Check the fine print before signing a rental agreement. We explain what you need to know.

Before moving into rented accommodation, you’ll need to sign a contract. This’ll include what you can and can’t do while you live there, and what your landlord expects of you. 

This is legally binding, so make sure you take time to read the contract carefully, and check it doesn’t come with any nasty surprises. 

Remember that a rental contract is a type of consumer contract, so it must be in plain language that’s clear and easy to understand.

If you’re unsure about any points, any information is incorrect, or you simply disagree or aren’t happy with anything, make sure you speak to the estate agent or landlord who you’re dealing with. 

Here’s a rundown of what to look for. 

1. The basics

For starters, and it may sound obvious, but the contract should include your name, your landlord’s name, and the address of the property. It should include how much deposit and rent you’re paying, when this is due – and whether your rent can be increased. 

Also look for the date the tenancy begins, how long it will last, and the length of notice that you and your landlord are required to give to end the tenancy. 

2. Bills and other payments

Your contract should also detail what your rent covers – for instance, does it include council tax, and utility bills?

It should also cover who’s responsible for any repairs and general maintenance of the property and any common areas.

You may, for example, be able to redecorate, but it’s likely the landlord is responsible for specific repairs. For example, keeping the supply of water, gas, electricity, and hot water in good working order.

3. Any particular rules

Take a good look at any agreement before you sign, to check you know what’s expected of you. For example, are you able to sublet a room, smoke in the building, and have pets?

Are there any rules you are particularly unhappy with? Some landlords can be particular about maintenance, for example. 

Are you expected to clean the oven or a regular basis, for example, or prevent any damp from occurring? You need to ensure that rules are fair and won’t make life difficult for you living there. 

4. Deposit protection

You should find details of the required deposit amount, and how this will be protected during your tenancy. 

Landlords in England and Wales are required by law to place tenants’ deposits in one of three government-approved deposit protection schemes: the Deposit Protection Service, My Deposits or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. 

There are different deposit protection schemes for tenants in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The contract should also explain when a deposit is able to be withheld for any reason, such as damage you’ve caused during your time as a tenant. 

5. If you want to make changes

Once you’ve looked over the contract carefully, consider whether you’re definitely happy to sign. If you want something changed, ask for an amendment, and an updated copy, before doing so. Most importantly, don’t sign the contract until you’re completely happy with it. 

The contract should be signed by both you and your landlord before your tenancy commences and each tenant should receive a copy. You should also keep a copy safe until the end of your tenancy.

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