What are tenants responsible for?
If a kitchen cupboard door falls off, is the tenant or landlord responsible for fixing it? The starting position is if a task requires a specialist skill, it falls to the landlord to sort out. But it's not always that easy – so let's take a look at this sometimes confusing area.
What the law says
The law says tenants should treat a property in a 'tenant like' way, which means being respectful to fixtures and fittings and avoiding activities likely to cause damage. So if you keep an old motorbike in the lounge and flush dirty clothes down the loo, you're probably not being 'tenant like'. Tenants are expected to carry out simple jobs like changing light bulbs and checking smoke alarm batteries, but the landlord must be told if anything more complex needs to be done.
What the tenancy agreement says
Sometimes a tenancy agreement will provide written confirmation of how responsibility is split between landlord and tenant. For example, it might state the tenant will maintain the garden to stop it becoming overgrown, or have the property cleaned by professionals at the end of the tenancy. It's also common to spell out who's responsible for repair or replacement of faulty items such as washing machines.
If it's dangerous, it's probably the landlord's responsibility
Some parts of a property can represent a threat to health and safety if they fall into disrepair, like the building's structure, plumbing, heating, chimneys, gas appliances and electrical wiring systems. The landlord is likely to be responsible for these and any shared parts of the building, such as stairways and entry halls. The landlord also has a duty to keep a property free of vermin, pests and damp or mould.
Can a tenant do their own DIY?
If you know your way around a screwdriver, it might be tempting to sort out problems yourself in order to make a nicer living environment. However, care should be taken to get written agreement from the landlord before undertaking any work, otherwise the tenant could find themselves paying to return the property to its former state if the landlord doesn't approve of the changes.
Accidental damage caused by the tenant or a visitor
If the property is damaged by the tenant or a guest – for example, through a party getting out of hand – it's not the landlord who'll have to stump up the cash for repairs. Even if the damage is accidental, the landlord is within their rights to ask the tenant to sort out the problem or pay for someone else to do so.
It's a good idea to agree to property inspections around every three months. This way, any problems can be picked up before they develop into something serious, whether it's a safety issue with a wobbly step, a damp problem or a tenant letting a house go to rack and ruin. Tenants should be given notice of inspections and any damage to decor caused by repairs should be put right by the landlord.
Whether you're a tenant or landlord, it's important to have the right insurance in place to protect your property and belongings.