Act in a "tenant-like manner"

The origins of the phrase “tenant-like manner” can be traced back to 1953/4 when a dispute between a landlord and tenant, namely Warren v Keen went to court and was judged by Lord Denning – regarded by many as the greatest English judge of modern times.  This court case was brought by a landlord who was seeking to put an obligation on his tenant for repairs at the property, despite there being no clause in the contract for them to do so.  The landlord argued that the tenant had a “common duty” to maintain the property and to carry out general repairs. The landlord put it to the court that repairs were an implied term of the tenancy and that the tenant should “behave in a tenant-like manner”.

Lord Denning stated in his judgement:

‘The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. He must clean the chimneys, where 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 about the place which a reasonable tenant would do.

In addition, he must, of course, not damage the house, wilfully or negligently; and he must see his family and guests do not damage it: and if they do, he must repair it.’ and ‘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.’

Despite this court ruling taking place over 60 years ago, the case is often cited as the one which defined the responsibilities of both landlords and tenants when it comes to the upkeep of a property.

So how does that translate in today’s rental market?

As a tenant, you have certain obligations towards the maintenance of your rental property.  Behaving in a tenant-like manner will normally include small jobs such as:

  • Unblocking sinks, toilets, and drains
  • Changing light bulbs and fuses
  • Keeping both the interior and exterior clean, including windows
  • Maintaining level boiler pressure by re-pressurising when necessary
  • Bleeding radiators
  • Changing batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • General garden maintenance, such as mowing the lawn and sweeping up leaves
  • Keeping windows free from condensation
  • Ensuring that the property is kept free from pests

In short, the term ‘small jobs’ should reflect day-to-day maintenance tasks. If the job in question requires a professional to handle it, such as a leaking roof, for example, that will fall within the landlord’s remit, not the tenants. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself “If I owned the property, would I pay someone to complete the task at hand?” If the answer is no, then it’s likely to be a job for you rather than your landlord.  Try to put yourself in the shoes of the landlord and imagine if you owned the property and I am sure you would want the tenants to look after the place whilst they lived there. Behaving in a tenant-like manner, then, is simply the right thing to do.

General Cleaning

A strong cleaning regime is the cornerstone of a pleasant property, and we advise all tenants to maintain their house or flat’s cleanliness throughout their stay. Particularly in London, a clean property goes a long way to avoiding the potential for rodents, insects or mould from appearing in your property.


Your oven, hob and extractor fan can quickly become dirty if not kept in check. Oil, food residue, liquids and general kitchen dirt can build up on all three and become more and more difficult to remove as time goes by. Make sure you regularly wipe, scour and thoroughly clean your oven set-up to avoid unpleasant meal times and a big cleaning job further down the line.

Lights, electronics and key fobs

As a tenant, you are responsible for the upkeep of the electric items within your property. These include smoke alarms, which should be tested and checked for battery levels regularly, and light bulbs, which should be replaced when required for aesthetic and safety reasons. We recommend using energy saving light bulbs for cost, duration and environmental reasons!  In some cases, your property may be entered by an electronic fob and have an electric doorbell – both of which should be checked and batteries replaced when required.


It is important for tenants to learn the difference between damp and condensation. Damp is a serious issue that should and will be resolved quickly and efficiently by landlords working with Austin D’Arcy.  Condensation, unlike damp, can often cause interior mould when moist air condenses on walls and floors within the property. Condensation can be combated easily if you follow the “HIVE principles” – heating, insulation, ventilation and extraction – particularly in older properties.

The following practical steps will help you decrease the chances of the interior gathering mould through condensation:

  • Make sure your home remains warm, even when you are not in the building
  • Keep your windows open to ventilate the property when possible
  • Remove visible excess moisture from surfaces when spotted
  • Turn on your kitchen or bathroom’s extractor fan when you are creating steam through cooking or showering, and leave it on for 15 minutes after you have finished. Close the doors leading to cooler rooms where the moisture can condense more easily.
  • In the absence of a washer/dryer, dry your clothes outside. If you aren’t able to put your washing outside make sure that any windows or doors are open and your available ventilation channels are switched on (extractor fans).
  • Mould thrives where air cannot move freely, so make sure your clothes; furniture and general storage cupboards are not packed to the brim.

Garden and outside area maintenance

If you are lucky enough to have a garden or outside area (such as a terrace, patio or balcony), then you must ensure you maintain it while you are in residence.  Failing to maintain the garden will cause it to become overgrown, dirty, and a hotbed for insect and animal life.  To avoid pests and a lengthy gardening process down the line, we advise keeping the garden in the state that you received it – and enjoying it the year round!