What responsibilities do tenants have?

If you live in rented accommodation, your landlord should take care of most of the maintenance of your property – but you still have some responsibilities.

By Remy Maisel

One of the benefits of renting is that you don’t have to worry about when big things go wrong. Boiler broken? Call your landlord. Roof leaking? Landlord’s problem. But there are some things that you will need to do to help your landlord help you – and some instances where you’ll need to sort the problem yourself.

Of course, as a tenant, you’re responsible for upholding the tenancy agreement you signed when you moved in. That means you’ll need to:

  • Pay your rent on time
  • Allow the landlord access
  • End your tenancy properly
  • Follow the rules
  • Look after the property1

If you don’t pay your rent on time, let your landlord have reasonable access to the property, and give proper notice when you intend to move out, you’ll run into all sorts of problems – you might even lose your home.

Upholding your end of the bargain will make renting smoother for both you and your landlord, and help ensure you get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy.

Following the rules

It should go without saying that you need to follow the rules of your tenancy agreement – so read this carefully.

It’s worth knowing that even if it doesn’t say so in your tenancy agreement, some obligations are implied into all tenancy agreements by law. The most common are:

  • Your landlord has to carry out basic repairs, like keeping the water running
  • You have the right to live peacefully in your home
  • You must use your home in a ‘tenant-like’ way – meaning, don’t damage the property2

There will usually be more detailed terms in your contract, though, so you should make sure you know what you can and can’t do. 

Many landlords will ban pets from their properties, for example. So, if you do want to bring a cat, dog, or hamster into your home, you’ll have to get their permission in writing – effectively an addition to your contract. 

If you want to add another person to your home as a tenant, you’ll also need to ask about that. To move a partner into your flat, for example, you should add them to the tenancy agreement, or get permission to sub-let to them. Be aware that doing this on a short-term basis, like by renting out a room on home-sharing sites, is unlikely to be allowed in a standard contract.

However, short-term subletting is popular among renters: a recent Aviva survey found that 39% of respondents who’ve listed their property on home-sharing sites are renters, while a similar number (38%) were renters who would list their property on these sites in the future 3.

Looking after the property

Most regular building and property maintenance should be done by the landlord unless you’ve made a special arrangement with them. But there is some regular upkeep you’re responsible for as the person living in the home day to day.

Naturally, you’re expected to keep the property relatively clean. No contract is going to forbid you to leave your dirty clothes on the floor, but if your rented property gets very messy it can turn into a maintenance issue. So basic cleanliness is expected.

That goes for appliances, too, so they don’t break down – including cleaning ovens and unblocking sinks 4.

You should also keep the property ventilated and heated properly so that it doesn’t get mouldy, and the pipes don’t freeze – that would cause serious damage that the landlord would have to fix 5

One part of the home that often needs looking after is the outdoor space – and landlords and tenants often get into disputes about who's responsible for maintaining it. Garden maintenance should be covered in your tenancy agreement, but you’ll generally be expected to keep the garden clean (no litter) and tidy (basic mowing and weeding). 

What you aren’t expected to do is make any improvements or do any tasks that require expertise, like prune a tall tree. By the same token, if you do want to make any changes – even if they are for the better – you’ll need to ask your landlord for permission or risk being charged for the costs of putting everything back to how it was 6.

Part of looking after the property is making sure you do any small repairs you are responsible for yourself, and reporting any repair work the landlord needs to do.

What repairs should tenants do themselves?

When it comes to looking after the property, it can be tricky to know what repairs a tenant is responsible for. Although the landlord is responsible for the major things, you shouldn’t call the landlord every time a lightbulb needs to be replaced. So what will you need to fix yourself?

Lightbulbs are indeed your responsibility – you should replace them yourself, and make sure they’re all working before you move out of your property.

If you installed any of your appliances, like a washing machine, you’ll need to repair them. And if you or one of your guests damages the property, you are responsible for making sure it gets fixed – tell the landlord and find out whether they’ll agree for you to fix it yourself, or would prefer to arrange for the work to be done and charge you for the repairs 7

If you need the landlord to make repairs, you’ll need to grant them access to the property – and if the landlord asks to see the property to check if repairs are necessary, you’ll also need to let them, with reasonable notice. If the repairs are the landlord’s responsibility, they should tell you when they expect the repairs to be done.

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