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Understanding Tenant and Landlord Responsibilities in Rental Agreements

The private rental sector has been growing steadily across a generation of Brits, with an estimated 5 million people now living in rented accommodation.

Rental costs have risen sharply in recent years, influenced by soaring interest rates and other factors such as energy costs also reaching record levels. This may exacerbate tensions between landlords and renters, with conflict commonly arising around who is responsible for what in a rental property.

While tenancy agreements should lay this bare for all involved, a lack of communication around key issues can muddy the waters. In this article, we’ve attempted to add a bit of calm and clarity to what can often be contentious conversations.

Understanding a Tenancy Agreement

The tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party. It should include details like rent amount and due date, length of tenancy, permitted alterations (decorating the property), and pet restrictions.

Both landlords and tenants should carefully read and understand the agreement before signing and ask to clarify any clauses they find unclear.

Tenants may benefit from keeping a copy of the signed agreement for your reference throughout the tenancy period.

Maintenance and Repairs

Landlord’s Responsibility: The landlord is responsible for ensuring the property meets basic health and safety standards. This includes maintaining the structural safety of the building and arranging any repairs or upgrades required for the plumbing, heating, and electrical systems of the house. Potential health hazards, such as damp or mould, are also on the landlord to fix.

Tenant’s Responsibility: Tenants are responsible for taking care of any general wear and tear that crops up. Scuffed walls, damaged furniture and faulty appliances are all likely to be a tenant’s responsibility to fix. Tenants should also report any maintenance issues promptly to their landlord. This could include a dripping tap, a failing boiler or a loose floorboard.

Buildings and Contents Insurance

A home insurance policy can protect both a landlord and a tenant, although each should typically take out a different type of product.

Landlord’s Insurance: Landlords are legally obliged to hold building insurance, which covers damage to the property structure itself. They may also hold contents insurance in furnished properties.

Tenant’s Insurance: Tenants can legally live in a rented property without any insurance; however it’s recommended they take out a contents policy. It protects belongings against theft, damage by fire or flood, and other unforeseen circumstances.

Rights to Privacy vs. Landlord Access

Tenants have the right to live in the property with a reasonable expectation of privacy and landlords cannot enter it unannounced. Typically, they must provide at least 24 hours’ notice for routine inspections or scheduled maintenance.

In some exceptions, a landlord may require access without notice or at extremely short notice. An emergency such as a water leak could be valid here. However, they should still try to inform the tenant when possible.

If you’re unsure about a landlord’s access request, ask for written confirmation or clarification on the purpose of their visit and speak to Citizen’s Advice.