Living in a Property

Tenants are often told how to deal with things at the beginning and at the end of a tenancy, but they’re not given much guidance on what’s expected of them whilst living at the property.

Step 1

Tenant-like manner

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 sets out the legal duties of a tenant when living in a property and calls this behaving in a ‘tenant-like manner’. This doesn’t just mean abiding by the terms of the tenancy agreement and paying your rent on time, it also involves carrying out minor maintenance to the property, such as;

  • changing all light bulbs – including those fiddly ones in extractor fans!
  • ensuring the property is properly heated and ventilated, especially during showers, cooking and when clothes are drying, in order to prevent the build-up of condensation and mould;
  • leaving the heating on during the winter, especially if the tenant is departing for any length of time, so that the pipes don’t freeze or burst;
  • unblocking sinks, toilets and drains;
  • checking the fuse-box trip switches when there is a power outage;
  • keeping the place clean and tidy, including recycling properly and throwing away all rubbish to avoid attracting rodents;
  • topping up boiler pressure in order to keep the system running properly;
  • looking up the manuals for the appliances in the property in order to understand how they work.

It’s also the tenant’s responsibility to report any other maintenance in a timely manner, allowing your landlord to deal with any issues before they get any worse.

In some cases, especially with student lettings, it can be a long time between signing for a property and moving into it the following year. You should always make sure you have copies of the relevant paperwork, and you might even need to update your contact details with your landlord or agency if you’ve had a new phone in the last year or so. You should also bear in mind that some tenancy agreements ban things like smoking or lighting candles in the property, so read up on the small print when you move in.

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Step 2

All in it together

The tenancy agreement is one legal contract between you, your housemates and your landlord, so you must all abide by the terms of the tenant-like manner. All housemates have joint responsibility to pay the rent and to take care of the whole house. The legal term for this is “jointly and severally liable”, and it means that;

  • every tenant is responsible for the condition of whole property, even the condition of their housemates’ rooms;
  • your actions might affect how much deposit your housemates get back at the end of the year;
  • every tenant is responsible for making sure the rent is paid for the whole property, not just their own share;
  • if one tenant doesn’t pay rent or bills, the others might have to pay more to make up the difference.

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Step 3

The lay of the land

A landlord is responsible for ensuring that the structure of the house is sound and that it’s fit to live in, in return for you paying your rent on time. This includes making sure the property has;

  • heating;
  • hot water;
  • lights;
  • sanitation and sewerage;
  • no safety hazards;
  • regular (typically annual) checks for gas, fire and electrical safety.

If the property is subject to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing, it’s your landlord’s responsibility to ensure it complies with the housing regulations that come with it. By making landlords apply for a HMO licence before being allowed to rent it out to groups, it’s the local authority’s way of making sure the property is fit to live in and up to the standards they set. In Cardiff’s case, Cardiff County Council inspect each property before granting the landlord with a licence, meaning any potential tenants can be safe in the knowledge that it’s been given a thorough once-over by the powers that be.

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Step 4

Quiet enjoyment

It’s very likely that, during your tenancy, your letting agent or landlord will need to access your house for maintenance works, routine inspections, or even to view the property with prospective tenants who may move in after you vacate.

You should always receive notice of visits before they occur – though bear in mind that if it’s an urgent maintenance matter, the contractor might appear before you pick any messages up.

You have the right to refuse entry to anybody you think might not be legitimate, meaning anyone who attempts to enter your house after you have refused will be committing an offence. In cases like these, we recommend you call your landlord or agent to ask whether anybody is due to attend your property and to confirm the identity of the person who should be visiting.

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Step 5

Something to report?

Some landlords manage the condition of a property themselves, and take responsibility for the repairs and maintenance works during the tenancy. These are ‘let-only’ landlords, who will use a letting agent to find tenants and prepare the legal document of the tenancy agreement for their property. Once the tenancy agreement is signed, management of the property is transferred to the landlord and they become the tenants’ sole point of contact for any problems.

Other landlords will have a management contract with a letting agent, meaning the agents remain the tenant’s first point of contact when situations arise. The agency serves as a go-between and can make recommendations for improvement work, but the landlord will always be the ultimate decision-maker. After all, they own the property.

While they will make every effort to enact their duty of care to the tenant and to sort maintenance issues as quickly as possible, in many cases a letting agent require authorisation from the landlord before they can instruct any works. However, a good agent will keep you updated every step of the way, meaning you don’t have to keep chasing them for information on an issue you’ve reported.

Whether a property is let-only or managed by an agent, it doesn’t alter the landlord’s legal responsibilities towards you. Likewise, the necessity for you to act in a tenant-like manner remains. It simply means that you’ll need to get in touch with different people in order to discuss issues to do with your property.

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Step 6

Advice is nice

When you do have an issue to report, it’s often advisable to take a photo and send it to your agent or landlord. It gives them an opportunity to see the problem for themselves, meaning they can send out the right person to deal with it.

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