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Managing a Tenancy

A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and the landlord setting out the terms of the agreement you have reached. The tenancy agreement will include some things that you agree to do (or agree not to do) and some things that the landlord agrees to do (or agrees not to do). Common examples might include the tenant agreeing to pay the rent and agreeing not to smoke in the property, whilst the landlord agrees to carry out certain repairs and agrees not to enter the property without the tenant's permission.

Most landlords will ask you to sign a written tenancy agreement although this is not a legal requirement so you may still have a tenancy even if there is no written agreement. A written tenancy agreement will clearly state what you are responsible for and what the landlord is responsible for. With only a verbal agreement, it may be more difficult to prove what has been agreed between the landlord and tenant.

Tenants' responsibilities

All tenants will have responsibility for the following:

· Paying the rent - the tenancy agreement will set out how much rent the tenant has agreed to pay and the date on which payment should be made. The vast majority of tenancy agreements require the rent to be paid in advance.

If you start to fall into rent arrears, this may give your landlord an opportunity to end the tenancy early (it is likely that the landlord would need to serve you with a notice and obtain a court order in order to do this). As such, if you do start to struggle with your rent payments, we suggest that you speak to your landlord and keep them fully up to date with any developments. Most landlords do not want the cost and inconvenience of evicting a tenant so you might be able to reach an agreement with them.

If you want to know if you are entitled to any financial help in meeting your housing costs, you can complete a trial benefit calculation by following this link.

To make a claim for Housing Benefit, click here.

To make a claim for Universal Credit click here.

For advice on the steps that you can take to ensure your housing benefit claim is dealt with as quickly as possible click here.

· Looking after your home - you will be expected to take good care of the property that has been let to you. You must not damage internal decorations, furniture or equipment (if you do, the landlord could charge you the cost of repairing the damage). You will be expected to deal with minor maintenance such as checking the smoke alarms are working, changing lightbulbs and bleeding the radiators. You should report any repairs that are required to your landlord.

· Allowing the landlord to have access to the property - your tenancy agreement is likely to include a clause allowing your landlord access (often on 24 hours' notice) to inspect the property and check for any repairs. If there is an emergency repair, the tenancy agreement is likely to say that the landlord has the right of access without giving 24 hours' notice. The landlord is not obliged to arrange access around the times that are convenient to you (although most landlords will agree that this is a sensible approach). If you do not allow your landlord access to the property this may be a breach of the terms of your tenancy agreement and the landlord may choose to take action to end your tenancy.

· Taking responsibility for behaviour - as the tenant of a property you are responsible for your own behaviour and the behaviour of anyone who lives with you or who visits you. You (and the people you are responsible for) must not behave in an anti-social or aggressive way towards your neighbours, your landlord and/or your landlords' employees/agents.

· Keeping to the terms of your tenancy agreement - you should take the time to read your tenancy agreement carefully so that you fully understand what you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do. You should then make sure that you comply with the terms of the agreement (if you fail to do so, the landlord may take action to try to end your tenancy early). If you want to do something that your tenancy agreement says you can't (for example, having a pet) we suggest that you speak to your landlord to discuss it with them. If they still don't want you to have a pet, then you should respect their wishes (otherwise the landlord could look to end your tenancy).

More advice about your responsibilities as a tenant can be found on Shelter's website.

Landlords' responsibilities

The legal obligations placed on your landlord will depend on what type of tenancy you have but certain basic rules are always the same. These include:

· Checking that you (and anyone aged 18 or over who lives with you) have a 'right to rent' their property. You will be asked to provide documents to prove that you have the 'right to rent' - more information about the 'right to rent' checks can be found here. If you landlord fails to carry out the 'right to rent' checks, s/he could face a fine of up to £3,000.

· Providing you with certain information at (or before) the start of your tenancy - the landlord must give you:

Ø A copy of the Energy Performance Certificate for the property;

Ø A copy of the Gas Safety Certificate (if your home has gas appliances); and

Ø A copy of the booklet entitled 'How to rent: the checklist for renting in England'.

· Protecting your damage deposit - if you paid a damage deposit in order to secure the tenancy, your landlord must place it in a deposit protection scheme (the landlord must also provide you with certain information about the steps s/he has taken to protect your damage deposit).

· Repairs - your landlord will be responsible for some (but not all) repairs that are required to your home. Generally speaking, landlords are automatically responsible for the following (regardless of what your tenancy agreement says):

Ø Repairs to the structure and exterior of the property (which includes roof, chimney, walls, guttering and drains);

Ø Ensuring that any equipment for supplying water, gas and electricity is in proper working order; and

Ø Ensuring that facilities for space and water heating are in proper working order.

Your landlord will not be responsible for a repair if the need for repair was caused by your failure to act in a 'tenant-like manner'.

· Providing annual Gas Safety Certificates - if your property has gas appliances, the landlord must obtain a Gas Safety Certificate at least every 12 months. The landlord must also give you a copy of the certificate.

· Allowing you to enjoy your home - all tenants are entitled to 'quiet and peaceful' enjoyment of their property. This means that the landlord must not harass you or make things difficult for you (for example, landlords must not disconnect the supply of gas, water or electricity). A landlord does not have the right to enter your home without your permission but we recommend that you co-operate with your landlord should they tell you that access to the property is required.

More information about a landlord's responsibilities can be found here.