Tenants' responsibilities

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

Don't leave your home empty for long periods

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

Tell your landlord if you are leaving your home for any length of time, for example because if you are going into hospital, serving a custodial sentence, or need to stay elsewhere temporarily to care for a partner or relative.

If you don't keep your landlord informed, they might think you've abandoned the property.

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

Renting out your home to someone else live in your home while you are away means that your landlord can evict you, as long as they follow the correct legal procedure.

Read more about the rules for renting to lodgers and subtenants.

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 that 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. An adviser may be able to help you avoid losing your home.

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

Pay your bills 

Most tenants have to pay their 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 and you may have to pay to be reconnected.

You may also have to pay service charges for things like communal cleaning or gardening. Your tenancy agreement should have 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 comply with safety standards.

Tenant's responsibilities

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. This doesn't include 'fair wear and tear' – if the carpet becomes a little thin, it's fair wear and tear, but if you burn a hole in it, you will probably have to pay for the damage
  • 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, etc).
  • 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, gardening etc
  • heating the property adequately, particularly during winter to avoid frozen and burst pipes, and making sure it's kept well ventilated, to help avoid condensation and dampness

Read Shelter's factsheet Reporting repairs for more information for how to report repairs in a private tenancy.

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 (including children) 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, regardless of what kind of tenancy you have.

Be responsible for your household and visitors

As well as keeping to the terms of your tenancy agreement, you are also responsible for the behaviour of everyone in your household and of anyone staying with or visiting you.

You could be held responsible (and possibly evicted) if family members or visitors cause damage or are antisocial, so don't be afraid to take control.

Follow rules on smoking

Unless the tenancy agreement says that your property is non-smoking, then 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

Most tenants have to ask permission from the landlord if they 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 the type of tenancy you have the landlord may have the right to refuse.

Your agreement might also say that you need to ask 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 post the keys through the letterbox and walk away.

If you don't end your tenancy the right 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.

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 also 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 in. 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 you are being harassed by your landlord or someone acting on their behalf.

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

Tenancy agreements

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.

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