What to Look out for Before Signing a Rental Agreement

Even if you think you have found the perfect home and are excited about it, you should never enter into a legally binding rental contract without knowing what it entails. You must take your time and express your concerns and questions before signing any document. If you have never rented before, the rental agreement can be confusing. But don’t worry – here are the most important things you need to check.

The Basics

This may seem obvious, but the rental agreement should include your name, the name of the owner and the address of the property. It should also include the amount of payment and rent you pay when it is due – and whether and when the rent can be increased. You should also check the start date and duration of the lease (usually 12 months).

Type of Agreement

There are three types of rental agreements: Assured Shorthold Tenancy, Assured Tenancy and Joint Tenancy. Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is the most common type of contract. Owned by a private owner who doesn’t live on the same land, ASTs have a fixed term (usually six or twelve months), and at the end of the lease, the landlord regains control of the property.

The Assured Tenancy is better as tenants can stay at the property without a fixed expiration date. In certain cases, this type of lease may be transferred to another party. But since the lease can last for years, the landlord has the right to demand an increase in the rent.

The Joint Tenancy agreement is appropriate for where more than one tenant is responsible for the rent. If a person moves out, however, the responsibility – including paying overdue rents – lies with the other tenant/s. Be sure to check that the rental agreement is actually for the type of rental contract you are going in for so that there are no issues in the future.

Bills and Rents

A rental agreement should also clearly state bills and invoices (and any key details) for which you will be responsible.

Most often you are responsible for utility bills (water, gas, electricity) and telephone and broadband internet bills. Tenants also have to pay the city tax, unless they live in an apartment building (HMO). In this case, the owner bears responsibility.

The rental price and payment terms, as well as the time and type of rental plan, must be clearly specified in the rental agreement. The beginning and end of the lease also need to be clearly determined, in addition to the inclusion of explanation on when and how they can be terminated prematurely.

Special Clauses

To reduce the likelihood of problems and disputes at a later time, you should carefully examine “special clauses” to learn about your responsibilities.

For example, does your landlord have special rules regarding pets or smoking in a rented home? What are your cleaning duties? What time of the month is the rent due and how does the landlord prefer payment? An accurate and precise lease includes all the answers to these questions to avoid confusion now or in the future.

Gas Safety Check

Ask for a copy of the gas safety certificate. Owners are legally obliged to carry out gas security checks every 12 months, so make sure the date on the certificate is current. All law-abiding landlords will have one. Be wary of those who don’t.

Written Agreement

Finally, ask for a copy of the rental agreement that the agent/landlord intends to use BEFORE entering into the contract. Take a copy home and read it correctly. If you do not understand something or need further clarity, be sure to ask. It is also advisable to get a written response so that you have evidence.