Think your tenant is asking for something unreasonable? Or perhaps you are concerned you aren’t holding up your end of the deal?
Read more: Risky Tenants Guide
What is the tenant responsible for?
In essence, the tenant’s responsibilities are all based around keeping the property in a good condition, in all reasonable expectations of their ability to do so. In other words, if they can control it without it being a significant impost on their lives or their finances, they should be.
This can include:
- Paying for intentional damage (and sometimes carelessness)
- Maintaining a reasonable level of security i.e. not leaving all the doors and windows unlocked
- Refilling empty gas bottles (if required)
- Avoiding behaviour that encourages mould or dampness
- Doing repairs if they are urgent
That last point is a particularly important one. If the tenant notices a major flaw, such as a hole in the roof, they have the right to do the urgent repairs themselves and then be reimbursed by the landlord. This is one of the instances where a tenant might provide a 14-day notice to a landlord, rather than the other way around.
If the tenant notices a major flaw, such as a hole in the roof, they have the right to do the urgent repairs themselves and then be reimbursed by the landlord.
The carelessness issue is also an interesting one, as it has recently fallen into a grey area where some accidents are liable, and others aren’t. A fire caused by a pot being left on the stove for too long might not be considered the liability of the tenant, while letting an animal ruin your property’s carpet might be considered negligence rather than an accident.
In short, your tenant’s responsibilities are centred around ensuring that their behaviour doesn’t intentionally or accidentally put the home at risk while they are tenants there. More major, structural issues tend to fall into the realm of the landlord.
What is the landlord responsible for?
As a landlord, your responsibilities are more long-term. You are required to keep your property up to livable standards while you have tenants there, but it’s more to do with the structure rather than behaviour.
For example, while your tenant might be expected to ensure a reasonable level of security, you are required to provide the locks and/or security devices that allow them to do so. You provide the facilities, the tenant keeps them maintained.
Read more: 3 traits every landlord should have
Some of the more specific landlord responsibilities include:
- Cleaning the chimney (if there is one)
- Providing a heat source in every living room
- Ensuring safe plumbing, wiring and other intrinsic property utilities
- Replacing reasonable wear-and-tear e.g. carpets and curtains
- Maintaining digital television facilities if they have been installed by you
Again, this last point is important to touch on: there are some instances you are responsible for something if you installed it, whereas if you gave permission for your tenant to install it, they are then responsible. It can get tricky, which is why it is so important to keep detailed paperwork on who did what and when.
What are they both responsible for?
There are also a number of things that both the landlord and the tenant are responsible for. These include:
- Garden maintenance
- Smoke alarms
- Light bulb replacement
- Pest eradication
- The right to quiet enjoyment for all
Landlords need to wash the exterior of the house and clean the gutters, while tenants do the window cleaning, lawn mowing and garden weeding. For larger projects, a tenant might need to get written permission from the landlord. This ties in with the tenant responsibility of needing to keep the property clean and tidy.
Smoke alarms are another shared responsibility. Landlords need to have them installed and ensure they are in good working order at the start of and throughout a tenancy. Meanwhile, the renter needs to keep the landlord up to date with any problems that might crop up with the smoke alarm and change the batteries if required.
Light bulbs are a little more fast and loose. Some tenancy agreements define lightbulbs as a consumable, and must be replaced by the tenant. Others define them as wear and tear, and the landlord needs to buy them. It’s all about what’s defined in your agreement; so if you aren’t sure, insert a clause into your next agreement that clarifies the situation.
Some tenancy agreements define lightbulbs as a consumable, and must be replaced by the tenant. Others define them as wear and tear.
Pest eradication is technically a shared responsibility, but it really depends on who or what is the cause of the pests. If a tenant is leaving food out and attracting cockroaches, it could be argued successfully that they are responsible, and therefore have to organise and pay for extermination. On the other hand, if the pests were there from the start of the tenancy, the responsibility might fall on the landlord, as it was not the tenant’s fault. Many landlords include an annual fumigation for this reason.
Lastly, there is the right to quiet enjoyment. Upholding this right is the responsibility of both the tenants and the landlord, but the required behaviour varies a little. Landlords shouldn’t disrupt the quiet enjoyment of the property by their tenants, while tenants should do all they can not to disrupt the quiet enjoyment of their neighbours. That means no barging in uninvited into your rental property, and no loud late-night parties on a working day for your tenants!
At the end of the day, your responsibilities as landlord and the responsibilities of your tenants aim for the same goal: a healthy, warm and tidy home that provides a place to live as well as a business investment. Simple!
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