Landlords have certain obligations to their tenants. However, this does not mean all the responsibilities fall to landlords. In this guide, you will find information on what landlord obligations are and when the responsibilities fall to the tenant.

In this guide:

  • Utility bills
  • Council tax
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Health and Safety
  • Tenancy deposit and deposit protection

Utility bills and council tax

When a tenant is renting a property, it is generally up to them to pay for all utility bills and council tax. This is often stipulated clearly in a tenancy agreement.

Certain situations may arise in which the responsibility for bill payment falls to the landlord. In this section, you will find the difference between tenant and landlord obligations for bill payment.

Which bills are tenants responsible for?

It is up to you which bills your tenants are responsible for. You can stipulate which bills your tenant pays for in your tenancy agreement.

Common bills that tenants are responsible for are:

  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Council tax
  • Broadband

Bill registration

The general rule for bill responsibility is that it falls to the person whose name is registered on the bill. The best option is to ensure tenants names are registered to utility bills. This removes the responsibilities from the landlord to the tenant.

New tenants are not responsible for previous tenants’ unpaid bills.

How landlords can make sure they are not responsible for their tenant’s unpaid bills

Landlords are unlikely to be responsible for tenants’ unpaid council tax and utility bills if they follow these steps:

Ensure your tenancy agreement is clear

State clearly that utility bills are the tenants’ responsibility.

Keep a signed copy of the tenancy agreement

Tenancy agreements are like any other contract so once landlord and tenant have signed it becomes a legally binding contract. This will protect you if you come into any disputes or require proof.

Inform the local council when a new tenant moves in

Include the names and contact details of both the new tenants and previous tenants. This ensures the council can get in touch if necessary.

Inform the utility companies of any change in tenancy

This includes gas, electricity and water. You may also provide any contract details for the tenants. This ensures the companies chase the tenants rather than you.

Get your tenants to change the name on the utility bills

Even if your tenants look to change utility companies, they still need to pay the current energy supplier from the day they move in.

Make a note of meter readings

Do this at the start and end of each tenancy. This ensures you have a record for the utility companies, even if your tenant does not.

When will a landlord be responsible for unpaid tenant utility bills?

Landlords may find themselves paying for unpaid bills if there is outstanding debt and:

  • The utilities are in the landlord’s name
  • The tenant failed to register for utilities whilst living at the property

However, you may be able to prove the tenant lived in your property if you supply the tenancy agreement. It will be at the discretion and policies of the utility company to decide if they wish to chase the tenant or not.

Who is responsible for bills between tenants?

The landlord is responsible for bills during void periods between tenants. It’s best to keep energy uses to a minimum during these times. Ensure no devices are left on and heating is not set on a regular timer.

During the winter season, you should have your heating on semi-regularly to avoid any mould or pipe freeze.

Bills-inclusive and non-inclusive tenancies and bill-splitting services

Bills-inclusive and non-inclusive

  • Bills-inclusive: bills are included in rent price
  • Non-inclusive: bills are not included in rent price

It is up to you to choose which bills you include in the rent agreement. An all-inclusive rent agreement can include:

  • Rent
  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Broadband
  • TV licence

Obviously, managing this can be a lot of work, and you will need to stay on top of payments and price changes. You will be solely responsible for payment of the bills and you will need to clearly state this in the tenancy agreement. You will also be responsible for any debt your tenant accrues—although you will be able to make a claim against the tenant’s deposit for any debt they haven’t paid.

Bill-splitting services

If managing all the bills yourself sounds like a struggle, bill-splitting services like Split The Bills can help. They take responsibility for managing the bills. They have pre-agreed deals with service providers for all the major bills, so you don’t have to look for the best deals yourself. Services like Split The Bills will manage your entire portfolio of bills-inclusive properties, taking care of setting up services in the property and providing you with a consolidated bill each month. If you’d prefer to offer bills-inclusive to your tenants without the commitment, many bill splitting services like Split The Bills will also give you the option to refer your tenants directly to them and you can earn a commission for doing so. Bill-splitting services make it easier for both landlords and tenants:

For landlords:

  • No chasing payments
  • No demanding utility letters
  • Peace of mind

For tenants:

  • Simple payment process
  • Shared responsibility
  • One simple bill

Council tax

If your tenancy agreement states the tenant is responsible for the council tax, it is up to them to contact the council. However, there are exemptions and times where it is up to the landlord to pay the council tax.

  • The occupants are under 18
  • The occupants are asylum seekers
  • It is a temporary situation that has occurred due to an emergency in their current rental property under the responsibility of the landlord
  • The property is a care home, hospital or refuge

Students and council tax

If your tenant is a student, they do not need to pay for council tax (and neither do you).

A property is exempt from council tax if all tenants are:

  • Full-time college or university students
  • Aged 18 or 19 and in full-time education
  • On an apprenticeship or trainee scheme
  • Under 18

Take note that this stipulates all tenants. If some of your tenants are students and some are not, the non-students still need to pay council tax.

Ensuring your student tenants do not pay council tax

It’s not the direct responsibility of the landlord to contact the council. However, to save any issues further down the line, you may want to explain to your students the best way to contact the council and prove they are a student.

It is a simple 4-step process:

  1. Visit the local council website
  2. Locate the council tax section
  3. Locate the discounts and exemptions subsection
  4. Fill in exemption form (select student option)

 

For more information about student bills and council tax, visit our student guide:
Types of student bills: what do students need to pay for?

 

Maintenance and repairs

Maintenance and repairs can be a tricky area for landlords. Where the responsibility lies depends on several factors. In this section, we will look at responsibility for maintenance and repairs.

The landlord and tenant act 1985

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 sets out the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenant. Section 11 of the Act sets out who is responsible for repairing a property whilst it is being rented.

According to the act, the landlord responsibilities are as follows:

  • To keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling, including drains, gutters and external pipes
  • To keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences) but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity
  • To keep in repair and proper working order the installation in the dwelling for space heating and heating water

However, there are exceptions:

  • To carry out works or repairs for which the lessee is liable by virtue of his duty to use the premises in a tenant-like manner, or would be so liable but for an express covenant on his part
  • To rebuild or reinstate the premises in the case of destruction or damage by fire, or by tempest, flood or other inevitable accident
  • To keep in repair or maintain anything which the lessee is entitled to remove from the dwelling-house

Source: legislation.gov.uk

The terms in the landlord and tenant act can be confusing. The section below breaks these responsibilities down into easy-to-understand terms.

Landlord responsibilities

The landlord is responsible for keeping the property in good repair condition throughout the tenancy to meet the standard it was at the start of the rental agreement. However, it does not mean that the landlord has to make major changes to the property for the tenant.

The landlord is responsible for structural repairs including:

  • Building exteriors
  • Roof
  • Chimney
  • Heating and hot water
  • Electrical wiring
  • Sanitary fittings (including toilets and showers)
  • Pipes (both boiler and gas)
  • Repair or replacement of faulty appliances that are supplied by the landlord (eg. Cooker)

The landlord is not responsible for breakages caused by the tenant acting irresponsibly and not abiding by the agreement. A broken window or door caused by the tenant is not under the responsibility of the landlord to repair.

Tenant responsibilities

Tenants are responsible for the general maintenance of the rental property and any equipment, utilities or items supplies by the landlord.

The tenant is responsible for:

  • Keeping the property to a clean and hygienic standard
  • Ensuring the property is not damaged by themselves or others
  • Is cared for including general maintenance such as changing light bulbs and fuses
  • All utilities are used responsibly (e.g. ensuring taps aren’t left running, appliances left on, gas safety etc.)

If the tenant causes any damage to the furniture or other items inside the property, the landlord may charge the tenant for any repairs or replacement required. If this is at the end of the tenancy, the landlord may be able to deduct the costs from the deposit.

Reporting repairs

If the tenant notices a required repair, it is their responsibility to report it. Landlords are not responsible for repairs until the tenant has reported it.

If the tenant caused the repairs, the landlords may charge for any costs incurred during repair/replacement.

Sufficient time must be given for the landlord to make the repairs. If the repairs are not made within a sensible timeframe, the tenant may be able to take the landlord to court. In this situation, it is best to seek legal advice.

Landlords are allowed to make inspections to ensure the tenant is keeping up their responsibilities for cleanliness and repairs. A minimum of 24 hours notice must be given.

Itinerary/inventory

Landlords should provide tenants with a full itinerary/inventory of appliances and items that their rental property is supplied with. This can include:

  • White goods (fridge, freezer etc.)
  • Furniture (sofas, beds etc.)
  • Electrical appliances (router, television etc.)
  • Cleaning equipment (brushes, mops etc.)
  • General items (curtains, sideboards, ovens etc.)

Providing a tenant with an itinerary/inventory ensures that the tenant understands these items are their responsibility. It is up to them to leave the property in the same standard as they left them.

Health and safety

The ‘fit for human habitation’ law came into effect in March 2019. The law was designed to ensure that all rented properties are safe and healthy. These responsibilities fall to the landlord.

Tenants have the right to rent a property that is safe, in a good state of repair and free from any hazards.

Some examples of what landlords need to ensure include:

  • Smoke alarms are installed and tested regularly
  • Provide a safety check before tenants move in
  • Gas equipment (e.g. Boilers) are regularly inspected
  • Electrical items are in good working order (safe to use, regularly checked)
  • Kitchens and bathrooms to be insanitary conditions
  • If damp and mould is caused by a leaking pipe or a faulty window, it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix
  • Any pest infestations are swiftly dealt with and measures are taking to stop re-infestation
  • If the rental property is furnished:

Tenancy deposit and deposit protection

Tenancy deposits (also known as a security deposit) are a standard part of a new tenancy. Landlords can ask for up to 5 weeks’ worth of rent to cover a standard deposit.

Security deposits are designed to cover:

  • Damage to the property— if any damage is caused to the property that is outside of the standard ‘wear and tear’ nature, landlords can deduct the necessary costs to repair/replace
  • Rent arrears (unpaid rent)— if tenantshave not settled their rent payments, the landlord may deduct the rent from the deposit

Deposit protection

The tenancy deposit scheme was introduced to help tenants safeguard their deposit. It ensures landlords abide by the law when potentially charging for repairs/arrears. Tenants should receive their tenancy deposit back provided they have met the terms of the tenancy agreement.

Deposit protection is a legal requirement.

Deposit protection and landlord responsibilities

Deposit protection isa relatively painless process for both tenant and landlord, provided that both follow the law.

Landlords must:

  • Protect tenants deposit with the scheme within 30 days of receiving the deposit
  • Send you any relevant information about the deposit protection within the same 30 days

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