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Duties of the Tenant

A tenancy doesn't just give you rights - it also brings responsibilities. It's important you stick to the rules and don't break your tenancy agreement, and to get advice as soon as possible if you have problems.

Most tenants can be evicted (providing the correct procedure is followed) if they don't follow to certain basic rules. These include:

* Not leaving your home empty

* Keeping up to date with your rent

* Paying the bills

* Taking care of the place

* Not causing a nuisance

* Being responsible for your household and visitors

* Smoking

* Asking permission when it's needed

* Ending your tenancy properly

* Giving your landlord access when necessary

 

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Not leaving your home empty

It may sound obvious, but in order to keep your tenancy, you must actually live in it and use it as your main home. This does not mean you can't go on holiday but sometimes it will be worth letting your landlord know if you will be leaving it empty for a while, or they might think you've abandoned the property.

Keeping up to date with your rent

Rent is usually paid in advance, normally on a monthly or weekly basis. Check your agreement or ask your landlord to clarify how much rent you have to pay and the day of the week/month that it is due on.

If you fall behind with the rent, your landlord may be able to evict you and make you pay the rent you owe. If you are having problems like this, get advice quickly. An adviser may be able to help you avoid losing your home.

If you're claiming housing benefit, you must also keep your claim up to date. Otherwise, you could fall behind with the rent and face eviction. You have to inform the housing benefit department of any changes in your circumstances, and they may ask you for information from time to time even if your situation stays the same. Ask them for receipts when you hand in an application form or any other documents. If you're having problems related to housing benefit, don't assume that the council will sort it out. As the tenant it is your responsibility to ensure that the rent is paid, so get advice as early as possible.

Paying the bills

Most tenants have to pay the bills for electricity, gas, water and telephone, as well as paying council tax and getting a TV licence. Your tenancy agreement will say whether you are responsible for paying the bills or not. If you don't pay them, the services could be cut off and you may have to pay to be reconnected.

Taking care of the place

Most tenants have some responsibilities regarding the upkeep of their homes. You should always look after the property as best you can and avoid causing damage to it, or to your neighbours' property.

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 are also required to ensure that gas and electrical installations comply with safety standards. As a tenant, you are responsible for:

* looking after internal decorations, furniture and equipment. This doesn't include 'fair wear and tear' though. If the carpet becomes a little thin, it's fair wear and tear; if you burn a hole in it, you'll probably have pay for it.

* not using appliances that you think might not be safe

* 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). If you have problems doing this sort of thing, get advice - you may be able to get support at home.

* If you cause any damage or break anything, you'll need to repair or replace it.

* dealing with your rubbish properly. Make sure it's bagged up properly, and only put out when and where it's supposed to be

* sticking to any terms in your tenancy agreement regarding pets, parking, gardening, caravans, etc

* heating the property adequately and making sure it's kept well ventilated. In particular, make sure that if you go away during the winter leaving the property unoccupied, you may need to ensure the heating is left on a timer to keep the place warm. A burst water pipe may be your landlord's responsibility to fix, but it's still your home that will be flooded!

Not causing a nuisance

You should take care not to behave in an antisocial way that could upset or annoy your neighbours. Antisocial behaviour is a legal reason for eviction, regardless of what kind of tenancy you have. Antisocial behaviour can include things like:

* having the stereo or TV on too loudly

* not keeping pets under control

* allowing your children to be a nuisance

* leaving rubbish piled up everywhere

* making a lot of noise outside your home, or when you come in

* using the house for illegal activities, such as drug dealing.

As well as respecting your neighbours, you should not behave in an antisocial or aggressive way towards your landlord, or any council, housing association or housing co-op staff you deal with.

 

 

Being responsible for your household and visitors

As well as not breaking any of the terms of your tenancy agreement yourself, you are also responsible for the behaviour of everyone in your household and of anyone staying with or visiting you. You could be help responsible (and possibly evicted) if they cause damage or are antisocial, so don't be afraid to take control.

 

 

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 allowed in any parts of the building that are shared with other tenants.

 

 

Asking 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. It may 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 your request in writing and make sure you get your landlord's written permission before you go ahead.

 

 

Ending your tenancy properly

If you want to move out, it is very important to end your tenancy properly first. You can't just post the keys through the letterbox and walk away. Otherwise you could end up still being liable for the rent, even though you're no longer living there. It may be possible to end your tenancy immediately if the landlord accepts this (best to get their acceptance in writing) but you normally have to give your landlord the necessary notice.

 

 

Giving your landlord access when necessary

Most tenancy agreements contain information about how and when your landlord can get access to the property, for example if repairs are needed. You are entitled to be given reasonable notice of this.

However, 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 unless they want her/him to. If your landlord or someone acting on her/his behalf harasses you or tries to make life difficult for you in your home, they may be committing a criminal offence. If this is happening to you get help from an adviser.

 

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