What "acting in a tenant-like manner" means and how to do it successfully - basically how to take care of your rental property and comply with your legal obligations as a tenant.

The phrase “acting in a tenant-like manner” came about from the landlord and tenant law case of Warren vs Keen at the court of appeal on 9 October 1953 when presiding judge Lord Denning's said:

“But what does it mean "to use the premises in a tenant-like manner"? It can, I think, best be shown by some illustrations. The tenant must take proper care of the place. If he is going away for the winter, he must 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 his waste blocks it. In short, he must do the little jobs that a reasonable tenant would do about the place. 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 into disrepair through fair wear and tear, lapse of time, or for any reason not caused by him, then the tenant is not liable to repair it.”

In England & Wales, where a tenant is not keeping the property in a tenant-like manner, the landlord may serve a Notice of Eviction under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, using Ground 12: Breach of tenancy obligation, which covers a breach of any term in the tenancy agreement other than rent.

So here are 7 top tips for taking care of your rental property in a tenant-like manner.

1. Take care of your rental property: Whilst your landlord is responsible for making any necessary repairs and maintaining the property in terms of its construction and exterior, in addition to the plumbing, electrical, and heating systems, as a tenant, you have the following responsibilities:

  • to ensure that your home has adequate ventilation to help prevent condensation

  • to perform routine maintenance, such as checking smoke alarms and changing light bulbs

  • to dispose of your rubbish appropriately

  • to not damage any decoration, furniture or equipment as you will be responsible for paying for anything that you have broken or damaged

2. Notify your landlord or managing agent of any issues promptly: Check the terms of your tenancy agreement to learn how to file a maintenance request; this could be direct with your landlord or a property manager. Some agents have a maintenance reporting system online that you need to log into and upload details and images of the problem. If you do not notify your landlord or agent promptly, and the problem persists and worsens, you could be responsible for repair costs called “permissive waste”.

3. Allow access for repairs to be made: Let your landlord or property manager have access to your home so that they can determine if any repairs are necessary. You must be given at least 24 hours of written notice, and appointments should be booked at reasonable times. Try to be flexible and allow certified tradespeople to enter with the use of management keys if you cannot be at home. 

4. Follow the guidance of the tenancy agreement and ask permission for anything not mentioned: You will likely need to obtain permission from your landlord if you wish to: 

  • take in a lodger
  • run a business out of the property 

  • make renovations to the property

  • redecorate the property

  • house a pet

  • have a lodger or long-term guest

5. Take responsibility for any guests or visitors: You can be held accountable for the actions of anyone who resides in or visits your home. If your landlord receives complaints of loud noise or disruptive behaviour from neighbours or other tenants, they may attempt eviction

6. Don’t leave the property vacant: Your tenancy agreement should specify the days the property can be vacant without you notifying the landlord or letting agent. If you are away for a longer period (e.g. hospital stay or working away), ensure that you have notified the relevant people and made provisions for property visits if and when required (leave keys with a neighbour, friend, agent etc.).  Always ensure the property is secure any time you are away by locking it up correctly. If you vacate over the winter, ensure that you leave the heating on low so that pipes do not freeze

7. Make timely payments: Pay the agreed rent on or before the day it is due, as stated on your tenancy agreement. Usually, this will be monthly by bank transfer. If you are waiting on repairs or you’re in dispute with your landlord, you should still pay your rent on time, as that could go against you if legal action were taken. Ensure that you pay all other charges per your tenancy agreement, for example, Council Tax and utility bills and that you settle final bills before vacating the property at the end of your tenancy