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Tenants' responsibilities

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

Right to rent

You can only rent from a private landlord in England if you have the right to rent.

Find out more about right to rent immigration checks.

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.

If you fall behind with the rent, your landlord can take steps to evict you and claim any money you owe them. They must follow the correct legal procedure.

Get advice if you are having problems paying your rent.

Use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser

Pay your bills

You may be 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.

Some tenants also have to pay service charges for things like communal cleaning or gardening.

Check your tenancy agreement for more information on this.

Look after your home

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

As a tenant, you are responsible for:

  • not damaging internal decorations, furniture and equipment
  • not using unsafe appliances
  • reporting any repairs needed to your landlord
  • 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
  • keeping to the terms in your tenancy agreement regarding smoking, pets, parking and gardening
  • making sure your home is well ventilated, to help avoid condensation and dampness

Your landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the exterior and the structure of the property, as well as the plumbing, wiring and central heating.

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

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 who lives with you or visits you to do so.

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

Your landlord can take steps to legally evict you for antisocial behaviour.

Find out more about the eviction of assured shorthold tenants and the eviction of council and housing association tenants.

Don't leave your home empty

Don't leave your home empty for long periods.

You could lose your tenancy if:

  • it is no longer your main home
  • you rent out your home to someone else while you are away
  • you don't pay your rent

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

You must keep paying the rent while you are away.

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 home.

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 need your landlord's permission if you want to:

The landlord may have the right to refuse. Check to see what your tenancy agreement says.

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.

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 must give your landlord the correct notice to end your tenancy. This is usually at least 28 days, if you pay rent weekly, or a month, if you pay your rent monthly. Check your tenancy agreement it may say you have to give more notice.

You can’t give notice if you are still in the fixed term of a tenancy, unless your tenancy agreement says you can.

It is possible to end your tenancy immediately but only if the landlord agrees to this. To avoid any misunderstanding try to get their acceptance in writing.

Find out more about ending a fixed-term tenancy and ending a periodic (month to month) tenancy.

Give your landlord access when needed

You have the right to live in your home without unnecessary interference from the landlord.

Unless you share with your landlord, you have the right to stop the landlord from coming into your home.

You must give your landlord access to the property if repairs are needed. Your landlord must give you reasonable notice of this.

Find out more about reporting repairs.

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.

Call Shelter’s free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444

8am – 8pm on weekdays and 8am – 5pm on weekends, 365 days a year

Eviction if you break the rules of your tenancy

As long as the correct procedure is followed, tenants can be evicted if they don't follow the rules of their tenancy. Most landlords will need to get a court order.

Find out more about the eviction of assured shorthold tenants and notice from the landlord.

Keep your housing benefit claim up to date

If you claim housing benefit to help pay your rent, you must 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.

Keep your universal credit claim up to date

You must keep your claim up to date if you claim universal credit to help pay your rent. If you don't, you could fall behind with the rent and be evicted for rent arrears.

You must report any change in your circumstances.

Find out more from Gov.uk about changes you have to report.

If you have claimed universal credit, you can apply for a short-term advance payment while you are waiting for your claim to be processed.

Find out more about universal credit.


Last updated 09 Feb 2017 | © Shelter

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