One in seven tenants bends the rules

tenancy agreement

One in seven renters has broken one or more rules of their tenancy agreement, new research has revealed.

While nearly two thirds (65%) of tenants have stuck to the rules, 15% admit to breaking the terms and conditions of their tenancy agreement, according to new research by Direct Line Landlord Insurance.

More worryingly, 9% claim that they don’t have a contract at all, while 11% had no idea whether they had broken any of the rules in their contract.

The poll of 2,000 adults in the UK, of which 938 were renting from private landlords, found that 25% of tenants don’t pay the rent on time or at all. Meanwhile, just over one in five (21%) broke the rules by smoking and 18% kept a pet when they weren’t allowed to do so. A further 17% damaged or made alterations to the property.

The table below details the 10 most common rules tenants break.

The 10 most common rules tenants break
Activity Percentage of tenants
Failing to pay rent on time (or at all) 25
Smoking in the property 21
Keeping a pet in the property 18
Damaging or making alterations to the premises 17
Changing the locks 16
Caused disturbances or a nuisance to neighbouring properties 14
Sublet a room without notifying the landlord 14
Failed to clean accessible windows 13
Redecorated without permission 12
Failed to check smoke or carbon monoxide alarm 10
Source: Direct Line for Business 2016

More than half of tenants (52%) lost some or all of their deposit after their landlord found out what they’d been doing, while 22% had to pay damages. But it may be tempting for tenants to try their luck, as 21% admit that their landlord never found out what they’d done.

Nick Breton, head of Direct Line for Business, says: “The relationship a tenant has with their landlord can be crucial in the smooth running of a rented property. It is therefore of utmost importance for tenants to keep in touch with their landlords should anything arise that may be in breach of their rental agreement.

“Many landlords may be accommodating of requests to have a pet or to make changes to the property, but it is always safest to ask before doing anything to ensure that you are not breaking your contract in the process. Tenants who break the rules of their contract can face anything from the loss of their deposit to eviction, so for peace of mind, landlords should ensure they have a watertight legal contract in place to fall back on should anything happen to their property.”

Tips for landlords

Direct Line outlines its five top tips for landlords:

  • Be clear from the outset: Clearly state any rules that you feel strongly about in your adverts – for example, no smoking or pets.
  • Agree it in writing: A written tenancy agreement for your tenants will clearly outline what is and isn’t allowed in the property. It’s a good idea to go through all of the clauses and penalties with the tenants before they sign the agreement.
  • Keep talking to your tenants: You are within your rights to make scheduled visits to your property to ensure it is being maintained to a level that was agreed in the contract.
  • Don’t make too many rules: Keep it simple. Establish a trusting, positive relationship with the tenant, as then they’ll be more likely to stick to the rules.
  • Be flexible: Be prepared to compromise with good tenants who have been living in your property for some time. It will work out cheaper than finding new tenants if it is a deal breaker.