, is responsible for the repair costs of a leaking tap, for replacing a circuit breaker or a fuse, etc. They are, for example, also responsible for scratches or heel marks on the floor, damages linked to misuse of fitted kitchen equipment, or those incurred during relocation.
In a discussion about exactly who should pay for what, it is the magistrate who has the last word. If there is a problem, you can agree with your tenant to jointly discuss the matter with a professional, who will give their opinion on the cause of the problem. According to their conclusions, you can then determine who should pay the fees of the expert in question.
Other types of agreement You cannot enter into any other arrangement with your tenant in the tenancy agreement you are entering into. The legal restrictions regarding leaseholder repairs simply fall within what are termed legal obligations.
One exception to this rule applies to tenancy agreements signed before the 18 May 2007. Then, other arrangements could be put in place. In these contracts, it is possible that you may have required your tenant to incur the costs of other repairs (other than those that they are legally obliged to cover themselves). If you still have a current contract with your tenant dating from before this date, then the system of repair costs stated in it is still valid.
Your tenant calls in a contractor If there is a problem, all too often your tenant will call in a contractor and then ask them to send you the bill, as the owner. If they use this method, you do not have to agree. You are not obliged to pay the bill. Contest it immediately, as soon as you receive it. Do this with a letter to the contractor sent via recorded delivery. Immediately send a copy of your letter (also recorded) to your tenant. Let the contractor know that you never invited them to carry out the work. You can also immediately dispute the need for the work and also state that, in any case, you would have worked with a different contractor.
To avoid any discussion, you can explicitly state in the tenancy agreement that the tenant is forbidden from hiring a contractor on your behalf. You can also include a list of contractors in the contract that the tenant can contact if there is a problem.
Jan Roodhooft, lawyer (www.ra-advocaten.be)