Last Updated: January 2017
You need to know about your legal duties as a tenant as well as your rights. As an assured shorthold tenant, you must keep to the terms of your tenancy unless the terms are Unfair - see note about Unfair Terms below.
The most important term of your tenancy is the rent. You must pay the rent that is due on time. If you have difficulty paying the rent, get advice as soon as you can. If you have rent arrears you could lose your home and if you do, the Council will not help you because they will say that you made yourself intentionally homeless.
If there are conditions in your tenancy that are unfair (apart from the key terms such as the rent and the length of the tenancy), the landlord cannot force you to keep to them. For example, if you had a Tenancy Agreement for a Fixed Term Tenancy of a year, which said that the landlord could give notice after six months but the tenant could not do the same, that would be unfair. A ‘No Pets’ rule with no exceptions so that you couldn’t even keep a goldfish would be unfair too. It’s best to get legal advice before you ignore terms that you think are unfair though, just to be sure.
Care of your home
You must also take reasonable care of your home including the furniture and fittings. If you don’t the landlord may apply to court for possession and he may have a right to keep your tenancy deposit.
Decorating your home
Read your Tenancy Agreement carefully to see if you can decorate. Some landlords don’t allow you to pin things on the wall, or keep pets without their written consent. You should keep your home reasonably warm and let adequate light and air in during the day, otherwise you may get mould from condensation. If there is a central heating boiler, learn how to set the thermostat.
You must also make sure that you do not obstruct the shared parts of the house such as landings, stairs and hallway. Bikes, prams, etc must not be placed where they could prevent anyone in the house from making a rapid exit in the case of an emergency. Remember that a fire will fill the house with smoke within seconds and objects like bikes will not be seen.
Most tenancies say that you can’t sub-let your home although you can sometimes share with someone, provided this doesn’t cause overcrowding.
If you have friends round you are responsible for your friends’ behaviour and for any damage they may cause. Avoid late night parties or playing loud music that will disturb your neighbours. Most private rented homes don’t have modern sound insulation, so be considerate to your neighbours.
Providing access for your landlord & maintenance workers
You must also allow the landlord or agent reasonable access. That means occasional visits to check for any disrepair, and to see that you are looking after the place.
You do not have to tolerate a landlord or agent coming round frequently for no good reason. When the landlord wants to visit he must give you at least 24 hours written notice unless it is a genuine emergency.
You must give access to any Gas Safe engineer who comes to check that your gas appliances are safe. Make sure you check their identification before you let them in.
You should keep your home clean and tidy. Don’t let rubbish blow all over the place. If there are not enough dustbins for everyone in the house, ask your landlord to provide more.