A contract can both be a written or verbal agreement.
Most landlords/ letting agents will ask you to sign a tenancy agreement. This is a legally binding contract setting out both yours and your landlords rights and responsibilities. Having a written contract can avoid disputes between you and your landlord.
Before Signing a Contract
By law, any contract must to be plain and clear. Terms which use unnecessary and unclear legal jargon are therefore unlikely to be valid. It is important for you to read through and fully understand all the terms and conditions. This includes any handbook or additional contract sheets which you are referred to or given.
The following is a list of essential information to know before signing a contract:
- There is no standard tenancy contract, so it is important to read your contract carefully and make sure you fully understand the contents.
- You should be given time to take the contract away and read it. A minimum of 48 hours is recommended.
- The contract should include the name and address of the landlord. Even if you are renting the property through an agent, you are entitled to this information.
- Who are the tenants? If more than one person is named as tenant, the contract will be a joint tenancy.
- The length of the tenancy. Majority of the housing contracts are for a fixed term of 12 months. If you are uncertain about the term check whether there is a break clause which allow you to end the contract early.
- Check the advertised rent is what is stated on the contract. Mistakes do happen and if you sign the contract, it makes it difficult to argue later.
- Your contract should state when you should pay your rent. Can you meet the rent payment dates and/or are they in line with your student finance loan?
- Check how the rent should be paid. You have more control by setting up a standing order than a direct debit, as it ensures no additional money is taken without your consent. If your tenancy agreement confirms that you should be paying your rent via a standing order, do not set up a direct debit if asked do so at a later stage.
- Are the utilities included in the rent? How much is the cap and is it enough? How will the usage be monitored?
- How much is the deposit? The maximum tenancy deposit is 5 weeks rent.
- If you are exempt for council tax purposes, you will need to provide a council tax exemption certificate which you can request this via the Student self-service portal.
- Rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord.
- Most contracts say you must not do anything which invalidates the landlord’s building insurance or makes it more expensive. Ask your landlord/agent to explain how this might happen. Some contracts also state that the landlord/agent cannot be held responsible for damage to your personal possessions, and you will need to take out contents insurance. This cannot be a requirement.
- If you are required to provide a guarantor, the guarantor should read the tenancy agreement and the guarantor contract and seek advice if they do not understand, before signing.
Do not sign a contract if you are not entirely happy with it or if you do not understand certain aspects of it. If there is anything you are unhappy with, you should negotiate to have it removed or amended.
Make sure that the contract reflects what you have agreed or been told by the landlord/agent. This should be written into the contract or confirmed in writing and signed by both you and your landlord to avoid misunderstandings or confusion later. Do not only rely on their word.
When you are ready to sign, make sure the contract you are signing is identical to the one you read. It is a good idea to have a copy with you or read through them and compare.
Get your contract checked before signing
Contact the Student Advice and Support Service if you would like us to go through the contract and help you decide if it is suitable.
It is important for you to also read the contract.
Last Updated: 29th November 2023