But before you get to that point, here’s what you need to know about what a tenancy agreement is, and how it works.
What is a tenancy agreement?
A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord that lays out the legal terms and conditions of your rental agreement. It also explains the responsibilities your landlord has, and your responsibilities as a tenant. A tenancy agreement allows you to live in the property for the duration of your tenancy, as long as you pay rent and stick to your responsibilities.
How do I know if a tenancy agreement is legitimate?
In England, landlords don’t have a legal obligation to provide tenants with a tenancy agreement in writing - though in most cases, you will receive a written agreement.
While verbal agreements do exist, they aren’t legally binding. This means that if you run into problems with your landlord, there will be no written proof of terms agreed at the start of your tenancy - so it’s best to ensure your tenancy agreement is in writing when moving into your first property for your own peace of mind.
Providing that your written agreement includes everything it should, then it is a legitimate contract that you can sign without worry.
What should a tenancy agreement include?
While a landlord must provide you with a tenancy agreement, there’s no legal requirement for what specifically the document should contain. But for most written tenancy agreements, you should expect to find the following information:
- The address of the property you’re renting
- The start and end date of your tenancy
- The names of all people involved in the contract (you, your landlord and any other tenants if relevant)
- The cost of your rent, as well as when and how you should pay it
- Details of your rental deposit - how much it is, and how it will be protected
- Any landlord obligations, and responsibilities you have as a tenant
- An explanation of any bills you’re responsible for
Your landlord may include other information, but look out for the above when reading through your contract. The terms of your tenancy (the legal bits) must both comply with the law and be fair to you as a tenant - it shouldn’t discriminate against you.
If there’s anything in your tenancy agreement that you don’t understand, or don’t think is fair, make sure you bring it up with your landlord.
Don’t be afraid to ask what you might think is a “silly” question - it’s always best to double-check even the most basic information if it helps your understanding.
A tenancy agreement should be a fairly in-depth document - if you can, get someone you trust, such as a friend or relative, to read it as well. This way, you can be sure that you’ve completely understood everything in the contract before you sign it.
What will I receive as part of a tenancy agreement?
A tenancy agreement is usually a stand-alone document that you will need to sign before you can move into your new home. It should be given to you alongside other documents such as:
- An up to date copy of the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- A gas safety certificate
- A copy of the How to rent guide from GOV.UK
- Paperwork with proof of your deposit information (this might be a leaflet that explains where your deposit is kept, and how it’s managed)
Above all else, you need to be sure that your landlord (whether it’s a company or an individual) is trustworthy. While they may provide you with the correct information you need for your tenancy, it’s always a good idea to do your own research to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Can I change my tenancy agreement?
Once you’ve signed your contract, it’s a legally binding document. This means that the contract can’t be changed unless you and your landlord agree - for example, if you wish to extend the tenancy.
This sounds quite worrying - but don’t panic. As long as you read your tenancy agreement in full, and are sure you understand it, there’s no need to be concerned.
Moving out for the first time should be exciting, not scary - which is why it’s important to take the time to read your contract, ask questions where you don’t understand something, and above all else: do your research!
Before signing any contract, you need to be sure that you’re ready for the commitment of renting a property.
You can find out everything you need to know about renting, and moving out for the first time in our free guide, where we explain the key things you need to be aware of before, during and after the rental application process - you can find the whole guide here!