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A Guide to Tenancy Agreements and Rental Contracts

So you are happy with the place and ready to sign the tenancy agreement?

Hold on one second. When you receive the tenancy agreement make sure that you read through it very carefully and ensure that all of the terms and conditions match what you had agreed with the letting agent or landlord. Once you sign the rental agreement you will be expected to abide by the terms laid out in it. So you want to be sure you are happy with everything in it before you put pen to paper.

Read it over a few times and consider getting advice from a housing specialist if you are at all unsure of what exactly is being agreed.

At the end of the day, do not sign a rental contract that you don’t understand, or that you are not happy with. Get a second opinion and air your concerns with the relevant parties to ensure that you are comfortable.

A Guide to Tenancy Agreements and Rental Contracts

What should be included in your contract:

Property Address The address of the property that you are moving in to and the property that the contract relates to.

Start date of tenancy The move in date. This is the date from which you will be expected to start paying rent.

Agreed length of the contract Typically this will be for either 6 or 12 month.

Rent amount and due date Make sure you are happy with what you are agreeing to pay.

Total Deposit This is the agreed one off payment that is usually the equivalent to 4-6 weeks rent. Learn more about deposits in our Guide to Deposits

The notice period This is the minimum amount of time that a tenant must give the landlord before they can move out of the property. This is usually 2 months - enough time for the landlord to fill the vacant room.

A Guide to Tenancy Agreements and Rental Contracts

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)

This is the most common contract when it comes to student rental properties. It is important to note that an AST does not apply if the Landlord is living in the same property as the one you are renting. The key features of an AST are:

  • The security deposit that you pay must be placed in a deposit protection scheme by the landlord
  • You have the right to stay in your property for the length of the contract
  • You cannot be unlawfully evicted from your property
  • The landlord must get permission before entering the property during the duration of the contract

Joint Tenancies vs. Individual Tenancies

Joint Tenancies If all of the housemates are sharing the same tenancy agreement then it is called a joint tenancy. In this case the liability for the total rent and cost of any damage to the property is split between each of the residents. One added clause in joint tenancies is that the landlord must get permission before entering the property.

Individual Tenancies It may be better to avoid a joint tenancy - this way you do not to rely so heavily on your housemates in the case that one of them is a little less punctual than the others. These types of tenancy are called individual tenancies. With individual tenancies you are only responsible for your share of the rent and if anyone else in the house doesn’t keep up their side of the deal, you will not be required to cover them.

A couple of caveats with the individual agreements are that, should an individual leave the property, you may not have any input into who replaces them. Also, in contrast to joint tenancies, where the landlord cannot enter the property without permission, in individual tenancies it often states that the landlord cannot enter individuals rooms without permission, but they may be able to visit communal areas without prior permission. These are important things to check through in any contract.

Resident Landlord Contracts

In the case where you live in the same property as your landlord, you generally have less rights as a tenant. The landlord can generally let themselves into any room in the house without prior permission. The also do not need to put your deposit in a deposit protection scheme. They can have shorter notice periods and you may not be protected from eviction either. Overall, they are not as reliable as an AST - so be sure you are comfortable with the specific terms laid out in the contract before picking this option.

A Guide to Tenancy Agreements and Rental Contracts

What is a Break Clause?

A break clause is effectively a way for you to end your contract early should you decide you want to make a move. An example would be a 6 month break clause on a 12 month tenancy agreement. This break clause would effectively allow the tenant to leave the contract at 6 months, provided the required notice has been given. Be aware that the break clause also applies to the landlord, so they have the same option to end the contract early should they wish to. If there is a break clause in your contract, be very clear of exactly what it means for you and the other tenants in the house.

The contract is one of the most important parts of any rental. Be sure you have read through it carefully and understand exactly what you are signing. Don’t feel rushed into signing anything that you don’t feel comfortable with.


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