Renting: how to be a good tenant

Take care of the property and pay bills promptly to enjoy a hassle-free tenancy – follow our 10 top tips to find out how to be a good tenant

Couple at estate agent's window
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Are you looking to become a tenant for the first time? Or perhaps you've been renting for a while but keep falling foul of landlords? Perhaps you need a quick look at our guide to how to be a good tenant. We cover everything from the obvious –paying your rent on time – to the essentials you might not have thought about. 

Read on, then jump to our beginner's guide to renting to find out what else you might need to know.

1. Pay your rent on time

This must be your priority as you’ll be in breach of contract if payments are late or missed, putting you at risk of being evicted. Rent’s normally due a month in advance on the anniversary of the date you moved in, so arrange for it to be paid (usually by direct debit or standing order) a couple of days earlier to allow for delays caused by a weekend or bank holiday. Remember to pay council tax, utility and other bills promptly too.

2. Follow your tenancy’s terms

Read your tenancy agreement carefully and follow its terms. If it contains a clause expressly prohibiting smoking, having a pet or parking a motorhome in the driveway, don’t carry on regardless and hope that the landlord won’t find out. At best such behaviour will detrimentally affect your relationship, and at worst this breach could end up with you losing your home.

3. Ask permission 

Want to start a business from home, paint the walls or sublet a room? Check your contract to find out if permission’s needed before you go ahead, and if it is, make your request in writing and keep copies of all correspondence.

4. Communicate clearly

Good communication will earn you brownie points, so tell your landlord or letting agent if you’re going to be away for a fortnight or more, as an empty home is more likely to burgled and a prolonged absence (30 days+) could invalidate the buildings insurance policy. Accidents happen, so if you break something, own up immediately rather than trying to cover your tracks. And always respond quickly to a message or email from your landlord as being hard to reach won’t go down well.

5. Make your home secure

Adopting basic security measures should be second nature, so lock doors and windows every time you go out. Don’t give spare keys to anyone who doesn’t live with you, and never, ever leave them outside under a flower pot.

Find out more about how to make your home less attractive to burglars.

6. Carry out basic maintenance

Although the landlord is responsible for upkeep and repairs, tenants are required to carry out minor maintenance. This is nothing too strenuous – you’ll just need to check that smoke alarms are working, change lightbulbs and batteries and tighten loose screws.

Find out what to ask your landlord before you move in so both of you know who is expected to do what.

7. Look after the property

It goes without saying that good hygiene is a must, so keep the property clean and mess-free, ventilate it to minimise condensation and take out rubbish regularly. It’s your responsibility to inform the landlord immediately of problems such as a leaking tap, damp patch or mice which are often easy to deal with if tackled early, but can quickly escalate if neglected.

8. Keep your neighbours sweet

There’s nothing worse than bad neighbours, but the relationship works both ways and you can keep yours onside by treating them with respect. Tidy communal areas, don’t let rubbish pile up around the dustbins, and don’t play music loudly or thump around late at night if people are living underneath. Rudeness and excessive noise or mess can be deemed anti-social behaviour, which is a ground for eviction.

9. Allow the landlord reasonable access

Contrary to how they are portrayed in TV sitcoms (Jack Dee’s character Geoff in BBC’s Josh springs to mind), real-life landlords generally don’t enter their tenants’ homes without good reason. They’re entitled to do so to inspect for problems and carry out repairs and safety checks and as a tenant, you’re entitled to reasonable notice – usually 24 or 48 hours, as detailed in the tenancy agreement. If this isn’t convenient, be flexible and offer alternative dates and times for access. A landlord is only allowed to enter without permission in a major emergency such as a flood.

10. End the tenancy properly

Make sure you give the right amount of notice when you want to move out. A fixed term tenancy can only be ended early if it contains a break clause, though it’s worth asking the landlord if you can leave sooner. Otherwise, check the contract to find out whether notice is required. For periodic tenancies, when the fixed term has ended without being renewed, you must give a month’s notice if you pay rent monthly or one week if paid weekly. On your last day, leave the property clean and tidy, remove all your belongings, return keys and provide a forwarding address.

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