Mess and damage

Speech bubbles with questions and answers

There can sometimes be conflict between landlords and tenants over mess, damage and repairs. Our guide below outlines each party’s legal responsibilities, as well as providing useful tips and advice to circumvent problems, and provide a happy resolution where disagreements and misunderstandings exist.


Cleanliness and rubbish


Damage and repairs

Cleanliness and rubbish

“My tenant is not keeping the property clean. They are also leaving rubbish in the garden causing a nasty odour, and I am concerned its going to attract rats. What can I do?”

  • A tenant must use the home in a ‘tenant like way’ implying they must keep the home reasonably clean. If you are unhappy with the level of cleanliness, talk to your tenant in the first instance. There may be a reasonable explanation, such as an injury, or poor health. They may be working with professionals who can suggest ways of supporting them with every day tasks such as housework. For example, they may receive Personal Independent Payments which could be used to fund a cleaner.
  • Why not set out any agreement specifying what should be cleaned, and how often? For a shared house, you may want to provide a cleaning rota. In the case of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) landlords have a responsibility to ensure communal areas, and shared facilities, are clean and in good repair.  Therefore you should consider hiring a cleaner if you are unable to clean these areas yourself. You may also wish to consider displaying waste collection dates in the communal areas, details about what goes in what bin, and supplying a rota for tenants to ensure waste is left in the appropriate location for collection. You may also want to check your tenants feel they have enough bins to circumvent waste being left on the floor/ground.  RBC does not collect glass for recycling, so you may wish to provide an additional bin or container for glass, and agree on a rota for the tenants to take to the nearest bottle bank, or a day you will collect. Landlords of HMOs are legally required to ensure all means of escape from the building are not obstructed and are kept in good order. Accordingly doors, windows, and hallways must be clear and free from trip hazards. It is advisable to complete regular visits and checks, and communicating this will encourage tenants to be conscious of how they use the premises.
  • Launchpad is opening Reading’s first work and life skills centre. Those that are at risk of homelessness can learn new skills to sustain tenancies. The centre will include a DIY workshop and laundry area to help individuals learn how to maintain a home and practice self-care.

Preventing rat infestations

  • Filthy homes can encourage an infestation of rats and mice. However, this is not always the case, as any home is susceptible if the property provides food, warmth and shelter.
  • Rats can transmit diseases to humans so they must be controlled. Preventative measures that you and your tenant can take include:
    • ensure the garden is well maintained, with any overgrown areas cut back to restrict nesting sites. Make sure any compost is stored in a pest-proof way.
    • explain to your tenant that if they enjoy putting food out to attract wildlife, they will also attract rodents.
    • ensure your tenant has enough external rubbish bins with lids, or provide a secure bin store. Encourage them, if possible, to put the rubbish bag outside in the bin the night before collection/on the day.
    • You can arrange for the council to collect bulky waste, for example mattresses, by calling 0118 937 3787. The standard price for up to 3 items is £50.
    • survey the house to see if there are any holes or other entry points that would allow a rodent to get in. Carry out repairs as necessary.
  • Further information on rat prevention.
  • If the home has become infested, contact a pest control contractor. You can do this via the council’s website and SDK Environmental Limited respectively. A single course of treatment will usually suffice.

Who is responsible for costs?

This is not always clear, but there are some guidelines to help decide who is responsible for dealing with a pest infestation.  If the infestation existed before the tenant move in, or is the result of a structural problem, it is normally the landlord who is responsible.  This is also true if the tenancy agreement states the landlord is responsible for pest control.  Otherwise, it is likely the tenant who will be responsible for any arranging and paying for any pest control work.

Damage and repairs

“My tenant is disputing they are responsible for damage. What can I do?”

  • Your tenant is not responsible for wear and tear caused by day-to-day living. Your tenant should inform you if they accidentally damage furniture or fittings. They should then discuss how to arrange repairs or replacements, and how they will pay. If your tenant leaves the tenancy without fixing damage they are responsible for, you may make a claim to deduct money from their deposit.
  • If you feel your tenant has deliberately caused damage, or has done so through wilful negligence, you will need supporting evidence. It may be very hard to prove this.
  • It is usually the landlord’s responsibility to repair damage caused by a crime, such as window broken by a burglar. However, it is not your responsibility to replace any of the tenants’ items or belongings taken or damaged as result.
  • You, the landlord, are responsible for repairs to:
    • the property’s structure and exterior
    • basins, sinks, baths, other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
    • heating and hot water
    • gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
    • electrical wiring
    • any damage caused by attempting these repairs
  • You may also be responsible for repairs in common areas depending on the tenancy agreement.
  • In accordance with The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006, managers of HMOs have specific responsibilities in regards to repairs and maintaining the property. Your tenant is not responsible for carrying out or paying for these repairs.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure the property is safe to live in. Legal action may be taken against you otherwise.
  • You can circumvent any further disputes by regularly visiting the property. This will allow you to ascertain any maintenance issues, or repairs works needed before any irrevocable damage is reported. It will also help you understand if you’re tenant is using the home in a respectful and responsible way, and to discuss any issues as appropriate.
  • Landlords are advised to obtain specific landlord insurance. You won’t be breaking the law by not obtaining specialist insurance, but standard home buildings and contents insurance may not provide appropriate cover. Landlords’ insurance usually also provides cover for:
    • accidental/malicious damage, or the theft by tenants
    • cover for YOUR contents
    • public liability if the tenants or their visitors are injured on the property and make a claim against you
    • property damage due to cultivation of drugs
    • legal expenses if there is a dispute with the tenant
    • loss of rent
    • eviction of squatters
  • You may also want to suggest that your tenant(s) obtains Tenants’ Contents Cover, or even specify this in the tenancy agreement. Many tenants do not realise that a landlords’ insurance policy only covers damage and issues with the property and fixtures per se, and erroneously assume their possessions are protected too. Each policy will be slightly different, but tenants’ insurance usually covers their personal possessions, such as gadgets, bicycles within the boundaries of the property, tv and electricals, clothes, jewellery, furniture and appliances, and cash up to a certain amount.
Last updated on 02/02/2022