Rental contracts: Top tips before you sign on the dotted line

You’ve found somewhere to rent. You’re already thinking about the curtains. But before you get carried away, there’s the small matter of your tenancy agreement.

As estate agent Savills says: “No matter how keen you are to find a rental property, you should never rush into a tenancy without knowing your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of your landlord or letting agent.”

Here are five things to keep in mind before signing on the dotted line… and there are lots more to read up on!

Knowledge is power

Do you know your AST from your assured tenancy? What about the difference between fixed-term and periodic? Can a tenancy agreement be verbal? If you’re not sure, it’s time to get educated. For more terms, see our rental jargon buster. 

There’s more than one type of contract out there – and a plethora of legal terms. The Government’s website, housing charity Shelter and Citizens Advice have lots of information on what different tenancies mean. It’s a good idea to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can.

But whether you’re renting directly from a private landlord or through a lettings agency, the most common type of tenancy agreement is called an ‘assured shorthold tenancy’ – or AST for short. And in case you’re wondering, an agreement can be a verbal one – but it’s good to get it all in writing.

Read all about it

We’re bombarded with small print and terms and conditions these days, from shopping websites to mortgage applications. But if you’re naturally more of a skim-reader than a scourer, make an exception on this occasion. It might seem obvious, but take time to read your agreement carefully.

After all, it’s a binding legal contract between you and a landlord. Citizens Advice says your contract should be in easy-to-understand language. If you’re not sure of anything, speak up and ask.

Check what’s included

You should check whether certain details are in a written agreement. According to and Shelter, these include:

– Tenant’s or tenants’ names, the property’s address, plus the landlord’s name and address. If you’re renting through a letting agent, they need to be in there too.

– The rental amount, when and how it should be paid, and details about potential rent reviews.

– The amount of deposit and how it will be protected. Landlords must place your money in a tenancy deposit scheme  backed by the Government. Your agreement should also detail in what situations your deposit can be held back – for example, damage to the property. So, perhaps it’s worth thinking twice about that house warming party.

– The bills you’ll need to pay, although these could be rolled into the rent.

– Tenancy start and end date, and information about ending your tenancy.

– What’s expected of you and the landlord.

– Read more top tips about renting a property and a guide to renting in London and staying ahead of the game.

The Government’s advice also states that the agreement ‘can’t have anything in it that may indirectly discriminate against you.’

And don’t forget to get a copy of the agreement for your records once you’ve signed it.

Extra, extra!

Your agreement may also have information on subletting, pets, lodgers, guests, fixtures and fittings, repairs, smoking and handing your tenancy over to someone else.

The write stuff

If you want to change anything in the agreement, your landlord has to agree, and vice versa. Citizens Advice says the change should be put down in writing. It can either be in a new document or as tweaks to the existing agreement.

To read more about renting, visit the OnTheMarket advice section.

Content provided by is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.

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