Tenant Rights - What are you responsible for?
Other than issues surrounding the return of a deposit (which we have covered here), one of the most common disputes between landlords and renters is over who is responsible for which aspects of the rental property, from paying Council Tax to making sure the drains are cleared.
Some of these aspects may be covered by your Tenancy Agreement, but most agreements don’t go into detail about the landlord’s responsibilities, and focus more on what the renters can and cannot do. Fortunately for renters, UK law requires that landlords adhere to strict responsibility guidelines and can be taken to court if they are found to be negligent - but if you don’t know where your duties end and theirs begin, then it’s much easier to be taken advantage of by an unscrupulous landlord.
If you haven’t signed a contract yet, the best thing to do is talk to your landlord about any areas of responsibility upon which you are unsure, and get confirmation of this in writing. It’s much better to understand where the accountability lies before the bathroom floods or the dishwasher breaks and you end up in a dispute over the cost of an emergency plumber!
Finally, remember that as a renter you have agreed to certain conditions, including paying the rent in full and on time. Neglecting to do this may impact your other rights. Meanwhile, the landlord is required by law to place your deposit in a deposit protection scheme for the duration of your tenancy.
The Landlord’s Responsibilities
The exterior of the property
The landlord is responsible for maintaining and making repairs to the exterior of the property, which includes the structure, paintwork, drains, pipes, and gutters, and also ensuring that the property is structurally sound.
Safety and sanitation
The landlord is always responsible for ensuring that the gas, electricity and any furniture provided is safe and doesn’t pose any kind of threat, such as a fire hazard. All gas appliances must have a Gas Safety Certificate every year, and any wiring and electrical appliances must be tested and proved safe. Furnishings and fixtures must also meet EU regulations for safety, and hygienic installations such as sinks, baths and toilets must be regularly maintained and in good repair.
Any problems or repairs to gas, electricity, hot water and sanitation systems are the responsibility of the landlord.
General repairs and replacements
Any repairs incurred through general wear and tear, such as the need for a new carpet, must be provided by the landlord. Any appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines which have been provided by the landlord are also their responsibility should they break down through no fault of the renter.
In the case of a broken appliance, it’s important to contact the landlord before contacting the relevant contractor to do the repairs - the landlord is likely to have their own contractor who will bill them directly, whereas by arranging it yourself you may struggle to get the bill reimbursed.
However, the landlord is obliged to make any repairs within a reasonable time, depending on the issue at hand. If they fail to do so after multiple requests, it is possible to take up your case with the Environmental Health Department or the Local Council if the issue is causing a health risk. Withholding rent to cover the repair is not recommended, as this could lead to eviction.
While renters need their own contents insurance to protect their possessions, it is the responsibility of the landlord to take out a property insurance policy to cover any damage to the building, fittings and fixtures.
Fixing any damp or condensation
If the property develops a damp or condensation problem in the structure through no fault of the renter, it is the responsibility of the landlord to remedy this as a potential health risk. If they refuse to, they can be reported to the Environmental Health Department.
However, if the damp is caused by the renters behaviour - such as improperly heating the property or drying clothes indoors, leading to condensation damp - then it becomes the renter's responsibility rather than the landlord’s.
The Renter's Responsibilities
Unless otherwise specified in the Tenancy Agreement, the renter is responsible for bills associated with the property such as gas, electricity, water and council tax. They must arrange and take the necessary meter readings, as well as informing the providers of their name and details as the new occupants of the property.
As with paying rent, the renters are also responsibly for paying their bills in a timely fashion.
Arranging Internet and Telephone
If internet and telephone services are not provided by the landlord, then it is the renter's responsibility to arrange and pay for them. This includes arranging for an aerial to be fitted to the property if necessary, and paying for the annual TV Licence.
While the landlord is responsible for ensuring a good state of repair and replacing the necessary fittings, the renter is responsible for the general upkeep and cleanliness of the property, including any destruction or damage caused. They are also responsible for the actions of anyone lawfully visiting the property, such as any breakages caused by friends and visitors.
Unless otherwise agreed the renter is not allowed to carry out alterations in the property, such as painting the walls or removing carpets, and must maintain the property to the standard it was provided in, although general wear and tear is taken into account.
The renter is also responsible for bleeding the radiators if need be, and in the case of some tenancy agreements, ensuring that a full professional clean takes place at the end of the tenancy period.
The renter is responsible for any maintenance to a garden or outdoor space on the property, such as ensuring that the area is kept tidy and to the standard it was provided in.
The renter is responsible for taking out the appropriate contents insurance for their possessions and the property in question, to ensure that they are covered for any damage or theft that occurs to items in the property. The exterior of the building and any structural issues are the responsibility of the landlord.
Main image credit: Laura D'Alessandro