What Is The Role Of A Tenant?

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The highly regulated nature of the modern buy to let property marketplace has created numerous obligations and rights for tenants and owners which are legally enforced with varying degrees of success.

When a tenant signs a rental lease agreement, a certain amount of responsibilities are assumed by the tenant. The lease is a legally enforceable contract which defines the relationship between a landlord, the lessor, and a tenant, the lessee. The lease will define the role of the tenant and their obligations. It is imperative both parties thoroughly read and understand all terms of a lease agreement before signing it to protect themselves legally. Here is a list of common tenant obligations and responsibilities.


The first and foremost duty that a tenant has is to pay rent. Traditionally, the duty to pay rent was an independent duty, meaning that the tenant was obligated to pay rent regardless of whether or not the landlord was in breach of certain covenants. Today, as we saw in the last subchapter, the duty to pay rent is dependent upon the landlord’s performing certain duties. As we discussed before, many duties of the landlord have been interpreted such that breach by the landlord will terminate the tenant’s duty to pay rent.

The amount of the rent is almost always outlined in terms of the lease. If for some reason, it is absent from the terms of the lease, a court will infer a reasonable rent under the circumstances, as determined by the fair market rental value of the property at the time.

If a rental agreement is illegal (for example, because the property’s condition falls below the standards required by housing codes), then the tenant is not obligated to pay rent.

Unless the parties agree otherwise, rent is due on the last day of the term (e.g., last day of the month in a month-to-month tenancy or last day of the tenancy in the term of years). Of course, in the vast majority of cases, the payment intervals are spelled out in the lease agreement, and any such agreement is fully binding. Planning for a new look for your house? Look no further!  MJS Construction Group is here to help in your dual occupancy builder Melbourne.

It is important to reiterate that, as we discussed earlier, the tenant’s failure to pay rent allows the landlord to bring an eviction action against the tenant. However, in most states, it does not allow the landlord to throw the tenant off the property physically. Such “self-help” repossession is outlawed in most states when it comes to real property.


The tenant has to avoid waste to the same extent that any holder of a present interest has a duty to the holder of a future interest to avoid waste. This means that a tenant may not destroy the property, may not consciously allow the property to disintegrate into a state of complete disrepair and may not make any significant changes in the property without the landlord’s permission. For a discussion of waste, see the subchapter on Future Interests in Chapter 2 of this course.

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In addition to the normal rules of waste, the tenant has to make ordinary repairs so that the property is maintained in essentially the same condition it was in when the tenant first occupied the property. However, the tenant is not obligated to prevent or repair ordinary wear and tear that comes with the tenant’s ordinary usage of the property.

Besides, the tenant is not obligated to make substantial repairs that are necessary as a result of a catastrophe. However, the tenant is obligated to try to prevent substantial damage from occurring if it is reasonable for the tenant to do so. 

Refrain From Using the Property for Illegal Purposes

The tenant has a duty to the landlord to avoid using the property for illegal purposes. Although this may seem obvious (as the tenant has a duty to society in general not to use the property for illegal purposes), this gives the landlord the right to enforce this duty and to take steps against the tenant should the tenant use the property for illegal purposes. The landlord’s remedy against such usage by the tenant depends on the landlord’s role in the illegality:

  • If the landlord knew of the tenant’s illegal purpose in the lease, then the whole lease will be unenforceable. The landlord could recover possession of the property, but could not collect rent. Essentially, since both parties are at fault, the court will refuse to enforce the lease.
  • If the landlord was unaware of the illegal purpose of the lease, then the landlord has two options. The landlord could continue the lease and get a court order enjoining (ordering a stop to) the illegal activity. Or, the landlord can terminate the lease if he or she does so. At the same time, the property is being used for illegal purposes or shortly after the cessation of the illegal activities. The landlord can then sue the tenant for back rent and damages caused by the illegal activities.

Honesty as to Intended Purpose

If the landlord asks, the tenant must be honest about his or her intentions for using the premises. If the tenant uses the property in a manner inconsistent with his or her original representations, then the landlord may terminate the lease.

Duty Not To Commit Nuisance

A tenant must not unreasonably interfere with the use and enjoyment of possessors of other, adjoining properties. What constitutes unreasonable interference is very difficult to define, and the determination varies on a case by case basis. For this reason, landlords almost always define this restriction by putting terms in the lease that prevent tenants from causing disturbances to the other tenants by making too much noise, etc.


When a tenant vacates leased premises, he or she obviously may take any personal property that the tenant brought into the premises during the lease. However, the tenant must leave behind anything that is attached to the land itself. Materials that are attached to the land itself are known as “fixtures.”

Tenant Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a tenant typically include ensuring the property stays clean and in good repair. Tenants also are expected to flag major issues. Here is a list of tenant responsibilities: 

Maintain the rental property

Tenants are typically responsible for keeping the unit sanitary, which means a tenant should:

  • Discard trash
  • Prevent mould growth
  • Prevent excessive dirt buildup on walls and floors
  • Prevent rust, grime or soap scum buildup
  • Maintain appliances

Prevent excessive damage

In addition to keeping their rental unit clean, tenants should avoid causing damage through negligence or recklessness. Normal wear and tear are expected, but the damage that leaves the property in worse condition than when a tenant moved in is not. Many municipalities recognise and enforce tenant liability in the following scenarios:

  • Removal of fixtures, including lights, appliances or permanent decorative items
  • Damage due to pet policy violations
  • Damage caused by fires as a result of negligence or reckless conduct
  • Tampering of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors 
  • Misuse of designated rooms
  • Use of the premises for unlawful purposes
  • Violation of occupancy requirements
  • Blocking of emergency exits

Report issues as they come up

Tenants should attend a walk through before they move in to point out any issues or needed repairs so you can document them on a rental walkthrough checklist. Tenants should maintain a copy of the rental walkthrough checklist for their records so they can avoid any damage charges at the end of the lease. A security deposit usually covers any damage charges outside of normal wear and tear. 

Another common tenant maintenance responsibility is letting the landlord know about needed repairs as soon as possible. If a tenant notices an issue and fails to report it to the landlord, the tenant may be liable for additional damage that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. For example, a slow leak in a dishwasher drain hose could be an easy fix early on, but it could cause serious water damage if left unreported and unrepaired for months. 

The tenancy agreement contains what the tenant can and cannot do at the property.  

Whilst the landlord is responsible for the structure and exterior of the property, the tenant must keep the property clean.

Other general tenant responsibilities include: paying the rent, paying all utility bills. 

Letting, make sure the tenant understands what repairs and decoration (if any) they are required to carry out under the agreement to avoid any confusion. MJS Construction Group has the best range of dual occupancy builder services to help you create your dream house.

Renter Rights and Responsibilities

You have certain rights and responsibilities as a renter. Likewise, your landlord has her rights and responsibilities. These can vary by state and situation, so it’s important to know what applies in your case. 

Your Rights

Generally speaking, you have a right to a habitable environment:

  • Heating and air conditioning must work.
  • Toilets and water heater must work. 
  • Door locks must work.
  • The roof must be in good condition (e.g., it should not leak).
  • Windows must be in working order and not sealed. 
  • Appliances that are supplied (like the refrigerator, stove and garbage disposal) must be in working condition.

Most of these rights fall under the “implied warranty of habitability” which is a warranty (implied by law simply by leasing the property) that the landlord promises that the property being leased is safe and suitable to be lived in. Breaking this implied warranty can be grounds for the renter to break the lease, and in some instances, to sue the landlord.

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When a tenant signs a rental lease agreement, a certain amount of responsibilities are assumed by the tenant. The lease is a legally enforceable contract that defines the relationship between a landlord, the lessor, and a tenant, the lessee. The lease will define the role of the tenant and their obligations. It is imperative both parties thoroughly read and understand all terms of a lease agreement prior to signing it to protect themselves legally. Here is a list of common tenant obligations and responsibilities.

  • Pay rent when due.
  • Be considerate of the landlord’s and other tenants’ rights.
  • Not destroy, damage or deface the premises, or allow anyone else to do so.
  • Keep the premises as clean and sanitary as the condition of the premises permits.
  • Dispose of trash and garbage in a clean and sanitary manner
  • Not do anything that would put other tenants or the residential premises or common property in danger.
  • Not perform illegal acts or do illegal business on the premises.
  • Not commit a substantial breach of the residential tenancy agreement or lease.
  • If the locks are changed during the tenancy, provide the key to the landlord.
  • Obtain written permission from the landlord to sublet the residential premises
  • Use the premises as a place to live, and use the rooms for their proper purposes. For example, the bedroom must be used as a bedroom and not as a kitchen.
  • Not remove any part of the structure, dwelling unit, facilities, equipment or appurtenances, or allow anyone else to do so.

When To Hire A Professional

Some rental property maintenance and repairs can be done either by you or by your tenant, but other jobs may require you to hire a licensed professional. Some municipalities even require that a licensed professional handle certain maintenance responsibilities, such as:

  • Electrical work
  • Major plumbing repairs
  • Roof work

Planning to anticipate maintenance work can be a big time-saver, helping you avoid contractors’ busy seasons. For example, have your furnace serviced in the spring or summer instead of in the winter. Not only will it be easier to schedule, but you may get a discount. 

Negotiating Rental Maintenance Responsibilities

Seasonal maintenance responsibilities vary by region, and landlords and tenants can negotiate who will perform each task. However, as a landlord, you may still be held liable for any accidents or injuries that occur if proper maintenance is not completed. An example would be someone slipping on a snowy sidewalk in the winter. Common seasonal maintenance tasks can include:

  • Cutting grass
  • Shovelling snow
  • Putting down salt for ice
  • Insulating pipes
  • Raking leaves
  • Trimming plants and trees
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Replacing air filters

Maintaining A Good Relationship.

Treat all tenants equally and with respect.

Maintain a business-like relationship and be organised and committed about your responsibilities under the letting agreement.

Start a good landlord and tenant relationship from the beginning. Some practical steps you should consider include the following.


All properties will require maintenance over the years; deal with decorating and minor jobs on a regular basis.

Local tradesmen

Keep up relationships with local tradesmen so that they can be on hand on short notice.


Consider getting appliances insured against breaking down.

Welcome pack – provide the tenant with house rules so that they are aware of what is expected of them to avoid any problems later on in the tenancy.

Who Is Responsible For Repairs And Improvements?

The landlord is responsible for most repairs to a rented property. Examples of repairs include fixing a broken boiler, sealing broken windows or anything that would make the property habitable (i.e. liveable). The landlord is also responsible for repairs to common parts, such as communal stairwells. If the tenant paid for the repairs using their own money, they could reclaim these back from the landlord. To reclaim the money the tenant will need to submit receipts and all the evidence around what it was that was repaired, why it needed repairing, and a breakdown of all the costs.

The landlord is usually not responsible for any improvements to the property, for example, replacing kitchen units with new ones and redecorating or insulating a loft. The costs of any improvements will be the responsibility of the tenant. When the tenancy ends, it’s unlikely that a tenant can remove improvements that are fixed (such as new kitchen units or paint). Therefore, if the duration of the tenancy agreement is not for an extended or long period, it may not make sense for the tenant to make improvements to the property.

Getting Your Landlord To Fulfil Their Repair Obligations

Your first step should be to get a copy of your rental agreement and read it again. If you can’t find your agreement, then you need to ask your landlord or agent for a copy. Pull out the clauses that you think your landlord has broken and begin to write your e-mail/letter to them. This will inform them of what terms they have breached and gives them notice to rectify them.

You should include:

  • The property address
  • Today’s date (i.e. the date of writing the letter)
  • The clauses you believe have been broken.
  • The date of which you would like this rectified

If the repairs aren’t done, you can do the repairs yourself (i.e. by getting a certified maintenance specialist or contractor) and then claiming back the costs from the landlord. You should keep all correspondence and receipts, including invoices. This will be important when providing evidence. Finding the right duplex build  is an important decision. Check out our range of the best home design constructions at MJS Construction Group.

You can also contact the environmental health department at your Local Council for help. They must take action if they think the problems could harm you or cause a nuisance to others.

If your house isn’t fit to live in and you think your home’s unsafe, contact the housing department at your Local Council. They’ll do a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment and must take action if they think your home has serious health and safety hazards.

If these options don’t work, then you will need to go to court and get a court order forcing the landlord to repair the property. To obtain an order for specific performance, a tenant will need to convince the court as to the urgency of the works and that any alternative remedies are inadequate.

Tenants do much more than pay rent. Just as the landlord has duties and obligations to the tenant, the tenant must also adhere to certain responsibilities to the landlord. Know your responsibilities as a tenant and make sure to read your lease agreement carefully.

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