Before you sign your tenancy agreement

Before you sign your tenancy agreement

In the excitement of finding a new home don't be in too much of a hurry to sign the tenancy agreement. Make sure you take some time to carefully read through the contract and clarify any clauses you are unsure of.

Of course, there is a temptation to just sign and get the deal was done and, in most cases, there will be nothing untoward in the tenancy agreement. But, it may pay off, in the long run, to be absolutely certain about what you are signing.

Get it in writing

First of all, make sure you have a written agreement. Verbal agreements are much less common than they used to be and are difficult to enforce. A verbal agreement may be used if you know the landlord personally but circumstances can change so it is always wise to insist on a written tenancy agreement.

Which kind of tenancy do you have?

If you are renting from a private landlord it is likely you have an assured shorthold tenancy.

This basically means the landlord can regain possession of the property at the end of the agreed period, whether that is six months or six years. It is the agreement used by most landlords and letting agents.

There are, however, other types of the tenancy so it is worth checking your agreement to confirm which applies to you.

Other tenancy agreements include assured and regulated tenancies. These types of agreements provide the tenant with many more rights though it is now extremely rare to find this kind of arrangements. New lets will now almost always be assured shorthold tenancies.

Make sure the basics are right

Every tenancy agreement should contain basic information on the tenant, the landlord, and their responsibilities. Make sure your written agreement includes:

  • Your, i.e., the tenants, name
  • The address of the property being rented
  • How much the rent is
  • When the rent should be paid, e.g., last day of the month
  • How the rent should be paid, direct debit, BACs etc
  • The landlord's name, address, and contact numbers
  • The letting agents name, address, and contact number (if applicable)
  • Whether the rent includes council tax, electricity, gas etc. If not, whose responsibility is it to pay those bills
  • Whether a deposit needs to be paid and how much that deposit is
  • If a deposit is payable which deposit scheme is it protected by
  • How long the rental agreement is for. This is usually a fixed period of six months or a year
  • Date the rent may be increased
  • Procedures for ending the tenancy

There may be many other clauses or rules, such as no pets, who is responsible for maintenance, whether the tenant may decorate etc., but the basic points listed above should certainly be in your agreement.

Again, it should be emphasised if there are terms and conditions in the agreement which you don't understand, make sure the landlord or the agent clarifies them for you.

Finally, if there are rules in your tenancy agreement which you consider unfair, get some independent advice. The Citizens Advice Bureau are a very good source of information.

Remember, unfair rules, such as the landlord being able to access the property at any time and without due notice, are not allowed. They are not legally binding.

At the end of the tenancy

When your tenancy agreement ends there are three different outcomes:

  1. You leave the property (your agreement may specify a notice period you must adhere to)
  2. You agree a new fixed term agreement with the landlord at a similar or increased rent
  3. Your tenancy continues on the same terms but on a rolling month to month basis

Are you currently renting a property?

Did you know that your normal monthly rent payments could help you to buy your dream house? Read Could renting a home be your first step on the property ladder? to find out how go to