Furnished accommodation: what are tenants’ responsibilities?
When you sign your tenancy agreement, you’re stating that you will follow a range of requests and requirements set out by your landlord. These include everything from the amount you’ll pay each month to how the property should be kept. However, if the property you’re renting is furnished, you will have some additional responsibilities.
What are my responsibilities as a tenant?
According to the law, under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, all tenants must use their home in a ‘tenant-like way’, whether the property’s furnished or not. This usually means things like keeping the property reasonably clean and, unless otherwise stated in your tenancy agreement, carrying out minor maintenance, such as changing lightbulbs and changing smoke alarm batteries.
In addition, you’re responsible for ensuring no damage is caused to the property by you or your visitors, as well as using fixtures and fittings properly.
What is a furnished property?
In order to know what you are responsible for as a tenant, it’s worth having a clear understanding of what can be classed as a furnished property.
In the UK, there is no legal definition of what makes a property furnished, part-furnished or unfurnished. These are terms that came about through regular use in the lettings industry.
While there’s no legal terminology around what ‘furnished’ means, HMRC has provided a definition that could be useful when trying to work out if the property you’re renting is furnished or not:
“To be classed as furnished, the property must comply with the Stamp Office definition of “furnished”, meaning that the tenant can move into the property without having to take with him any furniture at all. The property should therefore contain as a minimum such items as a sofa, one or more beds, plus a dining table and chairs, a cooker, carpets, curtains and other white goods in the kitchen. If the property only contains curtains, carpets and white goods in the kitchen this would not be classed as a furnished property.”
With this definition and rough inventory list from HMRC in mind, you can reasonably expect to be able to live comfortably in the property without having to buy any furniture for it.
How do I check the furniture in the property?
Once you understand what’s meant by fully furnished, it’s important to be aware that all the furniture belongs to your landlord. Therefore, you need to make sure you know what condition it was in before you moved in.
Inventories: what are they?
Most landlords and letting agents will provide you with an inventory of the property before you move in. This is an important document that reports on the condition of the contents of the property before you move in. It lists the furniture, fixtures and fittings in every room, along with what state they’re in at the time of your arrival at the property.
This detailed look is designed to be a representation of the property and its contents. It is then used as a reference point when you move out.
Should there be a dispute about the state of the furniture when you decide to move on, the inventory is used by the landlord as proof when claiming for any damages, so understanding its significance can be crucial.
What am I liable for?
No matter how well you look after the property and its contents, its condition will change while you live there. Landlords expect there to be some general wear and tear to things like carpets and flooring.
The furniture listed on the inventory is also likely to change due to everyday use. For example, if the two-seater sofa is a few months old at the time you move in, it is likely to still be in almost brand-new condition when your tenancy begins. However, by the time you move out a year later, the same sofa may be slightly saggy. This change due to reasonable use is to be expected and falls under the wear and tear category.
Where you may be charged would be if the sofa was broken somehow or it became covered in stains. This is the type of damage that you are likely to be responsible for as a tenant under your tenancy agreement. Any breakages, damage or missing items that can be classed as more than general wear and tear are the instances when you would have to pay out for replacements and repairs.
When you moved in, in line with your tenant agreement, your landlord will have expectations of you when it comes to how well you look after their property. It’s in your best interest to take reasonable care of the landlord’s furniture because it might impact your deposit or you might need a reference from the landlord for the next property you move to.
What if something gets broken that belongs to my landlord?
Even if you are the most conscientious of tenants, accidents can happen, and things can break or get damaged. If something goes wrong, let your landlord know as soon as possible. By addressing it early on, you could save losing a chunk of your deposit when your tenancy ends.
By letting them know, you’re more likely to come to an agreement about how you arrange the repair to the damage or replacement. You’ll need to update the inventory with any repairs or replacements and you’ll also need to keep hold of any receipts for anything you buy to make up for the damage.
Tenants’ Liability Insurance is insurance designed to protect you against the cost of accidental damage to your landlord’s property. As well as offering you peace of mind while you live in the property, if a chair gets broken or the carpet is stained it could cover the cost of the repairs or replacements, instead of you having to stump up to replace or repair the item, or at the end of your tenancy, a deduction from your deposit.
What about my landlord’s electrical appliances?
Your landlord is responsible for maintaining and repairing the electrical appliances. You might find more about this in your tenancy agreement.
However, if you decide to add your own electrical appliances, you have to make sure they’re safe to use. For example, if you buy your own tumble dryer, you’ll be responsible for maintaining and fixing it, as this is not your landlord’s furniture that comes with the property.
What is my landlord liable for?
While you‘re responsible for preventing and reporting any damage to furniture, fixtures and fittings, your landlord also has to oversee their property. They’re responsible for the majority of repairs in the property, including arranging a replacement for a faulty boiler; ensuring electrical wiring is safe; and double-checking the plumbing and ventilation.
They’re also responsible for making sure the property they let to you is safe and fit to live in. This covers everything from making sure there are no fire hazards to repairing damp patches. Not forgetting ensuring you have a yearly gas safety check (known as a CP12) from a registered gas plumber.
Make sure you check your contract thoroughly so you know exactly what they’re liable for as there may be some additions to the typical responsibilities expected of landlords.
Your landlord should put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme while you live in their property. These are designed to protect you both if there’s a dispute at the end of your tenancy, by safeguarding your money until a resolution can be reached.
The schemes offer an independent resolution service that analyses the material facts of the dispute and reaches a decision on how much deposit will be returned to you.
Know what’s there
Having a full understanding of your tenancy agreement and knowing the condition of the contents of the property at the time of your arrival are a good start to your tenancy. From there, you will know what wear and tear looks like when you opt to move on.
Remember that accidents do happen, though. If something goes wrong, letting your landlord know and using your tenants’ liability cover, if you have taken it, can mean you hang onto your deposit and also get a great reference when you look to find your next rental.