This document outlines some of the responsibilities of being a tenant. At K&G Lettings Limited, we are often asked by tenants what their responsibilities are. This document is based on these questions and aims to outline what a tenant should expect to be responsible for once they have commenced an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). A Tenants guide: Tenants responsibilities matrix article summaries some of the points made in this article.
This information is written for tenants within England. Different rules apply for tenants in Scotland.
Not leaving your home empty
To ensure you maintain your tenancy you must use the property as a home and your main residence. This means that you should not leave the property empty for extended periods, without notifying your landlord. It is ok to go on holiday but, ensure any extended holidays (greater than 2 weeks) are notified to your landlord. This will ensure your landlord does not assume you have absconded and abandoned the property.
Paying the rent on time
It sounds obvious but, it is your responsibility as a tenant to pay the amount of rent specified on your tenancy on the day of the month specified in your tenancy. If you have any questions contact your landlord.
All tenants who rent a property from K&G Lettings Limited will be provided with a standing order mandate to provide to their bank. This will allow the bank to transfer the rent from on an agreed date to K&G Lettings Limited. This leaves tenants without the hassle of having to remember to write a cheque to pay the rent as it is deducted automatically. The Standing order can not be altered without the permission of the person who owns the bank account, ensuring only the agreed rent payment is made.
If you do forget to pay the rent or there is a problem paying your rent, it is essential you contact your landlord immediately and outline how you propose to resolve the situation, whether that is an immediate payment or to pay on an agree date in the immediate future. If you do not explain why you have not paid the rent, your landlord can begin to start the process of getting you evicted. The landlord can charge the tenant for bounced checks, writing reminders to the tenant and interest on any rent outstanding. The exact costs of any charges will be outlined in the tenancy agreement.
At K&G Lettings Limited, we are firm but fair. We understand that tenants change bank accounts which can cause delays in the rent payment and as long as we are made aware of these problems and the rent is paid on any subsequently agreed date we will not take action. However, if we are not notified by a tenant how they intend to pay the rent we will immediately take action to lawfully terminate the tenancy and will enforce any charges for sending reminder letters and bounced checks.
I can not stress how important it is to build a good relationship with your landlord to ensure these charges are avoided and a practical relationship is built.
Paying the bills
Your tenancy agreement will outline what bills you are responsible for. Traditionally, a tenant is responsible for the following bills:
- All utility bills (Gas, electric, water)
- Council tax
- Service charges (leasehold properties).
- Contents insurance (for more see ‘insuring the contents of a rental property’)
- TV Licence
- Telephone bills (line rental and call charges)
- Subscription services (broadband; cable or satellite TV)
If you are unsure you should always ask your landlord to clarify exactly what you are responsible for.
Insuring the contents of a rental property
One of the tenants’ important responsibilities is ensuring that the contents of the property are insured against loss. The landlord is responsible for insuring the building structure but, not the contents of the property.
Maintaining the property
As a tenant you should treat the property as your home. This means that you should take the same care of the property as you would any of your possessions. You will be expected to leave the property in the same state as is detailed on the inventory you will be given when you move in. A tenant is not allowed to damage the property so any damage above fair wear and tear must be paid for by the tenant. An example of the difference between avoidable damage and fair wear and tear is:
- A carpet becoming thread bare or thin is fair wear and tear.
- A carpet being stained or burnt is avoidable damage and therefore the tenant is responsible for returning the property to the same state and will have to pay for the repair.
The tenant is responsible for minor maintenance, including such things as replacing light bulbs, testing smoke alarms (and replacing batteries) and replacing lost or broken keys.
Taking sensible precautions such as emptying the refuse bins and ensuring the property is adequately heated and ventilated to ensure condensation does not become a problem. If the tenant goes on holiday during the winter it is advised they ensure the property is maintained at temperature which prevents pipes from freezing. A burst water pipe is the landlords’ responsibility if the tenant did not take minimum precautions they may be deemed liable.
The landlord is responsible for maintaining and repairing the exterior and the structure of the property. In addition, the landlord is responsible for the plumbing, heating and wiring within and outside the property. If you determine there is a problem with a piece of equipment or something to the exterior of the property, you should immediately contact the landlord. At K&G Lettings Limited we provide the tenant with a ‘Maintenance request’ form. The tenant can complete this form and post it to the office for immediate attention. Alternatively, if the problem requires urgently repairing the tenant can contact the Lettings team by phone.
Allowing your landlord access
All tenancy agreements state the level of notice that must be provided to a tenant before a landlord can gain access to the property. For tenants of K&G Lettings Limited, the notice given is at least 24 hours, with the notice served in writing. On occasions, for example emergency repairs such as burst pipes it may be necessary to allow the landlord or an appointed representative of the landlord access. This should be agreed between you and the landlord and should only occur when there is an urgent requirement to make repairs.
A tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of the property (see Protection from Eviction Act 1977) without interference from your landlord. This means it is against the law for a landlord to harass a tenant or enter the property without the agreement of the tenant. If you feel you are being harassed ensure you put your complaint in writing to the landlord or landlord’s representative and then seek advice.
Generally, a tenant must ask permission from the landlord under the following circumstances:
- Sublet or take in a lodger.
- Allow children to inhabit the property.
- Allow pet to inhabit the property.
- Change or make improvements to the property.
- Run a business from the property.
- Pass on the tenancy to another person.
- Smoking within the property.
The Tenancy agreement should detail all restrictions on the tenant and when and how to seek permission from your landlord. The landlord is required to consider each application on its merits and ensure that consent is not unreasonably withheld.
As a tenant, always put your request to the landlord in writing and ensure it is delivered by recorded delivery. Do not take any action until you have received permission in writing from your landlord.
Not causing a nuisance
As a tenant you or anyone in your household (including children and pets) should not cause a nuisance or behave in an antisocial manner. Antisocial behaviour is now provides, not only for eviction but can lead to a criminal conviction.
Common examples of antisocial behaviour include:
- Excessive noise (TV, stereos, persistent arguing) inside or outside the property.
- Not keeping pets under control.
- Allowing children to be a nuisance.
- Allowing rubbish to pile up.
- Using the house for illegal or immoral activities e.g. drug dealing and or pollution.
You should always respect your neighbours and landlord and should not act in an antisocial or aggressive manner towards them.
Being responsible for your household and visitors
As a tenant, you are responsible for the behaviour of people in your household, this includes anyone staying with you or visiting you. You must ensure that you and anyone within your household do not break any of the terms of your tenancy agreement, as this can lead to eviction. Do not be afraid to take control and make people aware of their responsibilities when visiting your home.
Unless stated on your tenancy agreement, smoking is allowed in the property by you or people that visit you. Importantly, smoking is not permitted in areas that are shared with other tenants. Check your tenancy agreement or ask your landlord to clarify if you are unsure.
Ending your tenancy correctly
It is essential that you end your tenancy in the correct manner before leaving a property. Without ending your tenancy in the correct way you may be taken to court and be liable for expenses such as outstanding rent, court costs and legal fees. You can not simply post the keys through the letterbox and leave.
Your tenancy agreement will outline the correct way to end your tenancy. If you are within the term of your tenancy you are likely to be required to provide approximately 2 months notice from the next rent payment day. Ending the tenancy during the term of the tenancy means that you could be required to pay the reasonable costs incurred by the landlord in reletting the property.
If the term of your tenancy has expired and you are currently renting a property on a periodic basis (month to month) you will generally be required to give a months notice from the rent payment day.
This is general advice so, always check the wording of your tenancy before taking any action and if in doubt ask your landlord to clarify.
Tenants (and landlords) have many responsibilities when renting a property. However, many of these responsibilities can easily be followed with some common sense. Always build a friendly but fair relationship with your landlord and ensure you can contact them with any queries when it comes to what you can and can not do.