Tenants and owners obligations

This information only applies in England and Wales.
 
The highly regulated nature of the modern buy to let property marketplace has created numerous obligations and rights for tenants and owners which are legally enforced with varying degrees of success. So let Rocket Lawyer walk you through the main responsibilities.
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The tenancy agreement contains what the tenant can and cannot do at the property.  

Whilst the landlord is responsible for the structure and exterior of the property, the tenant must keep the property clean.

Other general tenant responsibilities include: paying the rent, paying all utility bills and sometimes council tax and water rates, keeping the interior in good repair, not to sub-let the property, allowing the landlord to carry out periodic checks to inspect the property, fixing any breakages, not damaging the property, ensuring that any guests are well behaved.

On a practical point, at the start of the letting, make sure the tenant understands what repairs and decoration (if any) they are required to carry out under the agreement to avoid any confusion.

The main obligations for you as landlord are: quiet enjoyment (this means that the tenant can enjoy the complete benefit of the property without the landlord adversely affecting that enjoyment), insurance (you must insure the property), repair (you must keep the structure and exterior including gutters, drains and pipes maintained and repaired).

As landlord, you are liable under different legislation for gas safety, furniture safety, fire safety, environmental health and liabilities under common and civil law.

Your tenants are entitled to a safe and secure home and you must endeavour to do everything possible to ensure their property is safe.

In England, for residential tenancy agreements starting after 20 March 2019 you should also ensure that the dwelling is fit for human habitation when the tenancy is granted, and for the duration of the tenancy.

For further information read Legal obligations of a landlord.

Treat all tenants equally and with respect.

Maintain a business-like relationship and be organised and committed about your responsibilities under the letting agreement.

Start a good landlord and tenant relationship from the beginning.  Some practical steps you should consider include the following.

Maintenance

All properties will require maintenance over the years; deal with decorating and minor jobs on a regular basis.

Local tradesmen

Keep up relationships with local tradesmen so that they can be on hand on short notice.

Appliances

Consider getting appliances insured against breaking down.

Welcome pack - provide the tenant with house rules so that they are aware of what is expected of them to avoid any problems later on in the tenancy.

The landlord is responsible for most repairs to a rented property. Examples of repairs include fixing a broken boiler, sealing broken windows or anything that would make the property habitable (ie liveable). The landlord is also responsible for repairs to common parts, such as communal stairwells. If the tenant paid for the repairs using their own money, they can reclaim these back from the landlord. To reclaim the money the tenant will need to submit receipts and all the evidence around what it was that was repaired, why it needed repairing, and a breakdown of all the costs.

The landlord is usually not responsible for any improvements to the property, for example, replacing kitchen units with new ones and redecorating or insulating a loft. The costs of any improvements will be the responsibility of the tenant. When the tenancy ends, it's unlikely that a tenant can remove improvements that are fixed (such as new kitchen units or paint). Therefore, if the duration of the tenancy agreement is not for an extended or long period, it may not make sense for the tenant to make improvements to the property.

Your first step should be to get a copy of your rental agreement and read it again. If you can’t find your agreement then you need to ask your landlord or agent for a copy. Pull out the clauses that you think your landlord has broken and begin to write your e-mail/letter to them. This will inform them of what terms they have breached and gives them notice to rectify them.

You should include:

  • The property address

  • Today's date (ie the date of writing the letter)

  • The clauses you believe have been broken

  • The date of which you would like this rectified

If the repairs aren't done, you can do the repairs yourself (ie by getting a certified repairman or contractor) and then claiming back the costs from the landlord. You should keep all correspondence and receipts, including invoices. This will be important when providing evidence.

You can also contact the environmental health department at your Local Council for help. They must take action if they think the problems could harm you or cause a nuisance to others.

If your house isn't fit to live in and you think your home’s unsafe, contact the housing department at your Local Council. They’ll do a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment and must take action if they think your home has serious health and safety hazards.

If these options don't work then you will need to go to court and get a court order forcing the landlord to repair the property. To obtain an order for specific performance a tenant will need to convince the court as to the urgency of the works and that any alternative remedies are inadequate.

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