Here’s five things to check before signing a tenancy agreement

Written by
Pete Howroyd
Co-founder & CMO
Renters
August 27, 2019

Canopy outlines the most important things that tenants need to be aware of before signing a tenancy agreement.Before moving into your new rental home, you will need to pay close attention to your tenancy agreement.

This contract between you and your landlord will lay down the terms and conditions of your tenancy, what type of tenancy it is and whether or not bills are included in your rental package.

To help ensure a smooth-running tenancy, we outline the five key things that you should double-check before signing on the dotted line.

Type of contract

There are three different types of tenancy agreements: Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), Assured Tenancy and Joint Tenancy.

The most common type of agreement is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, which is for those renting from a private landlord who does not live in the same property. ASTs have a fixed term (typically six or 12 months) and the landlord regains control of the property at the end of the lease.

An Assured Tenancy is more secure as it allows tenants to stay in the property with no impending end date. This type of lease can be passed to another person in certain situations, and given that it can stretch for years, the landlord has the right to ask for a rent increase in the future.

A Joint Tenancy is suitable for those renting together with one signed agreement, meaning they are all fully responsible for rent payments. However, if one person moves out then the responsibility falls onto the remaining tenants – including making up for any outstanding rental payments.

Deposits

The deposit is one of the most important aspects of a tenancy agreement. Usually, a deposit will amount to around one month’s rent and is collected prior to the start of the tenancy.

As of June 2019, though, security deposits have been capped at five weeks’ rent for homes with an annual rental below £50,000, while a deposit of six weeks’ rent will apply for £50,000 or more.

The tenancy agreement should set out the required deposit amount and, as landlords are legally obliged to place deposits in a deposit protection scheme, how it will be protected.

The three government-approved schemes are the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), My Deposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).

What’s more, the tenancy agreement may outline a situation in which a deposit can be partly or fully withheld (i.e. to repair damage you’ve caused during the lease).

If you rent a home through Canopy, our DepositFree insurance replaces the traditional cash deposit with a small one-time fee, offering you peace of mind and allowing you to free up cash for other means.

Special clauses

To reduce the chances of issues and disputes later on down the line, it’s worth scrutinising the ‘special clauses’ to know exactly what your responsibilities are.

For example, does your landlord have specific rules around pets or smoking in the rental home? What are your obligations when it comes to cleaning? What time of the month is the rent owed and how does your landlord prefer to receive payments?

A thorough and concise tenancy agreement will have all the answers to these questions to ensure there is no confusion.

Generally, landlords do not allow pets or smoking in their properties because of the potential risks and damage involved, but every landlord is different.

Make sure you double-check the tenancy agreement so that you know exactly what your landlord will allow and what’s required of you.

Giving notice

Your agreement will also state when and how much notice you will need to give if you want to terminate your tenancy.

Keep in mind that you will still be liable to pay rent for the entirety of your fixed-term tenancy unless there is a break clause in your tenancy agreement. If you don’t give notice in the correct way, you may end up paying rent even after you’ve moved out, as well as other bills.

If you can’t give the right amount of notice you might be able to agree with your landlord to end your tenancy early. This is called ‘surrendering your tenancy’.

Once again, this is another reason to study your tenancy agreement closely to understand your rights and obligations.

Inventories

While an inventory isn’t included in the tenancy agreement, it’s also something that you will need to check before signing you contract and starting the tenancy.

Inventories act as a checklist for the furniture provided by the landlord and any faults in the property before you move in. This is to ensure that tenants aren’t charged for any damage that was already there and prevents any disputes about broken or missing furniture from the house.

Often, the landlord will be present to go over the inventory with you, which will make it easier to discuss and clarify anything before signing the inventory off.

It’s also a good idea to take your own photos and make notes of any faults, as well as take a photocopy of the inventory. This acts as extra evidence if there are any claims against you once the lease is over.

At the end the tenancy, the house will be checked against the itinerary and, depending on whether there are any discrepancies or not, the deposit will be paid back accordingly. This is why it’s absolutely crucial that you thoroughly check all of the inventory details.

It stands to reason that the tenancy agreement is the key part of any tenancy – so attention to detail is even more paramount.

While you may be eager to sign your tenancy agreement and move into your new home, sparing a few extra moments to closely review the contract can save you and your landlord some hassle in the future.

Here at Canopy, we use smart technology to simplify the rental process, helping tenants to say goodbye to upfront cash deposits and hello to a more efficient way of renting.

Our RentPassport offers a more streamlined process, providing instant referencing and information on as and when your references have been approved, while our RentTracking gives renters the ability to secure the best deals on credit.

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