Once you have found a property to rent in the UK, you may be wondering what your responsibilities as a tenant are, and what your landlord’s responsibilities will be. In this article, we will be explaining what will be expected of you, what you can expect of your landlord, what to do at the end of your tenancy, and who you should contact if any issues arise during your tenancy.
Before Moving In
Prior to moving into the property, there are several documents that your landlord must provide you with. We covered which documents your landlord will need from you in a previous article.
Firstly, and most importantly, you should make sure that you receive a written tenancy agreement from your landlord. This should specify the length of your tenancy, what changes you can and can’t make to the property, and the notice period required should you wish to end the tenancy early. Before you sign this agreement, ensure that you have read and understood the terms. If you are uncertain about anything in your tenancy agreement, seek advice from Shelter before you agree to sign.
We would also recommend that you ensure your tenancy agreement includes a break clause. A break clause allows you to give your landlord notice if you wish to leave the property before the end of your tenancy without incurring any fees for breaking the terms of your contract. It will usually mean that if you wish to leave, you will need to provide your landlord with a set notice period in writing, and will ensure that when your notice ends, your tenancy will end, your right to live in the property will end and you will not be liable for ongoing rent. A break clause will also generally state a given period of time that must pass before you are able to make use of this clause, for example, it may state that you can offer a month’s notice after you are six months into your contract. If you would like to learn more about break clauses, you can read about them on the Shelter website.
You and your landlord should agree to a check-in report or inventory before you move into the property. An inventory will outline any furniture, appliances or belongings that the landlord is leaving in the property for the use of tenants, and if damaged at the end of your tenancy, your landlord may keep part, or all your deposit as compensation for any damage to these items. It is advisable to take photographs of any belongings left in the property by your landlord, prior to you moving in, just in case there is any dispute about the condition of these objects at the end of your tenancy.
Once you move in, take meter readings at your earliest convenience, this is to ensure that you don’t end up paying for any of the previous tenant’s bills.
Finally, ensure that your landlord follows a code of practice. A code of practice ensures that a property is of a good quality and high standard. You can read about the code in detail here.
Documents your Landlord Should Provide you with
There are several documents your landlord should provide you with either before you move in, or within the first month or so of you residing in the property.
Perhaps most importantly, your landlord or letting agency should provide you with contact details should you need to contact them in an emergency or about any issues that may arise with the property. Legally, you can be made aware of your landlord’s name and address.
As mentioned in our previous article about renting, your landlord should provide you with a copy of the renting checklist. This checklist is a document outlining what you should be aware of throughout the renting process and should help you to remain aware of your rights and responsibilities, as well as the rights and responsibilities of your landlord.
Gas Safety Certificate
Gas safety certificates confirm that any appliances fueled by gas within the property have been checked and are safe for your use. You should receive a copy of this when you first move into the property. Checks should be completed annually, something your landlord will be responsible for arranging, and you should also receive a certificate within 28 days of each gas safety check.
If your landlord or agency has requested a deposit, it is the responsibility of your landlord to protect it in a government approved scheme within 30 days of receiving the deposit, and they should inform you of any information regarding this. It is also important for you to understand how you will get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy, so be sure to discuss this with your landlord or agency when you first pay your deposit.
Energy Performance Certificate
The energy performance certificate determines the cost of energy bills for a property, unless the property is multiple occupancy, where common areas such as the kitchen and living room are shared by multiple tenants. Properties rented after April 1st, 2018 must have an energy performance rating of E.
Electrical Inspection Records
Electrical appliances provided by the landlord in a property should be checked every five years, and so you should receive a record of the most recent inspection to ensure that all electrical appliances within the property are safe.
Evidence that Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms are Working
Your landlord should also provide evidence that any smoke detectors or carbon monoxide alarms are in working order before you move in. All properties should contain a smoke detector on each floor of the property, so if this is missing, you should request that your landlord install them. If the property you intend to move into has a woodburning stove or fireplace, then it should have a carbon monoxide alarm in addition to the previously mentioned smoke detectors.
During your tenancy, both landlords and tenants have certain responsibilities. We will go into detail about these, but to give you a brief idea, landlords have a responsibility to ensure that their property is safe and habitable for tenants, and tenants have a responsibility to respect and maintain the property.
Pay your Rent on Time
Your main responsibility as a tenant will be to pay your rent on time. Generally, tenants will pay rent monthly, but in certain circumstances, it is possible to pay an annual fee instead. If you fail to pay your rent within 14 days, you may have to pay a default fee. It’s also likely that if you continually fail to pay your rent, your landlord will evict you for breaking your tenancy agreement.
Pay your Bills
As well as your rent, it will also be your responsibility to pay your council tax, gas, electricity and water bills, unless your tenancy agreement states that these bills are included in your rental agreement.
Maintain the Property
It is important to ensure that you maintain the cleanliness and condition of the property where you can. Whilst the landlord will be responsible for larger issues, you should be considerate of the property, cleaning regularly and completing smaller tasks such as changing lightbulbs. If you wish to redecorate, you should consult with your landlord beforehand to ensure that they are happy for you to make changes, or to discuss what changes you can or can’t make. If any appliances provided by the landlord break, or if any plumbing, electrical or structural issues arise, make sure to contact your landlord immediately so that they can resolve these issues promptly. Whilst it is the landlord’s duty to ensure that any issues are resolved, you will be equally responsible for reporting any problems. It is also advisable to take out contents insurance, as even if your landlord has insurance, it likely won’t cover your personal possessions, only the possessions provided by the landlord.
Be Considerate of Neighbours
If you will be living in a property where you will have neighbours, it is important to be respectful of your neighbours by ensuring that you are not disruptive (e.g. playing loud music late at night) or anti-social (harassing or threatening your neighbours). If your landlord receives reports that you have exhibited disruptive or anti-social behavior, it is possible that they may take actions to evict you.
Subletting is when a tenant rents the property, or a room in the property, out to someone else. Generally, this practice is illegal as the landlord is often not made aware that their property is being let out by the tenants. If you do wish to sublet the property you are living in, make sure to seek permission from your landlord, and if they refuse, do not proceed with plans to sublet.
Be Aware of the Property
When you first move into the property, ensure that you are aware of how to operate the boiler and any appliances provided to you by the landlord. It will also be your responsibility to ask where the stopcock, fuse box and meters are.
Test the Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Whilst it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are installed and that they are functioning when you initially move in, it will be your responsibility as the tenant to test these detectors on a monthly basis. If you find any issues with one of the detectors, you should report it to your landlord immediately.
Maintain the Exterior, Structure and Safety of the Property
The landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property you are living in is structurally sound, and safe for habitation. If you have any concerns or find any issues with the property, always contact your landlord.
Fit Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
As previously mentioned, smoke detectors should be installed on each floor of a property, and if there is a wood or coal burning oven or fireplace available in the property, a carbon monoxide alarm should also be installed. If either of these is missing, you should request your landlord to have them put into the property.
Water, Electricity and Gas Issues
If any issues arise with the water, electricity or gas supplies, you should report this to your landlord, and it will be their duty to send someone to the property to fix this.
Gas Safety Check
As mentioned in the documents section of this article, your landlord should arrange for an annual gas safety check to be carried out and inform you of this, as it is likely that you will either need to be home to let someone in to carry out these checks, or the landlord themselves will need to be present during the check if you aren’t available.
Maintain Furniture and Appliances and Provide Repairs
If your landlord has supplied you with any appliances or furniture, it will be their responsibility to maintain these items and ensure that they are functioning correctly. If one of these appliances breaks or malfunctions, ensure that you notify your landlord so that they can have it repaired or replaced. As well as the appliances and furniture supplied by the landlord, if any issues arise with the property itself, it is generally the landlord’s responsibility to have these issues repaired, unless otherwise specified in your tenancy agreement.
24 Hours’ Notice for Visits
If, for any reason, the landlord needs to come to the property for repairs or any kind of visit, they are legally required to give you at least 24 hours’ notice prior to this. Even though the landlord owns the property, they aren’t allowed to enter the property without giving you the specified amount of notice.
Maintain Energy Efficiency
As previously stated, your landlord will need to provide you with documentation outlining the energy efficiency of the property. The landlord will need to ensure that the minimum energy efficiency is in band E, unless the property is exempt from this.
Insuring the Property
The landlord’s final responsibility is to insure the property to cover the costs of any damage caused by fire or flood.
Ending your Tenancy
At the end of your tenancy, you’ll usually either wish to extend your tenancy, or leave the property. In both situations, there are steps that both you and your landlord will need to complete.
Extending your Tenancy
If you decide you’d like to remain in the property, and your landlord is happy for you to do so, you will either need to sign a new fixed term contract, the way you did initially, or you could opt for a rolling tenancy. A rolling tenancy allows you to continue living in the property but with no fixed term date. In this situation, your tenancy agreement with the landlord should state how much notice you will need to provide the landlord with should you wish to leave, the notice period will generally be one month.
It is also possible that if you extend your tenancy, your landlord may wish to increase the cost of rent, which they are entitled to do before you sign a new tenancy agreement, but they must inform you of this change and include it in the new agreement before you sign it.
If you Want to End your Tenancy
If your landlord wishes to end your tenancy, they are legally required to give you proper notice, at least two months usually, and must have allowed any fixed term period of the tenancy to have expired.
If you decide you want to end your tenancy early, you may be charged for this as you will be breaking your contract. It should stipulate in your tenancy agreement how much notice you need to provide your landlord with in this situation, but it is generally one month.
The property will be inspected once yourself and your landlord have decided that you wish to end the tenancy agreement, this inspection will determine if any of your deposit will be deducted due to damages to the property. The gov.uk website recommends that you be present for this inspection. If you disagree with the outcome of an inspection, you can contact the relevant deposit protection scheme to appeal. Here are a few of the deposit protection schemes in place:
Deposit Protection Service
Tenancy Deposit Scheme
You should also ensure that all your rent and bill payments are up to date prior to leaving, if they are left unpaid, it could have a negative impact on your credit rating and if you wish to obtain a reference from your landlord.
During the process of vacating the property, make sure that you clean the property thoroughly, as well as removing all of your possessions, even if there are items you don’t intend to take to your new home with you, remove and dispose of any wanted belongings. If you leave any of your personal belongings in the property, the landlord is entitled to dispose of them after 14 days, though they must inform you that they intend to do this.
Finally, ensure that you take meter readings, return any keys to the landlord, and provide your landlord with a forwarding address should they need to contact you or forward any post on to you after you have vacated the property.
Issues During or After your Tenancy
Major issues can usually be avoided if you do your research whilst searching for a property to rent and before signing a tenancy agreement, however sometimes problems can arise during your tenancy that are beyond your control, and it is useful to know who to contact in those situations.
It should be noted that if possible, it is always best to discuss any problems with your landlord or letting agency first, as often they can find a quick resolution to any worries or issues you may have.
If you have any complaints about the letting agency you are dealing with, and the letting agency itself can’t resolve this for you, it is possible to make a complaint to the Independent Redress Scheme, and they should be able to better advise you.
If you find that you are having difficulties with your landlord that can’t be resolved by discussing the issue directly with them, you should report the issue to your local authority, you can find yours here.
Examples of difficulties with your landlord are:
Your landlord refusing to repair the property when the conditions are unsafe.
If your landlord attempts to evict you without valid reason or without providing written notice as stipulated in your tenancy agreement.
If your landlord unfairly retains your deposit at the end of your tenancy.
If your landlord makes unannounced visits or harasses you (if you feel threatened or unsafe, it is recommended that you call 999).
Sometimes, circumstances beyond your control may prevent you from being able to afford the cost of your rent. It is vital to speak to your landlord as soon as possible in this situation, as they are likely to be more understanding if you are honest with them from the outset and may be able to offer you some help and advice. If the issue is potentially going to be a long term problem, it is wise to contact Citizens Advice or Shelter for further advice.
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GOV.UK. (2019). How to rent: the checklist for renting in England. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent/how-to-rent-the-checklist-for-renting-in-england [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019].
England, S., advice, H. and renting, P. (2019). How to end a fixed term tenancy early. [online] Shelter England. Available at: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/private_renting/how_tenants_can_end_a_fixed_term_tenancy [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019].