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 you should return the property. However, if you're renting a furnished property, 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 keeping the property reasonably clean and, unless otherwise stated in your tenancy agreement, carrying out minor maintenance, such as changing lightbulbs and smoke alarm batteries.
In addition, you're responsible for ensuring no damage is caused to the property by you or your visitors and for using fixtures and fittings properly.
What is a furnished property?
To know what you are responsible for as a tenant, it's worth having a clear understanding of what falls under the definition of 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.
Once you understand what's meant by fully furnished, it's essential to know that all the furniture belongs to your landlord. Therefore, you need to know what condition it was in before you moved in.
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 property's contents before you move in. It lists the furniture, fixtures and fittings and what state they're in when you move in.
This detailed look represents 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 in the inventory will also likely change due to everyday use. For example, if the two-seater sofa is a few months old when you move in, it will probably still be in almost brand-new condition when your tenancy begins. However, the same sofa may be slightly saggy when you move out a year later. This change due to reasonable use is expected and falls under the wear and tear category.
If the landlord inspects the property at the end of the tenancy and finds the sofa broken or stained, you are likely to be responsible for this kind of damage as a tenant under your tenancy agreement. You would have to pay for replacements and repairs for any breakages, damage or missing items.
When you move in, in line with your tenant agreement, your landlord will have expectations of you regarding 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 your next home.
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 agree to arrange the repair of the damage or replacement. You'll need to update the inventory with any repairs or replacements and 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 and offer you peace of mind while you live in the property. If a chair gets broken or the carpet gets stained, it could cover the cost of the repairs instead of having to pay for repairs or have a deduction taken 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 must ensure 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 ensuring the property they let to you is safe and fit to live in. This covers everything from ensuring there are no fire hazards to repairing damp patches. Not forgetting to ensure you have a yearly gas safety check (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 you can reach a resolution.
The schemes offer an independent resolution service that analyses the material facts of the dispute and determines how much of your deposit is deducted.
Know what's there
A complete understanding of your tenancy agreement and knowing the condition of the property's contents at your arrival are an excellent start to your tenancy. From there, you will understand 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.