Your legal and financial responsibilities when renting

When renting a property, it’s important to be aware of your financial and legal obligations to the landlord. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your deposit when you move out and, potentially, could even face eviction.

Read your tenancy agreement carefully

Before you sign a tenancy agreement, be sure to read it in full, including all the small print. It will list your obligations as a tenant. For example, you may be obliged to:

  • Maintain the garden and keep it tidy
  • Take out contents insurance
  • Pay the TV licence (even if your landlord provides the TV), Council Tax or Rates, service charges or ground rent
  • Have the carpets, curtains, window and oven professionally cleaned before you leave the property, and provide a receipt to show the landlord

Keep in mind that you’ll need your deposit back at the end of your tenancy to pay the deposit on your next rental property – don’t do anything to jeopardise not getting it back. You may also need a reference from your landlord for any new place you rent, or for a mortgage if you later look to buy somewhere.

How to avoid unexpected costs now or in the future

Don’t get caught out!

Two student tenants ignore the Council Tax letters from the council, assuming that this cost is included in their rent. It isn’t and they only realise the seriousness of the situation when they receive a court summons for unpaid Council Tax. Don’t let this happen to you.

  • Make sure you are 100% clear about which bills are your responsibility to pay – if in doubt, ask
  • Make a written or photographic record of any damage already in the property when you move in and have the landlord or agent acknowledge this
  • If the property is furnished, check the inventory against what is included in the flat so that you aren’t later held responsible for any missing items that weren’t there to start with
  • Highlight the key aspects of your tenancy agreement that you will need to bear in mind before you leave the property – check that you’ve fulfilled them by the time you come to leave
  • Save up or put aside a pot of money now that you can use to meet your moving-out expenses when you leave the property

Your tenancy agreement – sole or joint tenants

If you are sharing a property with others, it’s important that you establish whether you are joint tenants, or whether you are the sole tenant and any others living there are effectively your guests – and thus your responsibility.

If you are joint tenants:

  • Two or more of you are listed on the tenancy agreement
  • All of those names on the agreement are liable to pay the rent and meet all of the obligations to the landlord laid out in the tenancy agreement
  • If one of you moves out, that person is still liable to pay their share of the rent until the tenancy agreement is altered – however, if the terms of the tenancy agreement include ‘joint and several liability’ for the settlement of rent, if anyone whose name is on the lease doesn’t pay up, the landlord has the right to chase the remaining tenant/s for their share

Read more about joint tenancies on the Shelter website.

If you are the sole tenant:

  • Only you are listed on the tenancy agreement
  • You alone are liable for the entire rent and bills
  • If you currently share the rent and bills with a partner or housemates and they move out, you will have to shoulder these costs all by yourself
  • Your partner or housemate/s have no legal right to occupy the property if your arrangement or relationship breaks down – they need to find alternative accommodation. However, you will be responsible for any damage that they may cause to the property

It is a good idea for each of you to save up a month’s rent, so you have an emergency pot you can rely on in this situation.

What is a rent guarantor?

If you are very young, unemployed or studying, or renting for the first time – your landlord may consider you as more risky than other tenants. As a result, they may require you to ask someone (typically a parent) to act as ‘guarantor’ – to provide a guarantee that the rent will be paid.

This means that if you should fail to pay the rent one month, your guarantor can be legally called upon by the landlord to pay up instead of you. This is particularly worth bearing in mind if the property is shared, as in this case the guarantor may be liable for any failure of the rent from other tenants – not just their own child.

Again, it’s worth building up an emergency savings pot to ensure you don’t lumber your parents with the financial burden of paying your rent if you lose your job or fall ill.

Find out more about guarantees on in new window.

Budgeting and sharing costs when you’re renting