Areas to look out for include:
Duration of agreement: Most leases last for 12 months, during which time the landlord cannot increase the rent. It is also important to appreciate the notice periods that either you or the landlord have to give in order to terminate the agreement.
Responsibility for household bills: Some utility services will be included in the rent (e.g. water), while others you may be responsible for paying yourself (e.g. gas, electricity).
Forfeiture: If you are deemed to be in breach of your contract you can be evicted from your accommodation. Be sure you understand the dos and don’ts of the contract.
Deposit: In almost all rental agreements, the landlord will ask for a deposit (usually one month’s rent). The deposit is used to cover any damages you may cause, along with any outstanding debts you may owe at the end of your tenancy.
It is often advisable to request the landlord to inspect the property and draw up an inventory with you on the first day of your tenancy. This decreases the likelihood of being charged for damages not caused by yourself.
Where to get legal help/advice: If you are unsure about the terms of your contract then it is highly advisable to seek legal assistance. One of the best free sources is the Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB). This service offers independent and confidential advice face-to-face or by telephone. For more information see: www.citizensadvice.org.uk