Tenant-like manner ceases to exist in Wales from December

“Tenant-like manner” ceases to exist in Wales from December

“Tenant-like manner” – the phrase that landlords have relied upon for decades to illustrate to tenants that they are expected to do the little jobs around the house that someone would normally do as a householder, such as changing fuses, unblocking sinks and cleaning windows – will cease to exist when The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 comes into force on 1st December. 

The new legislation states: “The rule of law under which a tenant has an implied duty to use demised premises in a tenant-like manner does not apply to a contract-holder if the tenancy is an occupation contract.”
 
Our view
We’re disappointed that Welsh Government has explicitly decided to strike out tenant-like manner. In the past, where occupants have claimed that certain items aren’t their responsibility, pointing them towards the meaning of tenant-like manner has put an end to the debate, but we feel it now has the potential to rumble on.
 
Obligations relating to tenants (well, “contract-holders”) taking care of the property on a day-to-day basis are now covered in supplementary provisions that Welsh Gov require to be incorporated into contracts, but they don’t go as far as they should in making it clear to occupants what they are responsible for. They simply state contract-holders must “return any property to the position it was in on the occupation date” and “take proper care of the dwelling, fixtures and fittings within the dwelling and any items listed in inventory”.
 
We think the wording of the above leave enough scope for contract-holders to argue that they refer to not damaging the landlord’s items, rather than having to unblock a sink or repair a fuse themselves.
 
As a result, if landlords wish to ensure contract-holders are continuing to do the jobs they've been expected to do all these years, they will need to consider and explicitly write each of these jobs into the contract. This puts landlords in a worse position than they are now, as there can be hundreds of minor, less-than-obvious eventualities that should (and currently are) the responsibility of the tenant, but will now need to be specifically included.

Our clients can rest assured as we intend to insert the most common expectations of contract-holders into each occupation contract, so there can be no debate about who is responsible. 
 
Where “tenant-like manner” comes from
The term comes from the judgment of Lord Denning in Warren v Keen back in 1953. He said;
 
“But what does it mean, "to use the premises in a tenant-like manner"? It can, I think, best be shown by some illustrations. The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. He must clean the chimneys, when necessary, and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do the little jobs about the place which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must, of course, not damage the house, wilfully or negligently; and he must see that his family and guests do not damage it; and if they do, he must repair it. But apart from such things, if the house falls into disrepair through fair wear and tear or lapse of time or for any reason not caused by him, then the tenant is not liable to repair it.”

Head on over to our dedicated Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 section to bring yourself fully up-to-speed on what you need to know to comply, or drop me an e-mail via nikki.lewis@cpshomes.co.uk.

17 June 2022

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