Tenant tips: Things to check before signing a tenancy agreement

Tenancy agreements can seem complicated at first, but it’s important to get your head around the key details before signing your name.

Most tenants in the UK will sign an assured shorthold tenancy agreement to rent a property for a fixed period of time.  

This agreement will contain lots of standard details, such as confirming the rent can’t be increased during the fixed period, and explaining the process if the worst happens and your landlord wishes to evict you.

While there’s likely to be lots of clauses on your contract that you’ll hopefully never have to worry about, you need to make sure all of the key details of the agreement are correct. Here are the main things to look out for.

Take a look at the basics. It might sound obvious, but mistakes do happen, so check your details (and those of any other tenants) are correct, and that the address stated is definitely the property you’re moving in to. Find out if you’re in it together. If you’re moving in to a property with other tenants, you’re likely to be signing a joint tenancy agreement, which makes you collectively responsible for the rent payments and for the condition of the property. Check the start and end dates of the tenancy. After the initial period (often 12 months), does the contract become ‘rolling’ or will it be renewed for another fixed period, and are there any ‘break clauses’ allowing the landlord or tenant to give notice? Find out what you obligations are. Knowing what you can and can’t do at the start can save a lot of time and money in the long run. For example, are you expected to look after the garden, and are you allowed any pets? Common disputes often include whether pictures can be hung on the wall and who is responsible for mould caused by the property not being properly ventilated. Find out what your landlord’s obligations are. Your landlord will be expected to carry out most repairs on structural issues (such as problems with the windows or doors) and specialist maintenance areas such as wiring or plumbing. Get to grips with the figures. Check the rent amount and the date it’s due each month, and ensure the sum has cleared in the bank account of the landlord or letting agency by this date. It’s a good idea to set up a standing order with your bank to ensure you don’t miss payments. Your agreement should also specify whether any bills are included in the rent. Check your deposit is protected. Landlords must register your deposit with a government-backed scheme within 14 days. Make sure you know your point of contact. Whether you’re renting through a managing agent or a private landlord, it’s important to know who to go to if there are any problems. While your point of contact might have been informally discussed, you should check your tenancy agreement includes the name and address of your landlord and letting agent.