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Your responsibilities under the common law

As well as giving you rights, the common law also imposes certain responsibilities on tenants. These responsibilities can be supplemented by the terms of your tenancy agreement. However, your tenancy agreement may state additional responsibilities, so it's important you stick to them as well.

Remember, your landlord can't include unfair terms in your tenancy agreement. Get advice if you suspect this is happening.

Living in the property

If you're paying rent for a property, you're probably going to want to live there. But you also have a responsibility under the common law to move in and make the property your home, rather than to leave it standing empty and neglected.

However, you should only use the property for the purpose you rented it for. For example, if you rent a place as your home, you can't then use it as a shop.

Paying rent and bills

All tenants have to pay rent to their landlord. Rent is usually paid weekly or monthly in advance. If you pay your rent weekly you are entitled to a rent book.

It is important that you pay your rent on time. If you do not, your landlord may try to evict you. If you are having problems paying your rent, see our section on rent arrears.

Remember, if you are renting from a private landlord, they may be relying on your rent to pay the mortgage. 

You also have a responsibility to pay your share of the bills. Your landlord can only charge you gas and electricity you have used and cannot make a profit on this or our council tax bill - but these rules only apply if you have agreed to pay the bills separately from your rent payment. Check What is rent for the rules about what your landlord can charge you and what to do if this is a problem.

Taking good care of the property

It's up to you to keep the property in good condition. This can include:

  • keeping your home reasonably clean
  • keeping the furniture in good condition (allowing for normal wear and tear)
  • not causing any damage to the property, or arranging with your landlord to repair any damage you do cause
  • carrying out minor maintenance (for example, checking smoke alarm batteries and changing light bulbs)
  • reporting any problems to your landlord for repair (for example, blocked drains or a broken boiler)
  • making sure your home is kept reasonably well heated (in winter, it's particularly important that you don't let the pipes freeze up and burst)
  • doing your bit to keep communal areas such as the stairwell or garden clean and tidy
  • not making any alterations to the property without your landlord's permission.

Ending the tenancy properly

If you want to move out of the property, you can't just up and leave: you must give your landlord the correct notice. See 'what if I want to move out' in the page on common law tenancy rights.

Other responsibilities

Although these responsibilities are not laid down in the common law, they usually apply to all tenants, and will probably be included in your tenancy agreement:

Being nice to your neighbours

You, anyone living with you and anyone visiting you, should take care to behave in a way that will not cause nuisance or annoyance to your neighbours. This includes:

  • not having the stereo or TV on too loud
  • entering and leaving your house quietly
  • disposing of rubbish carefully
  • not using your house for illegal purposes.

If you behave in a way that is antisocial, your landlord may well evict you.

Asking permission from your landlord to make changes to your tenancy

You should always seek permission from your landlord if you want to:

  • sublet your home or take in a lodger
  • pass your tenancy on to someone else
  • run a business from your home
  • do any decorating.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're in England

The important points

  • You have the responsibility to live in the property and only use it for the purpose you rented it for.
  • All tenants have to pay the agreed rent to their landlord.
  • You should take good care of the property and ask our landlord before making changes to the property or tenancy.
  • If you want to leave you must give correct notice.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us