Defects and repairment

Imagine if your sink is clogged or the window in the front door is broken. Who is legally obliged to fix these kinds of defects? And what if the landlord refuses to do so?
Foto: Andrew Cooper.
Foto: Andrew Cooper.
Foto: Andrew Cooper.
Foto: Andrew Cooper.

Of course things break every now and then. Just because of wear or through other causes. Who is in such a case responsible for fixing such defects? It is often wrongfully assumed that the landlord is always responsible for this. Legally things are a bit different however.

The law states that primarily the landlord of course is obliged to repair defects when a tenant requests to do so. A defect can be described as ‘any condition or feature of that which is rented which limits its enjoyment, unless the presence of that condition or feature is attributable to the tenant’.

Later on however, we see an important exception to this: the tenant is obliged to repair those defects himself, which are regarded as ‘minor repairs’. In short: minor repairs are the responsibility of the tenant, fixing defects are the responsibility of the landlord.

But what are these ‘minor repairs’? The answer to this can befound in the Small Repairs Decree. This decree is an addition to the rule which states that the tenant is obliged to carry out minor repairs himself.

An example of such a minor repair can be found under point h of Article 1 in the appendix to the Decree: ‘the replacement of damaged windows and built-in mirrors, insofar as no significant costs are involved.’ In other words: as long as the costs are not too high, the tenant himself is obliged to have a broken window repaired or replaced.

What constitutes ‘significant costs’ is of course open to interpretation. In suc a case, it concerns costs that can no longer reasonably be expected from the tenant to pay for himself. In practice, this will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It is then of course clear that replacing a window can no longer be seen as a minor repair if for example the tenant would have to cough up an amount of 1000 euros to repair that broken window.

A 2018 judgment from the Rotterdam Court shows that the court is of the opinion that the costs of 500 euros for repairing a broken window should be paid by the landlord. It is however difficult to say exactly where the limit lies.

What if it is clearly established that the landlord is responsible for repairing the defect in question, but does not take any further action? In any case, continue to pay your rent at all times. You could also start a procedure with the Rent Tribunal. However, the Rent Tribunal requires that you first send the landlord a letter with a request to repair the defect. An example letter can be found on this page. Always send this as a registered letter.

If a response is not forthcoming or if the landlord indicates that he has no intention at all to repair the reported defect, the way to the Rent Tribunal is open. The Rent Tribunal cannot force a landlord to repair a defect. However, the Rent Tribunal can pronounce a reduction in the rent, in order to persuade the landlord to repair the defect. For more information about such a procedure, see this page of the Rent Tribunal.

So never just assume that the landlord is primarily obliged to repair a certain defect. First consult the Small Repairs Decree. If the landlord does not take any action, you can start a procedure with the Rent Tribunal. But of course it is always better to just have a good conversation with your landlord first.

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