A healthy landlord-tenant relationship is one based on mutual respect and trust. Your tenants expect you to maintain the property, keeping it safe and free from health hazards. You can expect your tenants to treat the place with the care and respect it deserves. That means your tenants playing their part in preventing household problems.
What you can expect from your tenants
In guidance published on the 7th of April 2022, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) reminded landlords that tenants have an obligation to behave in a “tenant like” way.
That’s quite a vague formulation but Citizens Advice explains that it means tenants should be held generally responsible for:
- doing minor repairs – like changing light bulbs and fuses;
- keeping the accommodation clean and tidy;
- not causing damage to the property – or allowing their visitors to do so; and
- using the facilities sensibly – avoiding blockages by trying to flush something unsuitable down the toilet, for instance.
While these examples may also be open to interpretation, the following might help to flesh out the issues.
Electrical safety checks
Landlords in England are obliged to have the electrical installation in any let property checked and tested when a tenancy begins and at least once every five years thereafter.
But the onus is on tenants to report any electrical failure or fault to the landlord, grant the necessary access to allow the inspection, and maintain their own electrical appliances in safe working order.
Gardens and drainage
If the let property has a garden for the tenants’ use, the tenancy agreement will spell out responsibilities for its upkeep and maintenance.
As the landlord, you remain responsible for the external condition of the property but can reasonably expect your tenants to exercise care to ensure that debris from the garden – fallen leaves, for example – does not block or clog the drains.
Central heating and hot water
Maintaining your let property in a good state of repair and fit for habitation typically means providing some form of heating – especially for the provision of hot water.
If there is a failure of the central heating boiler or other means of providing hot water, you should be able to rely on your tenants to let you know as soon as possible – and it then becomes your responsibility to fix or repair any problems that are found.
Don’t forget that landlords are legally required to have all gas appliances and installations checked annually.
The loft space in a let property might be something of a grey area. It is not part of the living space but may still be let as part of the tenancy.
Dacorum Borough Council (in northwest Hertfordshire) has published useful guidance on the use of the loft space in its council houses – and the same principles typically extend to homes with lofts in the private rented sector.
The guidance explains that if tenants have access to a loft, they can use it to store lightweight items only. They must not store items directly onto loft insulation or the plasterboard of ceilings and will be held responsible for any damage caused by going into the loft – if they step on un-boarded plasterboard and put a foot through the ceiling, for example.
Just as your tenants have the right to expect you to keep to your obligations as a landlord, so you might also rely on your tenants to play their part – that is the way to establishing a relationship based on mutual trust and confidence.