When to Sign a Tenancy Agreement

Updated: July 9, 2018

I’m often asked by our landlords and tenant’s alike when to sign a tenancy agreement.  We’ve been working on a number of new tenancy agreements this week and we have a few excited tenants who’ll be moving home over what is predicted to be an ‘Indian summer‘ weekend.

Landlord handing keys over to tenants having known when to sign a tenancy agreement.

As soon as references have passed, we’d recommend this as a good time when to sign a tenancy agreement.

Before I’ve explained the pros and cons of when to sign a tenancy agreement, most landlords I talk to either sign the day before the start date or on the actual day of the tenant moving in.

In my opinion, leaving it to the last minute to secure the tenancy is a little too to risky for me.

Secure a tenancy in advance

Most tenants are required to give their current landlord a minimum of 4 weeks notice to vacate the property.  Before they do that, they usually try to find a property to rent to move to first before notifying the current landlord.

Once a property that is suitable has been found, they then start the application and the tenant referencing process will begin.  At this point, the tenant usually notifies their current landlord that they wish to move on and ask if they would provide a landlords’ reference.

As the new landlord you would be confident that the references are underway and your property is removed from the market as ‘Let Agreed’.

Referencing a tenant usually only takes around 3 – 4 working days.  We would obtain a previous landlords reference, an employment reference and a 6 year financial credit check.  Once the references are back and both parties are keen to progress, at this point we would draft up a tenancy agreement.

Best time when to sign a tenancy agreement

In the scenario above, the tenants are now looking to move in a few weeks time and the tenancy agreement has been drafted.   If the references are positive and it’s all green lights, I’d recommend to get your tenancy agreement signed as soon as possible.

Once the tenant and landlord signs the tenancy agreement it becomes far more difficult for either party to withdraw.  Without having a signed agreement, the tenant could withdraw anytime before the start date leaving you with weeks of lost rental income.

In terms of the first month’s rent and deposit funds, this can be paid to the landlord or agent either the day before or on the day of handover.   We always seek to have cleared funds in our client account at least 24 hours before the start day of the agreement.

Using digital tenancy agreements

Here at lettingaproperty.com we use a digital tenancy agreement that can be signed by all parties in a matter of minutes.

For new tenancies and renewals, we aim to have the agreements signed by all parties as soon as we have agreed a move in date or an extension of renewal.   This means that our landlords have peace of mind and a tenant secured.

We offer a digital tenancy agreement service within our Rent Collection, Guaranteed Rent and Rent on Time plans or we can provide a standalone tenancy agreement drafting service.

If you would like some assistance in drafting your next tenancy agreement, please call us on 0333 577 8888 – we’d be happy to help!

When to Sign a Tenancy Agreement
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When to Sign a Tenancy Agreement
When to sign a tenancy agreement? Asked by landlords and tenants alike, should you sign the tenancy agreement before the tenancy start date?
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  1. sarah mahony November 29, 2018 at 6:27 pm #

    I’m renting a flat out and agreed on email with an agent who had found tenants but did not sign a tenancy agreement. I then was subsequently offered more rent is it in my rights to back out given I havent signed ? do i have any liability? thanks

    • Jonathan Daines December 11, 2018 at 10:17 am #

      Hi Sarah, thanks for getting in touch. Did you sign any terms of business with your agent and do you know if they have signed a tenancy agreement on your behalf with the tenant who you confirmed to go ahead with via email? If there is a signed tenancy agreement between the managing agent and the tenant, then this will be a legally binding agreement. However, without having a signed agreement, the landlord could withdraw at any time.

  2. Stephen McGrath October 27, 2018 at 4:17 pm #

    We found a tenant for our house and he signed the tenancy agreement. He was meant to pick up the keys last week and pay his deposit, and first month’s rent. He didn’t turn up. He paid to have his references and they came back good.
    Can we sue him for loss of rent, we moved out of the house for him and moved home costing a lot of time, hassle and money.
    If we move back in can he make a claim for the house, as he has a signed tenancy agreement for 12 months?
    We have tried phoning, emailing and writing to him!

    • Jonathan Daines November 1, 2018 at 10:55 am #

      Thank you for getting in touch with us and I am ever so sorry to hear your tenant has pulled out last minute. In a situation whereby the tenant and landlord have both signed the tenancy agreement, there is a contract in place and subject to the terms set out in the agreement, it may leave you open if the tenant did want to move in and you have advertised the property again or secured a let with someone else. As the contract was not drafted by Lettingaproperty.com and we have not seen the clauses set out in the agreement and do not understand when the contract was deemed to begin, it is difficult to offer the advice on what to do next. However, what I would recommend is following the process of gaining vacant possession through a Section 8 notice as this will protect your position and would be the normal procedure if you cannot get in touch with the tenant. If you have rent guarantee insurance and legal cover you may wish to notify them about the situation and they may cover some of the costs associated with the legal fees.

  3. Andrejus September 16, 2018 at 10:56 am #

    Hello .I moved to a new flat two weeks ago but I founded that a living conditions it is bad .It is smell carbon monoxide all the time .I reported to landlord but nothing was done .No carbone monoxide detectors in in the flat .Can I widraw contract and move out ?

  4. Sue Walker September 12, 2018 at 8:44 pm #

    Hi, I have signed an agreement for a flat and paid the security deposit but am unable to move in as I have been offered a new job elsewhere in the country an offer which I was not aware of until Monday and thus entered the contract in good faith. I am wondering whether I have any hope of getting my deposit back? I have informed the landlord as soon as I was aware of the situation and had not received confirmation of handover times dates etc prior to my correspondence with them in relation to my new role .

    • Jonathan Daines September 14, 2018 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi there, thank you for your message. It depends on the type of deposit… Some landlords request holding fees (holding deposits), this gives the landlord peace of mind that the tenant is serious about taking the property. Holding fees are usually around one/two weeks rent and are deducted from your first months rent payment once you have moved in. Holding fees are generally not returned if the tenant withdraws their application. If the deposit relates to a tenancy deposit (i.e. to be used for any damages or non-payment of rent) then this technically could be claimed against in your situation for non-payment of rent and the landlord would be required to go through their chosen deposit scheme to affect this. It could get messy on both sides so I hope in your case the landlord shows empathy and simply returns it. Good luck!

  5. Matt Reeds August 5, 2018 at 12:36 pm #

    Hello Jonathan, Same as Beatrice (above), I signed the tenancy agreement and paid rent in advance plus deposit, a month before moving in day. The agency does NOT say when the landlord will sign the contract. They say, he has’t signed it yet. That’s it. Can I withdraw from the contract? do I lose anything? Best Matt

  6. Jenny K July 25, 2018 at 1:38 pm #

    Hi Jonathan, I have secured a two-bed property which I’ll move into in less than a week. We haven’t signed a contract but have signed an agreement by which I have agreed to take on the property and paid £500 holding deposit. At the time of signing this agreement, we had requested a full professional clean of the property, paint refreshment and steam cleaning of a sofa that came with the property. The landlord agreed via email to get this done and we signed and paid on the basis of this. We are still to pay approx £3000 (one month rent and deposit) which in the past I have always paid on the day of check-in. The landlords letting agency is saying that this will need to be paid and contract signed BEFORE the keys can be released to us, even for the inventory check! I am not sure if they are allowed to make us pay and sign an agreement without allowing us to even ensure that repairs/cleaning we had agreed to have been done! I was under the impression that I would sign and pay the remaining money once the property has been checked satisfactorily at the time of the inventory check. But this doesn’t seem to be the case here. I would have trusted the LL and estate agents and paid upfront had I not been burnt in the past when I moved into a “brand new” property which was filthy! I mean excrement in the toilets and workers tools lying around! After we complained, the LL had got it cleaned but it put us through a lot of trauma so I am unwilling for that to happen again. Please can you let me know what are my rights here? Many many thanks! Jenny

  7. Beatrice Marwick July 4, 2018 at 4:33 pm #

    I signed the tenancy agreement and paid rent in advance plus deposit, a month before moving in day. The agency says they will not sign the agreement until the day of moving in because there is a tenant already in there! This seems ridiculous, and I cannot order furniture or get the utilities changed over, or many other things, because I have no signed tenancy agreement. (signed by the agency or landlord) Is there a law saying that they must give it to me as soon as I have signed and paid? Or can they just decide when to sign and give it to me, regardless of the inconvenience. thank you if you can advise.

    • Jonathan Daines July 9, 2018 at 10:32 am #

      Hi Beatrice, I can imagine this must be frustrating for you! Without knowing the full details I am only able to presume that as there is a current tenant who is signed into an agreement already, the agency is reluctant to sign a new tenant before the existing agreement comes to an end. Should the current tenant decide to stay and not hand the keys back to the agent, then you can imagine that they would be in a difficult situation with both you and the existing tenant running 2 agreements etc… On a side note, make sure you get confirmation from the agent that they have secured your deposit – they have 30 days to do so. I wish you the best with your move.

  8. Larissa June 27, 2018 at 7:34 am #

    Good morning, I’m letting a studio flat and I’m having trouble with the agent.
    In my opinion the agent is managing in very unprofessional way the situation, but I couldn’t do anything… I would like to know is it is normal and legal that the estate agent will give me the contract to sign for my letting only the day before the tenancy start as I already payed the rent and the deposit.
    I asked to have the key of the flat early in the morning the day that the tenancy will start because I’m in trouble with my job and I cannot have day off or any hour permission and he replied me that I only can have the key after 12 pm the morning or even later because of the paperwork…Is it normal and legal?
    I use to be a real estate in my country and the way to manage is quite different, I can understand that different countries have different rules and laws, however I think that this kind of job has to be done to help people and not to put them in trouble…
    Am I wrong? I will really appreciate your sincere answer and any kind of suggestions. Thank you for your help.
    Have a good day,

    • Jonathan Daines June 28, 2018 at 1:57 pm #

      Hi Larissa, thanks for your question. To my knowledge there is nothing “illegal” (perhaps just not best practice) about sending you the agreement to review a day before the start date – this happens regularly when time is of the essence and the agent is under pressure to have agreements signed from both parties. You do have to have ‘reasonable time’ to review the agreement before signing. If it is not too late, make sure you read through the agreement carefully before signing and if you have any questions about the terms you should a) direct them to the agent for clarification or b) contact https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ or c) seek legal advice from a solicitor. I hope it all works out for you.

  9. Lucia Soneira Varela May 12, 2018 at 9:04 am #

    Hi Katleen, I’d like to ask if it is normal to sign a tenancy agreement without seeing the property you want to rent. The landlord of the property asked me to do it even before agreeing a viewing. It doesn’t sound right to me at all and I am not willing to sign any document without seeing what I am renting. What do you think? Thank you, Lucia

    • Jonathan Daines June 28, 2018 at 2:01 pm #

      Don’t do it! Never give money over or sign an agreement until you have visited the property.

  10. Kathleen Pearson December 19, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

    Can I ask how you would proceed in the event that the tenant did not pay the deposit and first months rent by the tenancy commencement date? With a signed and dated tenancy agreement the tenant would seemingly be in a position to commence occupation of the property regardless wouldn’t they?

    • Jonathan Daines December 24, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

      Hi Kathleen, if the tenant hasn’t paid any money towards the tenancy then I would suggest that it would be difficult to enforce the agreement as no consideration has been received. Hope it worked out in the end?

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