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Understanding your Tenancy Agreement

When you find somewhere to rent, you will be asked to sign a Tenancy Agreement – it is a legally binding contract, so you need to understand what you are agreeing to. As with any other legal document, you really need to read the small print and make sure that you can keep to the conditions (rules) of the tenancy.

Council & Housing Association Tenancy Agreements

If you are offered something by the council or a housing association, you can be sure that they are a good landlord and the Tenancy Agreement will be fair, for example, it will include things like

  • You must live in the flat as your main home
  • You must pay the rent on time
  • You must keep the flat decorated and in good order
  • You must not cause any nuisance to neighbours
  • You must give a certain amount of notice in writing before you leave


In return, they will agree

  • To carry out any repairs in reasonable time
  • To let you know in advance if they need to visit you
  • To give you notice of any rent increase (usually a month)
  • To help you if any neighbours cause a nuisance to you
  • To let you stay in the flat for as long as has been agreed


  Even so, you should still check any special conditions that may be important to you, such as

  • Can I keep a pet?
  • Is there any car parking and what are the rules about using it?
  • Is there a garden and do I have to look after it?
  • Can I have a visitor or lodger? 


One of the most important things to check is how much is the rent, how and when will it have to be paid, and are there any other charges – certain service charges may not be covered by housing benefit. If you are renting from the council or a housing association they will be happy to answer your questions and provide advice.

Council tenancies are “Introductory Tenancies” for the first year, which means that if you mess up you can be made to leave. If this happens, it usually means you will find it harder to get another tenancy later. This may not seem very important now, but it is worth thinking about, because in a few years time you may have a family of your own and need a house!

On the other hand, if you keep to the Tenancy Agreement, then after a year you will be a secure tenant and have extra rights to stay longer and make the place your own. Most housing associations also have similar trial tenancies for the first year, until you have proved you are a good tenant.

Private rented tenancies

Most of these are “Assured Shorthold Tenancies”, for six months or twelve months – one thing you will want to know is whether the landlord will be willing to carry on with the tenancy at the end of that time, and if so whether they will charge you a fee for extending the tenancy.

  • Lots of private landlords are very good. They will make sure that you have time to read and understand the Tenancy Agreement, and its conditions may be very similar to the council’s.
  • Some private landlords work in partnership with the council and have been checked out and accredited – for further information see [link]
  • A few are not so good. They may let you move in before signing any agreement, might not give you a rent book, and might start asking you for extra money over what you first agreed. You can avoid all of this hassle by doing things properly in the first place – do not even think about moving in somewhere till you have a proper Tenancy Agreement you are happy with. Read all the small print and make sure you can keep to the Conditions of Tenancy. If the flat is furnished, the agreement should include an inventory or list of everything in the flat – you need to check this because you will be charged if anything is broken or missing when you move out.      




Also see the following for more information: