Are you part of the country’s growing tenant army? Latest government figures* show private renters make up 20% of households in the UK, while social renters account for 17%.
And it doesn’t show any sign of slowing - the UK Tenant Survey predicts the number of private renters will increase to 22% by 2023 - the equivalent of more than half a million additional homes.
Unfortunately, Google trends suggest many people are unsure of tenants' rights and responsibilities, as well as landlord obligations – just who’s responsible for what in a rental property?
We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions around landlord responsibilities vs tenant responsibilities to help both parties know where they stand.
What does the tenancy agreement cover?
The good news is that tenants' rights and landlord rights are all set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act, which covers all short leases and tenancies agreed for less than seven years.
Under the act, a landlord cannot avoid any legal responsibilities relating to repair. However, a landlord can choose to issue a tenant with responsibilities that he or she is not legally required to meet, such as maintaining the garden.
According to letting agent Amalia Protheroe, checking the tenancy agreement thoroughly before signing it is key. Amalia, founder of Homelink Lettings, said: “When taking up a new tenancy, the most important things are the tenancy agreement - which is not legally binding until signed - and the inventories. Many landlords tend not to think the inventories are important and overlook them, so make sure you ask!
“The landlord must also protect your deposit and provide the proper paperwork to show it’s logged with a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TPD). Tenants have an obligation to tell the truth. If you lie about references, for example, you could lose your deposit.
“The legislation and list of landlord responsibilities can seem endless, but landlords are obliged to get things right from the beginning of the tenancy agreement.”
Is landlord insurance the same as home insurance?
Not exactly. Landlord insurance can include some of the elements of home insurance, such as buildings and contents cover, but also provides additional cover including landlord liability insurance - which protects a landlord’s income if a tenant fails to pay the rent - and legal expenses cover, should there be a need to evict squatters or repossess a property.
It also gives landlords peace of mind that they’re covered should a tenant, visitor or even the postman or a delivery driver injure themselves on the premises. All three levels of Admiral Landlord Insurance include Landlord Liability Insurance, also called property owner’s insurance, as standard.
Is landlord insurance compulsory?
Landlord insurance isn’t compulsory, although most buy-to-let mortgage providers will require property owners to at least take out buildings cover, to protect the bricks and mortar of the property.
Some landlords also take out contents insurance, which covers furnishings, carpets and appliances, although many expect the tenant to cover their own contents.
Amalia said: “A landlord might want their own contents insurance if, for example, they have installed new appliances, but this is at their discretion.
“Many landlords specifically ask tenants to take out contents insurance, to protect things such as new carpets. It often depends on whether the tenant has pets or children.”
If you’re a tenant living in a shared house or flat, you may want to look into tenants’ insurance, which protects your belongings against theft or damage.
Does landlord pay for repairs and maintenance?
Landlord repair obligations fall under the Landlord and Tenant Act, which states a landlord must keep the property in ‘good repair’ throughout the tenancy. Amalia said: “This is one of the things that’s so important at the point of signing the tenancy agreement. The landlord is under no obligation to decorate but does have to make sure the property is in good decorative order.
“Similarly, the tenant must maintain the standard and hand the property back in the same order. The tenant is also obliged to make sure the property is in a clean condition. Repairs are down to the landlord, unless the damage is caused by the tenant, and I always advise landlords to get it done as soon as a problem is reported, depending on how severe it is.”
Tenants are obliged to give the landlord access to the property to inspect it or carry out repairs. Landlords must give at least 24 hours’ notice and visits must be made at a reasonable time of day, unless in an emergency.
Does landlord pay for pest control?
The landlord’s responsible for making sure pests such as mice, rats and lice don’t get into a home, and also for dealing with an outbreak.
If you’re renting, your landlord or landlady should be told of an infestation as soon as possible.
Homeowners should call their local council or a pest control company immediately so the problem can be dealt with quickly. Pest infestation is covered by Admiral’s Landlord Emergency Cover add-on.
Read our guide for more information on tackling pests in your home.
Who’s responsible for the gas and electrics?
Landlords are responsible for:
- Water, including boilers and hot water tanks
- Light fittings
- Appliances, if provided
They must make sure all gas equipment is safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer, with an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue.
Amalia said: “Landlords must give tenants a copy of the valid gas certificate before they move in or within 28 days of the check being made.”
Does landlord pay council tax?
Council tax is usually paid by the tenant. However, there are some special circumstances in which the landlord is responsible, including where the property is an HMO (house in multiple occupation) and where the occupants are asylum seekers.
Is a landlord responsible for the garden fence?
This is a slightly grey area and depends on whether any damage to the fence poses a safety risk or not. A landlord’s responsible for the structure of the property and that extends to the exterior, with an obligation to protect tenants’ safety and well-being.
If a tenant requests repairs to cosmetic damage, however, the landlord doesn’t have to foot the bill.
When it comes to maintaining the garden, unless something different is stated in a tenancy agreement, the tenant is normally responsible for basic garden maintenance such as weeding and mowing the lawn.
Is the landlord responsible for home security?
Landlords are governed by fire safety regulations and must provide at least one smoke alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance such as a coal fire or wood burning stove.
They must also make sure access to escape routes and any furniture and furnishings supplied are fire safe.
The landlord must also make sure a home is secure, including all door and window locks, garages and sheds.
Is landlord responsible for damp and mould?
The landlord’s responsible for damp and sometimes for condensation, if, for example, it’s caused by poor ventilation. However, tenants also have a responsibility to make sure their behaviour doesn’t contribute to condensation, such as blocking vents.
Condensation itself isn’t a problem, but it can lead to mould in your property, which can become toxic if untreated.
Homelink is an independent letting agency in Wales. Established in 2014 by Amalia Protheroe, a letting agent with many years’ experience in estate agency, property development and management and as a landlord.