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When renting a property, you are expected, and indeed obliged, to provide a certain amount of care for your home. You are certainly not responsible for everything, but there are a number of day to day jobs which a tenant will be expected to take care of with their own efforts as well as their own money.

Most of these tasks are simple, such as keeping the property clean or changing the light bulbs. Tenants are also expected to take care of their own belongings, including furniture and appliances. However, anything more serious is usually the responsibility of their landlord.

In the event of a disagreement, knowing what your responsibilities as a tenant are can help you to avoid having money taken from your deposit. Let’s take a look at exactly what you are expected to take care of, and what should be left to your landlord.

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Responsibilities of a tenant

There are a number of jobs which a tenant is expected to do. They might be paying to live in a property, but it still belongs to somebody else! Any lasting damage could put a serious dent in the landlord’s income. Even failing to clean regularly could result in an expensive infestation.

Before we go into any specifics, let’s talk about your inventory report. This should have been written and signed at the start of your tenancy to confirm, in writing, exactly what state the property was in, including any visible defects. By referring to this document you will be able to prove whether or not a certain issue was present when you first moved in, while the landlord can use it to prove when a problem was caused by you. While this might sound tedious, when the time comes for the landlord to ask whether they need to deduct anything from your deposit, being able to prove who is responsible for any faults will save you a great deal of stress.

That being said, tenants have a number of clear responsibilities:

  • Keep the property clean
  • Avoid causing damage (making sure your guests do too)
  • Follow any rules regarding smoking and keeping pets
  • Handle minor maintenance tasks, such as changing smoke alarm batteries
  • Keep the property ventilated using the extractor fan and windows
  • Keep any chimneys and flues free from blockages
  • Make minor repairs, such as fixing blown fuses
  • Look after any appliances or furniture which they supply

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When can a tenant be held accountable for repairs?

If a tenant causes damage to a property, the landlord can deduct part of their deposit to pay for it. This includes accidental damage, such as breaking a piece of furniture. 

In an instance like this it is imperative that you contact the landlord as soon as possible in order to report it. They may allow you to arrange replacements or repairs with your own money, or they may say that the damage is be covered by an insurance policy.

Keep in mind that in the event of accidental damage being caused to a property, the landlord will be well within their rights to deduct funds from the tenant’s deposit to pay for it. If this happens, be sure to ask for an itemised list of any deductions, along with proof that your deposit was held in a tenancy deposit scheme.

It is another matter if the accidental damage was caused by neighbours. This should be covered by your landlord’s insurance. Alternatively, they can seek damages from the neighbour. However, they cannot expect tenants to pay for the damage.

If a landlord attempts to withhold part of the deposit for problems which the tenants cannot be held accountable for, the tenants will usually need to use an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service to avoid losing money. In a more serious case, they may even need to take their landlord to small claims court.

Something which a tenant cannot be held accountable for is general wear and tear. This can include:

  • Worn down carpeting
  • Aging and peeling wallpaper
  • Cracks in plasterwork

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Responsibilities of a landlord

Even if they do not live in the property they own, a landlord is still responsible for:

  • The structure and exterior of building, including the walls, stairs, roof, external doors and banisters
  • Toilets, baths, sinks and drains pipes
  • Hot water and heating
  • Ventilation and chimneys
  • Electrical wiring and portable appliances provided with the property
  • Gas appliances
  • Common areas such as entrance halls and shared kitchens
  • Repairing any damage caused to the decor by poor repair work which the landlord arranged

If a landlord fails to make repairs for faults which a tenant has reported, any resulting damage is also the landlord’s responsibility. This includes any damage done to a tenant’s belongings as a result of this negligence.