You have probably heard that tenants are expected to behave in a ‘tenant like manner’ but have you ever wondered what that means?
The answer can be quite tricky as everyone interprets it in a different way. It is common law, which sets out the tenant’s responsibilities. Tenants have a legal obligation to act in a “tenant like manner”. This phrase was originally coined by Judge Denning in 1953/4 in the Warren v Keen case, which was a leading case on a tenant’s repairing responsibilities. In this judgement, Lord Denning LJ stated:
“What does ‘to use the premises in a tenant-like manner’ mean? The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. He must clean the chimneys, when necessary and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do those little jobs about the place, which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must, of course, not damage the house wilfully or negligently; and he must see that his family and guests do not damage it; and if they do, he must repair it. But apart from such things, if the house falls out of repair owing to fair wear and tear, lapse of time or for any reason not caused by him, then he will not be liable to repair it.”
So, what does all this mean?
Tenants are responsible for all those little jobs that are required as part of the normal occupancy of any property.
As tenants, a good question to ask yourself would be: “If I owned the property, would I employ a contractor to resolve my issue?” If the answer is no, it’s likely that the issue falls under the mantle of ‘behaving in a tenant like manner”.
Minor maintenance such as changing light bulbs and attempting to unblock drains or toilets are considered to be the responsibility of tenants. Emptying washing machine filters and vacuum bags regularly are also tenants’ responsibilities. Doing this will help keep your appliances working at their optimum level.
One of the more common repair issues is that of boilers no longer providing heating or hot water. The first port of call when this happens should be to check your boiler’s pressure gauge. If it’s dropped below 1.5 bars, the resolution is likely to be a quick top-up of pressure. This is normally easy to do and fortunately, there’s plenty of tutorial available online. As a note of caution- you should always be very careful not to over pressurise the boiler. And, always remember that the Belvoir team can help answer any questions that you have.
One of the more common reports we receive from tenants is that their walls have started to go mouldy. Lots of people assume that this means damp. The good news is that more often than not it’s a build-up of condensation, which is much less of a worry! Condensation can be successfully managed by finding the right balance between warmth and ventilation. During cold weather, it’s recommended that the heating is left on as often as possible. The warmer the house is, the less condensation will gather on the surfaces. Keeping windows open when cooking and showering and avoiding drying clothes over radiators all help to keep moisture levels down and prevent mould from growing. Also, don’t forget about extractor fans! They exist to help stop condensation so if you have one, use it as much as possible!
Little jobs about the place? What are these?
The following are all examples of jobs that tenants are expected to tend to themselves:
- Replacing consumables such as batteries in smoke detectors and bulbs in light fittings
- Re-pressurising a combi-boiler having been given instruction on how to do so. (Although if this is a recurrent problem, you should make sure your landlord gets a plumber in to look at it).
- Bleeding Radiators
- Unblocking toilets, sinks and drains.
- Mowing lawns and keeping gardens tidy, which may include sweeping up fallen leaves. Also, keeping communal areas tidy and free of debris, emptying the bins on a regular basis
- Taking care of pests or vermin such as ants, wasps or mice.
- Ventilating the property regularly, heating the property adequately and wiping away excess moisture from windows due to condensation
- Properly using all electrical facilities and appliances and upholding electrical safety practices by not modifying the wiring to the property
- Properly using all gas facilities and appliances and upholding gas safety practices
- Cleaning and tidying the property on a daily basis including clearing out the washing machine filters and emptying or replacing hoover bags.
- Cleaning any appliances so that they are kept free of mould and any other undesirable substance
- Safely handling potentially harmful substances, burning or cutting objects and other hazards
- Abiding rules for pets and smoking inside the property
Again, your Property Manager will be more than happy to help advise on these if you’re unsure in any way.
Under the terms of their Tenancy Agreement, tenants are responsible for reporting damages promptly. This includes any new damage that has been discovered, and any potential risks as soon as they happen. Tenants must act quickly to request repairs from the landlord to ensure that all issues are tackled as quickly as possible.
Any damage that has been caused by the tenant, or has resulted in the tenant’s failure to report it to the landlord, or has occurred because of negligence (or their visitor’s actions), is not the responsibility of the landlord.
Tenants also must provide access to the property for the required repairs. A common question is “What time will the contractor visit?”. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult for us to give an exact time. When a repair is noted, please let your Property Manager know whether you would like the contractor to call you to arrange access for the repair, or if you are happy for them to use the set of keys that we have in our office.
There are occasions where repairs will need to be carried out by large companies such as British Gas, service providers or white good deliveries. Most of these types of companies cannot provide a specific time and operate on ‘time slots’ between 9am and 1pm or, even worse 8am and 6pm. Here again, as a tenant you need to ask yourself the ‘if I owned the house’ question: If you were the homeowner, would you stay at home for the contractor? The likelihood is that you would and the same is expected of tenants.
Last but not least, we visit all properties to ensure that they are being kept in a reasonable state. Our property visits are not a detailed check of the place. We will generally visit a property a few times a year and will contact sand inform you by email (on the address you have provided us) in advance. The appointment is never time specific as the Clerk conducting the visits cannot make time specific appointments. We can only provide a window of time as stated above. We generally will gain access with a management set of keys and if this is not acceptable, you should inform us in advance. These visits are planned by area and cannot be moved around easily for rescheduling. Please bear with us while we work on our visits. If for any reason, the locks to your place have been changed, you should inform us immediately and make a spare key available to us. We will never enter your property without the required notice to inform you.
We sincerely want every tenant to be comfortable, happy and in a position to enjoy their home at all times