Tenant responsibilities: everything you need to know

Tenant responsibilities: everything you need to know

So you’re renting a property. Congrats. It’s a great way to enjoy a comfy new pad without the millstone of a mortgage around your neck. However, if your attitude is “not my gaff, not my problem”, and you think your landlord will automatically solve every problem for you, then think again. Tenant responsibilities are important, too. 

Below we’ll explain exactly what your tenant responsibilities are. You’ll learn when to contact your landlord, who has to carry out different types of repairs, and what happens in the event of an emergency. You’ll also learn what might happen if you shirk your responsibilities. Gulp. 

Looking after your property

The first of your tenant responsibilities, and arguably the most important, is to look after the property in a ‘tenant like’ way. This means treating the home well, keeping it clean, minimising damage to fixtures and fittings, and carrying out minor repairs like changing fuses and light bulbs. You also have a duty of care to visitors and need to make sure that they don’t damage the property, either. 

It’s important to read your tenancy agreement properly as well, because this might set out some specific tenant responsibilities not mentioned above. For example, some landlords ask the tenant to redecorate during their tenancy.

Luckily, however, landlords can’t ask you to do something that’s legally their responsibility – like making structural repairs. Things like leaky roofs and burst pipes are up to the landlord. 

Reporting problems

Whilst more problems with the fabric of a building are the landlord’s responsibility, a landlord can’t actually do anything unless he or she knows about it. Therefore, it’s very much a tenant responsibility to report faults asap. Your tenancy agreement should make this clear. 

Consequently, even if a problem seems quite small, and you’re prepared to live with it for the time being, it’s still your duty to report it. After all, the problem might be a much bigger deal to the landlord, especially if it’s a problem that could escalate or have knock-on consequences.

Our advice is to keep the channels of communication open at all times. You don’t need to be besties, but you do need to trust each other and keep one another in the loop. 

Providing access

A landlord can’t fix a problem unless tradesmen are allowed inside your home. Therefore, it’s one of your tenant responsibilities to grant access for repair work so long as you’re given reasonable notice - usually 24 hours. Your tenancy agreement will tell you if it’s more (or less) than this. 

The repair work should also be done at a reasonable time, for example between 8am and 6pm. You don’t want to miss out on your well-deserved post-work bath just because a pipe beneath the sink is dripping. 

You might have to be more flexible, however, if repairs are an emergency. And, to be honest, you’ll probably want emergencies fixed as soon as possible anyway. Nobody’s going to get on their high horse about due notice if that damp patch on the ceiling is spreading faster than measles at a children’s party. 

But what if you don’t particularly feel like granting access for repairs? Well, the landlord can’t legally enter without permission so one of two things will happen: either the landlord will apply for a court order to gain access or, in extreme cases, the landlord might argue that you’re breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement and try to repossess the property. The latter is obviously the nuclear option but it’s happened before. 

Finally, there’s one more eventuality to consider. What if the landlord needs emergency access but can’t contact you? This might happen if you’re sunning yourself on a Caribbean island when a burst pipe drenches the flat beneath yours. In these extreme circumstances, the landlord can force entry so long as they repair any damage afterwards. 

Tenant responsibilities for appliances

Here’s a newsflash. It’s your tenant responsibility to repair anything that’s yours, including appliances that you brought into the house. You can’t expect the landlord to repair your washing machine. But you probably guessed that, right?  

On the other hand, if the appliance belongs to the landlord then that’s a different situation altogether. It’s their responsibility to repair anything that came with the property, including electrical devices, gas heaters and the boiler. Make sure they use a registered gas safe engineer and inspect gas appliances annually. 

Duty of care

Finally, if you break something – whether it’s by accident or not – it’s one of your tenant responsibilities to own up and tell the landlord. It’s the same story if one of your guests puts their foot through a wall or breaks the balustrade whilst ‘polishing it’ with their posterior. Always come clean.

One of two things will happen next: either the landlord will either ask you to fix the problem with your own tradesman or use their own contractor and recoup the money later. Sadly, you’ll have to cough up whatever the circumstances. It’s the same story if your own possessions are damaged. 

A tenant also has to a duty of care to keep visitors and all their belongings safe when they visit your home. This only applies if the tenant has invited or allowed the visitor into the property.

Who’d be a landlord?

So there you have it - your tenant responsibilities in a nutshell. Being a tenant might be right up your street but it’s not a one-way street. You still have obligations.

However, rest assured that tenant responsibilities are nothing compared to a landlord’s legal duties. They’ve got to meet health and safety regulations, make sure all gas and electrical equipment is safely installed, fit and test smoke and carbon dioxide alarms, maintain the building fabric, and even protect your deposit in a government-approved scheme. They’ve had a tough twelve months.  

So try to make their life simpler by carrying out your own tenant responsibilities. Look after them and they’ll look after you. It’s the circle of rented life.

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