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Owners and tenants: in cases of breakdown, who is responsible?

Propietarios e inquilinos: en casos de avería, ¿quién se hace responsable?

When renting a home, situations of conflict and tension may arise between the owner and the tenant. Especially about who should bear the costs of a given repair. The Urban Leasing Law (LAU) and the Civil Code include the obligations in this sense for both parties, who must assume some expenses and who others, although it is not always completely clear, in this article we will try to clarify it and dispel doubts. . Therefore, we have to go to the jurisprudence and appealing to the common sense of the parties. A good real estate advisor should be able to help resolve any of these potential conflicts.

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What does the current LAU (2019 reform) say?


In the LAU, the obligations of both parties are included in its article 21:


Art. 21.1 “ The landlord is obliged to carry out, without the right to raise the rent for this reason, all the repairs that are necessary to keep the house in habitable conditions to serve the agreed use, except when the deterioration of which repair is concerned is attributable to the lessee in accordance with the provisions of articles 1,563 and 1,564 of the Civil Code”.


And Art. 21.4 also stands out: “ Small repairs required by wear and tear from ordinary use of the home will be the responsibility of the lessee. 


To understand a little better and be able to put it into practice, let’s separate some important cases:


Misuse or negligence of the tenant: you must be held responsible


When it comes to breakdowns or imperfections that were directly caused by a person and their carelessness, articles 1,563 and 1,564 of the Civil Code make it very clear and the parties will understand it perfectly.


For example, Andrés is the tenant of an apartment who is using the washing machine and damages the door by struggling because he did not wait the necessary time for the water to drain, it is clear that it is a misuse: he himself will be responsible for the repair.


Roughly speaking, the tenant will always be responsible for damages to himself or his visitors, due to carelessness, misuse or negligence of the property. Example: Glass breakage, physical damage to radiators, refrigerators, etc. 


That being said, we have to take into account that it can happen to all of us, we are human. We can arrive tired or stressed and a simple carelessness can cause some damage. Therefore, at Geräh Real Estate Partners, we always recommend having your own renter’s insurance. In this way we can cover our backs for any mistake.


It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.


Now let’s look at a case where there is no misuse or negligence.




Another clear point that people are fully aware of is that repairs that affect the habitability of the house will be paid by the landlord.


Wear from ordinary use


This is where the diffuse begins and where we have ever had to argue based on jurisprudence, and on our day-to-day experience dealing with all these cases.


We must remember that any flat or chalet may have natural wear and tear defects. It’s part of life.


In the same way, it is established that all damages caused by daily use must be paid by the tenant. These are: changing light bulbs, toilet cisterns, blind straps, etc. 


The landlord, for his part, is responsible for paying, for example, breakdowns in the washing machine, refrigerator, ceramic hob or boiler. « You only get rid of this when it is a minor fault, such as a light or a filter, or if it is shown that the tenant was at fault «-


All this may seem a bit ambiguous. Therefore, in this article we will try to specifically separate the faults on the part of the tenant and those of the landlord. 


landlord responsibilities


The LAU provides that the owner is obliged to make all the necessary arrangements, without raising the rent, to keep the home ” in habitable conditions “. That is to say, each dwelling has habitability traits that are at the same time fundamental rights. As is drinking water, heating, humidity, among other things. And these are essential for both the tenant and the owner. Here we show you a slightly longer list.


– Repairs consisting of the arrangement, renewal or partial substitution of any of the component elements of water and drainage installations. If there are recurring problems with the inlet/outlet of the water. It is certain that the owner will have to bear the cost of this repair. On the other hand, drain obstructions generally come at the tenant’s expense, since it is surely caused by habitual use such as hair, food, among others.


– Maintenance and conservation of the roof of the house, floors, walls and chimneys. All this is the responsibility of the owner.


– Maintenance and troubleshooting of the electrical installation, pipes and heating.


– Replacement and repair of the water heater.


– Replacement and repair of breakdowns in electrical appliances, except in the case of minor breakdowns (a pilot light, a filter…).


– Pests derived from the malfunctioning of the facilities (pipes, etc.). The pests caused by the misuse or operation of the surroundings of the building could be the responsibility of the community of neighbors or even the town hall.

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Expenses to be assumed by the tenant

At all times the tenant must notify the owner of possible damage and repairs. By maintaining good communication with the landlord, problems can be resolved faster and in a better way. 


They are your responsibility:


– Electricity and water bills generated during the extension of a breakdown in taps and cisterns, since the tenant is responsible for everything that can be measured with individual meters (water, electricity, gas or telephone).


– Any damage derived from your misuse of the home on your part.


– Breaking blinds, lamps, changing light bulbs, removing holes in the wall caused by paintings, or other small repairs of this type derived from wear and tear from ordinary use of the home. According to the jurisprudence, small repair is everything that is less than 150 euros, although the owner and tenant can reach agreements in a contract.


– Damage to the electrical installation derived from overloading due to misuse of the network (connecting too many devices, using more power than the installation offers).


– The tenant can carry out urgent repairs to avoid further damage or serious inconvenience, and demand the amount from the owner later, but he must notify him in advance. He could also carry out conservation and improvement works on the home, but, in this case, the express consent of the landlord is also required, unless the works are minor and do not modify the configuration of the home.


– Conversely, when the owner has to carry out a work that cannot wait until the end of the contract, the tenant will have to bear it, no matter how annoying it is. However, if the work deprives him of being able to use a part of the house and lasts more than 20 days, the rent must be reduced in proportion to the part of the house that he cannot enjoy.


Now that we have broken down the responsibilities of each party, we can move on to the next phase, which is performing the repair itself. In this phase there are many ways to solve a problem and this depends on each person and each home.


Do I contract an insurer?


The most important thing for an owner is to have reliable insurance. If you don’t have one, you can contact us and we can help you choose one that perfectly suits you as the owner. When acquiring a property, one invests a significant amount of capital, which is why we recommend (almost pray) that every owner have good and reliable insurance, beyond the minimum established by law.


Imagine that after having spent about 300,000 euros on a new penthouse, Juan, the owner, decides not to insure the house when buying it, because he did not think that something serious or not so serious could happen so soon. However, bad luck came and there was a leak in the roof from the heavy rains in Madrid. 


Now, on top of the money that he has already disbursed, he has to change an area of ​​the floor and the damage to the ceiling, for prolonging the issue of taking out the insurance and not giving it importance. Now with so many budgets, Juan does not know how to cover 100% of the expenses.


More than a service in exchange for monthly or annual money, insurance gives you peace of mind, allows you to take away great worries and great problems. Even small problems can solve you. If you own a property or are thinking of acquiring one, or also if you are going to rent one, include insurance in your budget at once. At Geräh Real Estate Partners we trust and work with insurance companies to be able to provide the best possible service.

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How to declare an incident?


The usual procedure to declare an incident generally begins with the tenant. Since it is he / she who lives in the house and knows what problems arise. The first step is to take photos and videos of the damage and pass this material on to the owner or company responsible for managing the property.


Once passed in writing and in images all the problems. The next step comes from the agency/owner to make a report to the corresponding insurer and thus generate a visit from a specialist technician. 


This technician will dictate what type of problem it is and what is its source of damage. Given his verdict, he will communicate if the insurance effectively covers the problem, or if it is a problem directly due to misuse by the tenant, or poor design of the property. And the repair will be done.


To explain a little the bad design of the property, I think it is appropriate to mention a case that we had recently. In this incident, there was a moisture problem on a wall facing the room and on the other side a planter. 


It turns out that the watering and humidity that the planter needs to be in its splendor was affecting the wall to which it is leaning. This problem grew until I got to the other side, to the room. This problem could not be covered by the insurance, since it is not a problem of the pipes or natural wear, but that it was a bad design on the part of the owner to put the planter in that location. An oversight, nothing more. However, you will have to come at your own expense.

Written in collaboration by Gustavo Gerendas and Alejandro Arreaza


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