Maintenance - Tenant's Responsibilities

Posted On:
January 12, 2018

In previous articles, we have discussed the responsibilities of the landlord and the repairing standard but what are the responsibilities of the tenant? 

This is an issue that in my experience can cause problems if expectations are not clearly defined at the beginning of the tenancy. For example, I have seen tenants calling in to request a tradesman to come out to change multiple lightbulbs that require replacement and hoover bags that need replacement. I call this “Hotel Mentality” where a tenant’s expectations are that of room service.

Here are the main areas of responsibility:

The tenant must take good care of the property and not cause damage.

  • The household should be kept reasonably clean
  • Provided furniture should be kept in good condition (normal wear and tear is to be expected).
  • Keeping the property suitably heated especially in winter to avoid frozen pipes etc
  • Carrying out minor maintenance (such as changing light bulbs)
  • If there is damage above normal wear and tear to the property or contents, the landlord is entitled to make the tenant pay, even if it is their responsibility to fix it. They may even ask the tenant to carry out the repair work themselves.                                      

Gardens

From experience, the garden can be an area of contention… if it is a shared or communal garden it is generally expected that the landlord will be in charge of organising the upkeep with the other parties. However, more often than not, with a private garden the tenant is responsible for cutting the grass. Lawnmowers and necessary equipment should be provided by the landlord and we suggest that the responsibility is clearly defined and agreed by the tenant and landlord to avoid any confusion. 

Report repairs quickly

The landlord cannot make repairs if they are not aware they are needed. The onus is on the tenant to report issues as soon as possible as some problems can escalate and cost the landlord serious money further down the line if not dealt with quickly eg structural cracks and damp. 

Reporting a repair to the landlord/agent

If the repair is urgent for example a blocked drain or water leak, the tenant is advised to report the repair in writing or phone the landlord/agent. They should ask what will be done and when. The tenant must allow access to the property for the work to be carried out.

Many grievances arise from a lack of communication and expectations. Tenants can sometimes feel that the repairs are not being done or are taking too long and landlords can sometimes feel that they are being asked to do work and improvements outside of their remit.

What is the difference between a repair or an improvement?

Tenants and landlords sometimes disagree on what a necessary repair is. If something in the property breaks and needs to be replaced this is classed as a repair and is the responsibility of the landlord. However, if a tenant asks for something new for their benefit for example, requesting a shower when there is not one already, this is an enhancement and would be at the discretion of the landlord and not enforceable. 

If the tenant feels that necessary repairs are not being taken care of in a reasonable manner, they can do the following:

  • Write to the landlord to say further steps will be taken
  • Contact the First Tier Tribunal
  • Carry out minor repairs themselves and take the cost from the rent (landlord’s agreement must be agreed before doing so)
  • As a last resort, take legal action

In a dispute, the tenant is advised to collect the following information:

  • Photographs (to show the repairs needing done)
  • Copies of letters sent to the landlord eg reporting the issue
  • Details of belongings if damaged by the problem
  • Doctor’s notes which show that the tenants health has been affected by the problem
  • Receipts for anything the tenant has paid for because of the problem eg replaced clothing or furnishings due to mould.

99% of tenants use their common sense and refer to their lease or agent for clarification on their responsibilities however clear communication at the inception of the tenancy is always recommended.

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