Top things to look out for in a rental contractfjpinvestment
When you have found the rental property that you can see yourself living in, the next vital step will be to sign the rental contract.
A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract between yourself and your landlord. However, many prospective tenants get caught up on terms in the contract that were not critically reviewed when the contract was signed.
This is often due to renters getting excited to get into the property, and as a result end up being a little careless when reviewing the contract. It is vital that the contract is fair for both parties, but this is not always the case, especially when you have found the property without the support of a letting agent.
Below, we break down the major areas of a rental contract, focussing on what you should be looking out for as a renter to protect your rights.
Ensure the details are correct
First and foremost, you will want to review the contract and ensure that names, dates and anything else salient is correct.
It is surprisingly common to find mistakes, often accidental, in a rental contract that need to be amended. This is the first thing that should be reviewed, and the appropriate amendments highlighted.
Special clauses are those that you should be looking out for with a rental contract. Often known as the clauses ‘out of the normal’, this will be where the landlord will insert the specific clauses related to their property.
To avoid disputes or issues further down the line, special clauses should be reviewed and negotiated before moving in. Specific rules surrounding pets and smoking is a common one here, make sure that the special clauses in the rental agreement work for you, and if not, dispute this.
When moving into a rental property, you will need to put down a deposit, usually equal to a month’s rent, with a view of protecting the landlord in case of any damage caused by yourself through the rental period.
The contract will set out the required deposit for the property and how it will be protected. In the UK, landlords are legally obliged to place your deposit into a Government approved protection scheme. The contract should also stipulate the various scenarios in which part of all your deposit will be withheld, often related to repair damage and major changes made to the property.
Make sure that your rental contract clearly states where your deposit will be held and be cautious of any additional terms that could result in you losing your deposit. If in doubt, challenge the landlord or agent to clarify.
Any bills that you will be liable for should also be outlined in the contract. This will include the normal bills such as electricity, gas and water as well as additional costs such as internet or taxes such as council tax.
Sometimes bills can be included in the rent, other times not. Often as a tenant you will be responsible for all the above bills, unless living in a house of multiple occupation (HMO) in which case the landlord will be liable.
When it comes to paying the rent, the tenancy agreement should make it very clear how it needs to be paid and when. Details of the account to be paid into should be evident and the date the rent needs to be paid should be clear, often contracts allow a little leeway of a few days surrounding this date. Information surrounding early termination of the contract should be outlined here too.
The rental contract should make it clear who is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the property.
For the most part, minor maintenance work and repairs that you were directly at fault for will be your own responsibility to put right. Sometimes landlords will allow you to carry out your own DIY tasks with consent, although the contract will almost always state that the property should be returned in the same condition as how you found it.
Of course, if the property will benefit from the works, chances are you landlords will approve it and, in many cases, fund the alterations. However, an outside party will very likely carry out the work so be sure that the alteration is necessary before going ahead.
Redecoration is another common area that you should review in the contract. Again, many contracts will state the property needs to be returned to the original state. If it is minor i.e. painting the walls, with consent, you should be able to redecorate.
Subletting is the where the tenant re-lets the property to a different tenant. This new tenant pays rent to the original tenant who then pays the landlord.
Unless stipulated this is acceptable in the contract, you should not sub-let the property, particularly if you have not sought consent. Those caught subletting without consent can face fines and even legal action.
This is often made on an individual basis; you should reach out to your landlord if you are in a situation where you feel this is necessary. It is advised that you do not sublet with the view of making money and only do this where absolutely necessary, for instance, where you will be away for a few months and will struggle to make payments.
Lastly, and importantly, the contract will specify notice required to leave the property. You will not be able to leave the property and stop paying rent immediately, in some cases, you will have to pay rent for the remainder of the tenancy agreement.
When reviewing the rental contract, if there is no break clause stipulated, you should at least try and request that this is inserted into the contract. This way, if you need to move out before the end of the term you are not tied in for the remainder of the contract, only the duration of notice required – this is often two months.