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Responsibilities of tenants and landlords

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According to UK law and also the details of the tenancy agreement, both the landlord and the tenant are held to certain obligations as regards their responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of certain aspects of the property.

The landlord's responsibilities
Some of the basic responsibilities that fall upon the landlord include the following:

Maintenance
The landlord is normally (where a residential lease has been granted for less than 7 years) responsible for basic maintenance of and repairs to the property. He cannot charge fees for the repair work and can only make the tenant carry out the repairs instead if the court agrees. This includes things like:

  • Making sure the property is ready to let, by cleaning, tidying, fixing and making safe any appliances, and removing any articles that are not to be used in the property.

  • Ensuring the security of the property and providing both the managing agent (if there is one) and the tenant with appropriate sets of keys. Under no circumstances are the locks to be changed by the tenants without the prior approval of the managing agent and/or landlord.

  • Maintaining a good working order for any parts of the building or any installations of the building that affect the comfort of the tenant.

  • The upkeep of the fabric and structure of the property.

  • The repair of any utilities such as plumbing and heating.

Gas appliances
All gas appliances and associated pipework must by law be maintained in a safe condition and be checked for safety at least every 12 months by a Corgi registered engineer. Before moving into the property you must be handed an inspection certificate detailing a record of the last inspection. You should also be given instructions for usage of these appliances so that you do not accidentally blow the building up.

Furniture and Furnishings fire safety regulations 1993
All upholstery and upholstered furnishings, loose fittings, permanent or loose covers, bedding etc that is supplied by the landlord must be made of fire resistant material. All furniture must have a label clearly showing that they are fire resistant.

Electricity at work act
Landlords that rent out properties that include portable electrical appliances must take adequate steps to protect the users from shock and fire hazards. Appliances in the property that are provided by the landlord must comply with the Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations Act 1989. The Plugs and Sockets Act 1994 requires the pins of the plugs to be insulated and the correct amp fuse to be used.

Split responsiblities
Aside from the division of labour regarding the upkeep of the property, there is one other area in which the responsibility is split between the landlord and the tenant:

Insurance
Landlords are usually obligated to provide their own buildings cover under the terms of their mortgage. They may also be required to provide contents cover, though this is only likely to be for those possessions which are provided by the landlord for the tenant's use during their occupancy of the property.

Many landlords will also hold public liability insurance which covers them against accident, injury or fatality that occurs to a member of the public on their property. This may be included in their home contents cover.

If the tenant requires protection for their own belongings, which in all likelihood they will do, a separate household insurance policy will be needed.

Tenant responsibilities
Aside from cleanliness, hygiene and anything directly mentioned in the tenancy agreement, under normal circumstances the tenant is solely responsible for a couple of other things relating to living in the property:

Council tax
Every UK domestic property has its own yearly council tax rate based on the value of the property, the number of occupants, and the financial status of those occupants. Properties are graded in bands between A and H, according to the last figures the council has for approximate values of the properties - their market value on April 1, 1991.

Tenants are fully responsible for paying the council tax. Certain social groups, such as students, are exempt from paying council tax provided they fill out the correct forms and provide proof that they are in education. Single occupiers can get a 25% discount by applying to the local council at the Town Hall.

Utilities
It is usually the tenants' responsibility to arrange for the services of the major utilities such as gas, electricity, telephone and television Problems may arise where outstanding bills exist prior to the start of a tenancy. Technically, the landlord should ensure that there are no debts attached to the property at the start of a tenancy period, which may result in the denial of certain services. If it is let through an agency then this may be a condition of contract.

The obligations each party has towards utilities should be outlined in a lease agreement. It is not uncommon for the landlord to be responsible for water rates.

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