Who’s responsible for what during a tenancy – landlord or tenant?


Prospective landlords may be wondering what a tenant should take responsibility for during their tenancy and what should they should be taking care of – so let's check out the general rules of keeping house…

Because it's often confusing who is responsible for various tasks while a property is being let, lettings specialist Belvoir has put together a handy guide for landlords.

Get insured

As a rule, buildings insurance continues to be the homeowner's responsibility while a property is let and contents insurance (of the tenant's possessions) will be their responsibility.

However, "before renting out a property check your homeowner's insurance policy," warns Harpreet Garcha, proprietor of Belvoir Kettering.

"Most don't cover damage done by a tenant, so you'll have to purchase an additional policy to cover not only your home and any contents you leave, but also liability issues in the event that the tenant is injured in the property.

"Insurance via your letting agent is often a good option as these bespoke policies are some of the best in the industry and would pay for both malicious or accidental damage by a tenant." A good lettings agent should be able to find you the most comprehensive yet inexpensive deals available.

Fixtures, fittings and furniture

Properties are rented furnished, part-furnished or un-furnished – but even un-furnished accommodation tends to be let with essential basics, such as a cooker, fridge and freezer. In fact, "90% of tenants now expect a fitted kitchen with white goods as a given" says proprietor of Belvoir Poole and Westbourne Michael Betteridge.

Harpreet Garcha agrees and says, "Before renting out your property decide what furniture you'll leave for your tenant. Short-term rentals, typically four months or less, are usually rented furnished.

You'll want to make the tenant feel at home, while protecting heirloom furniture and other treasured possessions. Consider purchasing inexpensive basic furnishings to use in place of irreplaceable family favourites."

If you do decide to let your property fully or part-furnished, remember any soft furnishings will have to comply with fire safety regulations, plus carry the appropriate labelling.

Paying the bills

Although some rental agreements include bills, "Bills nearly always fall to the tenants," says Michael Betteridge. "And this includes Council Tax. I would recommend that the agent changes over the names for the utilities and council tax at move in as part of the deal – then at least you know it has been completed."

Luke Mason proprietor of Belvoir Hitchin advises, "At Belvoir Hitchin we will contact the council, gas, electric and water suppliers to inform them of the details of the new tenant, along with meter readings. Sometimes action isn't taken on the information provided causing problems months into the tenancy so we always document the phone calls (date, time and person, etc)."

Wear, tear and repair

"Clients that are new to letting a property are often unsure what to expect from their landlord but they must remember it's not a hotel service," says Wayne Mearns proprietor of Belvoir Southend-on-Sea and Belvoir Basildon. "Tenants should look after the property and renew things, such as light bulbs etc, themselves".

Michael Betteridge agrees. "For general day-to-day maintenance it should be the tenant that does the work, although some do expect me to go out and change light bulbs – which I politely refuse," he says. "However, structural work, such as a leaky roof or broken boiler, is the responsibility of the landlord."

Even if your tenant is happy to carry out repairs you may want to oversee work yourself in order to keep control and avoid a tenant doing something badly.

Harpreet Garcha says, "Make sure appliances, plumbing and electrics are in good working order before you let the property. It's easier for you to make needed repairs or replacements before the tenancy than try to arrange it remotely – or worse yet, find that the tenant has tried to make repairs on their own. At Belvoir Kettering we can act to handle all repairs and emergencies, or create a list of trusted service people to leave with the tenant. The former has the advantage of saving you from a tenant who calls in an expensive service person for minor repairs, while the latter means you only pay for services actually used."

Keeping clean

"Have a cleaning service come in to thoroughly clean the house before the rental starts, then put it in the rental agreement that the tenants hire the same service to clean before they leave," says Harpreet Garcha. "This prevents disagreements when it comes to security deposits. At Belvoir Kettering we can provide, for an agreed monthly fee, a full service in which the property is cleaned and the garden is maintained."

Added extras

Often it's those little added extras that can help the rentability of your property – some tenants particularly like the ease of all-inclusive rent, which includes utility bills. Sometimes it's even worth investing in modern conveniences, such as Sky and Broadband, in order to make the property more attractive to tenants.

"A great tip for landlords to use as a selling point would be to think about including satellite television or an internet connection as part of the deal," says Wayne Mearns. "This may attract more interest and not cost too much either."

Luke Mason agrees and says, "We have several landlords who supply a gardener to ensure the garden is well maintained, plus offer the tenancy inclusive of council tax and utility bills to make the property more attractive to potential tenants."

It's good to talk

As it's often confusing who's responsible for various tasks while a property is let the most important thing is clear communication. "I think it is wise for any tenant to find out from the agent/landlord what comes with the tenancy before the tenancy starts," says Luke Mason.

Make sure your tenant knows what is expected of them and make sure you are clear about what they expect from you too. Be very clear in your initial agreements about how you think things will work and always get copies of any agreements in writing.

Some tenants will want to be more hands-on than others (including decorating your property to their taste) but it's up to you to clearly set out the rules and boundaries before the tenancy begins.

"It's essential to ensure at the start of the tenancy that both parties are clear where the responsibility lies," advises Michael Betteridge. "And this should be clear in the Tenancy Agreement."

A good property management company will be able to look after the tenancy and ensure the tenant does what is expected of them.

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