Tenants' responsibilities

Your tenancy give you rights and responsibilities. Keep to the rules and don't break your tenancy agreement.

Pay your rent on time

Rent is usually paid in advance, on a monthly or weekly basis. Check your agreement or ask your landlord when your rent is due.

Your landlord may be able to evict you and claim back any money you owe them if you fall behind with the rent.

Get advice if you are having problems paying your rent.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Don't leave your home empty

To keep the tenancy of your home, you must live in it and use the property as your main home.

Don't leave your home empty for long periods

Tell your landlord if you are leaving your home for any length of time. For example you:

  • are going into hospital
  • are serving a custodial sentence
  • need to stay elsewhere temporarily to care for a partner or relative

If you don't tell your landlord the reason you'll be away, they might think you've abandoned the property.

It is also important to keep paying the rent while you are away.

Depending on your tenancy agreement, your landlord may be able to evict you if you rent out your home to someone else while you are away.

Keep your housing benefit claim up to date

If you claim housing benefit to help pay your rent, you must also keep your claim up to date. If you don't, you could fall behind with the rent and face eviction.

You must tell the housing benefit department about any changes in your circumstances. They may ask you for information from time to time even if your situation stays the same.

Contact the council if your housing benefit is delayed. The council may be able to give you an interim payment on account while your claim is being processed.

Pay your bills and service charges

You are probably responsible for paying your own bills for electricity, gas, water and telephone, as well as paying council tax and getting a TV licence.

If you don't pay your bills, the services could be cut off. You may have to pay to be reconnected.

You may also have to pay service charges for things like communal cleaning or gardening. Check your tenancy agreement for more information on this.

Landlord's responsibilities for repair

In general, landlords are responsible for repairs and maintenance of the exterior and the structure of the property, as well as the plumbing, wiring and central heating.

They must also make sure that gas and electrical installations meet safety standards.

Look after your home

You have some responsibilities to look after your home and avoid causing damage to it or to your neighbours' property.

As a tenant, you are responsible for:

  • looking after internal decorations, furniture and equipment
  • not using unsafe appliances
  • reporting any repairs needed or other problems that you are aware of
  • minor maintenance (such as checking smoke alarms are working, changing light bulbs)
  • repairing or replacing anything you've broken or damaged. Keep receipts for this, in case there is any dispute at the end of your tenancy
  • disposing of your rubbish properly
  • sticking to the terms in your tenancy agreement regarding smoking, pets, parking and gardening
  • heating your homey adequately, particularly during winter to avoid frozen and burst pipes
  • making sure your home is well ventilated, to help avoid condensation and dampness

Find out more about responsibility for repairs.

Be responsible for your household and visitors

Be a good tenant and neighbour. Try not to upset or annoy your neighbours by behaving in an antisocial way or allowing anyone in your household to do so.

You should not behave in an antisocial or aggressive way towards your landlord or anyone employed by your landlord

Your landlord may be able to legally evict you for antisocial behaviour.

Follow rules on smoking

Unless the tenancy agreement says that your property is non-smoking, you are allowed to smoke and allow visitors to smoke in your accommodation.

However, smoking is not usually allowed in any parts of the building that are shared with other tenants.

Ask permission when it's needed

You will probably have to ask permission from the landlord if you want to:

  • make improvements to the property
  • sublet or take in a lodger
  • pass on the tenancy to someone else
  • run a business from the property

Check to see what your tenancy agreement says about these. Depending on your tenancy, the landlord may have the right to refuse.

Your agreement might also say you need permission for other things, such as keeping a pet, smoking or parking a caravan on the property.

Always put requests to your landlord in writing and keep a copy.

Make sure you get your landlord's written permission before you make improvements to your home.

End your tenancy properly

You must end your tenancy properly if you want to move out. You can't just stop paying the rent, post the keys through the letterbox and walk away.

If you don't end your tenancy the correct way, you are still liable for rent even if you're no longer living there.

You usually have to give your landlord the correct notice to end your tenancy.

It may be possible to end your tenancy immediately if the landlord accepts this. Try to get their acceptance in writing.

Your landlord could take money from your tenancy deposit to cover unpaid rent or damage.

Find out more about ending your tenancy properly.

Give your landlord access when needed

Most tenancy agreements contain information about how and when your landlord can get access to the property, for example if repairs are needed.

Your landlord must give you reasonable notice before coming to your home.

You have the right to live in your home without unnecessary interference from the landlord. Most tenants have the right to stop the landlord from coming into their home.

If your landlord or someone acting on their behalf harasses you or tries to make life difficult for you in your home, they may be committing a criminal offence.

Get advice if your landlord or someone acting on their behalf is harassing you.

Use Shelter's directory to find face-to-face advice in your local area.

Understand eviction rules

As long as the correct procedure is followed, most tenants can be evicted if they don't follow the rules of their tenancy, as long as the rules are fair.

Right to rent

From 1 February 2016 you can only rent privately in England if you have the 'right to rent'.

Find out more about right to rent immigration checks.


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