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Understanding your Tenancy Agreement


You should always read your tenancy agreement carefully to ensure you understand the terms of the contract and your rights and responsibilities as the tenant. Remember that it is a legally binding document.

Contracts do not have to be in writing to be legally binding. However, it is a good idea to get a written agreement so that you have evidence of what has been agreed.


Fixed Term

If you sign an agreement for a fixed term (most commonly 12 Months) you are committing to staying in the property and paying the agreed rent for the full length of the contract. Seek advice if you want to try to leave before the end of your contract.

Break Clause

You may have a break clause in your contract, which allows either you or the landlord to end the tenancy before the end of the fixed term. The clause must give both you and your landlord exactly the same rights.

It is important to consider whether a break clause is in your best interest or not before agreeing. It can be useful if you are not sure if you want to stay in the property for a full year, but it could be really inconvenient if the landlord decides to use the break clause during your exams!

Note that if you are on a joint contract, the break clause would end the entire tenancy for your flatmates too, so you would all need to be in agreement for this to work.

If your contract has a break clause, it is a good idea to seek advice as they tend to be badly written and may not be enforceable. 

Implied Terms

Landlords and tenants have certain rights and responsibilities given by law, these do not have to be written in the tenancy agreement for them to exist. Your  contract can give both you and your landlord more than your statutory rights, but cannot give you less than your statutory rights. If there is a term in your contract which gives you less than your statutory rights, it is likely to be an unfair term and cannot be enforced.

Types of Tenancy

If you are renting from a private landlord, the most common types of tenancy are:

Assured Shorthold Tenancy - see our Advice Guide for further information 
Licence Agreement (living with your landlord) - see our Advice Guide for further information

More information about your rights and responsibilities under different types of tenancy can be found on these Shelter webpages.

It's sometimes possible that you have a different type of tenancy than your agreement says. It is the reality of the living situation that determines the type of tenancy you have. If you are unsure, you can use Shelters tenancy checker.

Avoiding scams

See our safety tips information here


To speak to us about your contract or if you would like us to check your contract before you sign it, please email us at with the following:

A copy of your contract.
Highlight any specific clauses you have concerns about.
Let us know if this is the first time you have rented. 

We will then contact you to arrange a follow up appointment. 

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