What does "Behaving in a tenant like manor" mean?

The tenancy agreement sets out the responsibilities of landlords and tenants as clearly as possible so each party knows what they are responsible for. In short, the landlord is expected to repair and keep in good working order:

  • The structure and exterior of the property including drains, gutters and external pipes as well as the roof, external walls and foundations
  • Keeping the installations in the property for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation in repair and working order - this includes basin, sink, baths and sanitary ware.
  • Keeping the installation for heating water and heating the property in repair and working order.

However, landlords are not expected to repair or maintain any items that the tenant has broken through negligence (being careless) or misuse, or if the tenants have not kept the property in a 'tenant-like manner'. (The landlord is also not expected to rebuild or reinstate the property if it is destroyed by fire or flood etc.) Likewise, there are regular jobs and issues that normally arise during an occupation of a property that would not be reasonable for a landlord to regularly carry out.

The term 'tenant-like manner' relates to the court case of Warren v Keen in 1953 and is still applicable to this day. Lord Denning stated that:

The tenant must take proper care of the premises. He must, if he is going away for the winter, 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 it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do the little jobs around the place which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must not, of course, damage the house wilfully or negligently... but apart from such things, if the house falls into disrepair through fair wear and tear or lapse of time or for any reason not caused by him, the tenant is not liable to repair it.

This means that, under case law, the tenant is expected to look after the property and carry out small jobs around the property themselves which the landlord is not responsible for.

The difficulty, therefore, is "what constitutes a small jobs?" It typically means things we just need to accept as everyday life with a few examples being:

  • Changing light-bulbs
  • Changing batteries in smoke detectors
  • Re-pressuring a combi-boiler having been given instructions on how to do so
  • Bleeding Radiators
  • Unblocking toilets and sinks
  • Keep grass cut and sweeping up fallen leaves
  • Taking care of pests such as ants and wasps during seasonal changes
  • Wiping away excess moisture from windows due to condensation

As tenants, a good question to ask yourself would be, "if I owed the house, would I Google a contractor to resolve my issue?" If the answer is no, it would likely fall under 'behaving in a tenant like manner".