When to Sign a Tenancy Agreement

By Shannon Hall

When to Sign a Tenancy Agreement

September 22, 2017 Shannon Hall 37 Comments

This post was last updated on May 14th, 2019 at 03:54 pm

I’m often asked by our landlords and tenants 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.

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 getting your tenancy agreement signed as soon as possible.

Once the tenant and landlord sign 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 on 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 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!

About Shannon Hall

Shannon joined LettingaProperty.com in 2015 and has proven to be an exceptional Valuations Manager by supporting new landlord clients in switching to our digital platform. Not only is Shannon an experienced landlord herself, she has achieved professional qualifications in Residential Lettings & Property Management, holds a NFOPP Technical Award and has completed a Diploma in Business Management.

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    July 30, 2020 REPLY

    Hi, my son and his partner were due to move into a flat 31st August. They have paid a reservation fee and had all the checks done. I have went as guarantor. Unfortunately they won’t be able to move now and won’t require the flat. I have asked to be withdrawn as guarantor. How do we stand. My sons not sure if they have a lease as he had an email a couple of days ago asking for proof of his address. Help

    July 20, 2020 REPLY

    Hi, i’m having some issues with my landlady about the first payment.
    So basically ive decided to extend my contract for another year From 16 Aug 2020 till15 Aug 2021. As part of the agreement we agreed that i will pay every 3 month .

    “on signing this agreement, the tenant will pay
    £6375.00-(six thousand, three hundred and seventy five pounds ) on or before the 16th August. Then every 3 months, until the end of the tenancy.”

    I signed the agreement 2 weeks ago and told her i will pay the process the first payment on 13 Aug because i dont have the funds at the moment. The landlady told me “This is a blatant breach of contract and you must pay the moment you sign the agreement” . As far as i understand from the agreement i can pay the first payment till 16 Aug she obviously told me that this is not what this section says….

    Moreover, she already has my deposit.
    Who is right?

      July 27, 2020 REPLY

      Hi there,

      Thank you for your question. If your rent payment date is clearly stated as on or before 16th August in your contract – then this is what you and your landlord have agreed upon and should abide by.

      August 4, 2020 REPLY

      Hello, apologies if I have asked this question in the wrong space.

      I have a question about what does someone do if the tenancy is signed by all tenants for more than 1 month before moving into the property and have paid the first months rent in advance. 2 weeks before the tendency starts the landlord had withdrawn from the contract, we have been told he hasn’t countersigned the contract so legally he is not in breach. Is there anything someone to do to gain compensation?

        August 17, 2020 REPLY

        Hi Nicol,

        Thank you for your comment.

        We are sorry to hear that your landlord has withdrawn from your contract. If you have already paid money across (such as a holding deposit, rent amount or tenancy deposit) – this should be returned to you in full because the tenancy is not proceeding due to the landlord withdrawing.

        For future reference, we would recommend that all rent and deposit payments are not paid to a letting agent or landlord without a fully signed contract between both parties.

        Best wishes,


          December 23, 2020 REPLY


          If I signed my tenancy agreement 2 days before the tenancy starts. Am I then responsible for the property the 2 days prior to the start date?

          I’m having a dispute with an energy supplier and a bill that the previous tenant racked up. It has now gone to a debt recovery company and they are claiming that I am responsible for the property from the day I sign the agreement.

    July 27, 2019 REPLY

    I am wondering what if you have sent over your personal documents requested (I.E ID, and Bank statement) and told to first pay a deposit before the contract can be sent over to you? I was under the impression that first the contract was signed, then a deposit paid and then rent is paid the day of moving in or receiving the keys. I had requested a second viewing and was unable to get one and that any paperwork need to be singed I would sign in person and deposit afterwards. Although I am seeking a “House share situation” via a online agent. It just feels I am putting all my cards on the table with no guarantee as to what happens if they just said nothing and ignore me afterwards and not even send a contract. Just wanna know if there are things I can use to reassure myself that there is a way to fight back if I get stiffed. Cheers.

      August 1, 2019 REPLY

      Hi Michael, thanks for getting in touch and I appreciate your concern. Every agent is a little different but normally you sign a document or digital document and agree to terms before sending deposit money. LettingaProperty.com requests a one week holding deposit to secure the home and then we start the reference checks. Might be worth getting in touch with the agent and understanding their process a little better. Best of luck!

    July 8, 2019 REPLY

    Hi. Me and my best friend are students looking to relocate in three weeks time. We’ve found a flat which we believe is perfect for us and are viewing it tomorrow. I know we pay the deposit and first months rent on the move in day but the date we want to move in in August 2nd. I was just wondering if the landlord would be willing to hold the flat until then or do they always look for someone to move in right away? The flat is available now but we wont be able to move in for three weeks.


      July 17, 2019 REPLY

      Hello Arron, thanks for getting in touch. Normally landlords would look to fill a vacant property as quickly as possible to maximise on rental income. However, every landlord is different and I suggest that you contact them or the agent who is handling the property and ask if they would hold it for you. It’s only a few weeks now till August 1st so they landlord may well hold it for you.

    May 30, 2019 REPLY

    Hi, I have signed tenancy agreement with landlord but unfortunately due work transfer I have to go back my home country. The agreement is between myself and landlord (no agency or agents involved).
    I shall not be able to move into the property.
    Without moving into the property, does this agreements holds valid?
    Agreement is with break clause of 6 months, Landlord is asking to pay rent for 6 months. Am I bound to pay 6 months rent? or rent till the landlord gets new tenant? I have paid 6 weeks deposit as well.

      June 5, 2019 REPLY

      Hi, thanks for the comment. If you have signed the tenancy agreement you are now bound by law and are obliged to pay the rent for this property for the 6 months up to the break clause. However, it may be possible to negotiate with your landlord. If the landlord agrees and manages to find a new tenant they may decide to let you break the contract early. It would be a good idea to try and meet with your landlord to discuss any possible options. Good luck and I hope it works out for you.

      I don’t really know what to say… tbh he could just go abroad and the landlord will not be able to do anything and the tenant will probs just lose his deposit

    May 13, 2019 REPLY

    Hi, I’ve been a private tenant for nearly 6 years, but due to ASB I have to move. I’ve handed my notice in but the letting agent has said that because it is a fixed term tenancy I am liable for the rent up until the end of September. However I have check my tenancy agreement and I signed it late June 2018. Would the 12 months run from June onwards? Thanks

      May 14, 2019 REPLY

      Hi Paul, thanks for getting in touch. Take a look at your tenancy agreement, and there should be a fixed term, with an end date. If there is no break clause, you may be liable for the rent, until the end of the fixed term. However, it might be worth having a chat with your landlord and see if they will agree to publishing the property now, in hopes to find a new tenant, before your fixed terms end. As long as the landlord is not at a financial loss, they may be happy to work with you and release you from your agreement sooner. 

        December 18, 2020 REPLY

        I am currently in a rental property and have had an application accepted on a different property. I viewed on 14th december and agent is pressing for me to commence the new agreement on the 23rd december and has asked for one months rent and 5 weeks for tenancy deposit. I feel I am being rushed as impossible to take this at such short notice in view of current rental and also the xmas holiday period. Is it unrealistic of him to push for the 23rd as I will have 2 lots of rent to pay together with deposit and council tax for both properties?

    May 11, 2019 REPLY


    The estate agent pressurising me to pay deposit and first month rent before the contract is signed.

    Is it legal? Shall I pay?

      May 13, 2019 REPLY

      Thank you for getting in touch with us. Here at LettingaProperty.com, we collect a holding deposit, equal to one weeks rent, prior to the tenancy agreement being signed. However, the property deposit and rent is always paid, once the tenancy agreement has been signed, so both parties understand the terms laid out for the duration to the tenancy. I would suggest you ask the agent to draft the agreement and sign this, before paying the rent.

    April 26, 2019 REPLY

    I would be very grateful for advice. I needed a 7 week place to rent before moving back home.
    I found a city studio with the letting agent. I was shown a cheaper room but opted for the more expensive rooms (I was shown pictures of how my studio should look but not identical).

    I have now been emailed by them asking to pay £X admin fee and 2 months advance rental to ‘reserve’ my room and their bank details were provided in the email- Is this normal, it just felt a bit iffy. However, the letting agent seemed legitimate when viewing and there office was on the ground floor of the city apartment. Moreover, I haven’t been shown any sort of tenancy agreement, I believe they mentioned this is completed online. Should I not sign/view this before paying?

    In addition they have asked for the 1 months PCM rent to be paid in full before moving in and then also asked for a guarantor. As I am only staying for 7 weeks, if I pay 2 weeks + 1 pcm rent that is essentially my entire rent upfront so why is a guarantor still needed?

    Sorry for the long query, I was just hoping to make sure I ask them the right questions and iron out any issues as it states payments are non refundable if I choose to no longer proceed

    April 5, 2019 REPLY

    If one has just moved to a flat but not pleased with the location or have other issues and want to leave. What procedure should he follow?

    Thanks and Awaiting response.

      April 9, 2019 REPLY

      Thanks for getting in touch and it is a shame the new property is not suitable. The best thing to do in these situations is to have a discussion with the landlord and explain the circumstances. The landlord may understand and start advertising the property again to find a replacement tenant. If the tenant who is not happy has signed into a fixed term, they may be liable for rent and bills until the new tenant moves in

    November 29, 2018 REPLY

    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

      December 11, 2018 REPLY

      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.

    October 27, 2018 REPLY

    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!

      November 1, 2018 REPLY

      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.

    September 16, 2018 REPLY

    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 ?

    September 12, 2018 REPLY

    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 .

      September 14, 2018 REPLY

      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!

    August 5, 2018 REPLY

    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

    July 25, 2018 REPLY

    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

    July 4, 2018 REPLY

    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.

      July 9, 2018 REPLY

      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.

    June 27, 2018 REPLY

    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,

      June 28, 2018 REPLY

      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.

    May 12, 2018 REPLY

    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

      June 28, 2018 REPLY

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

    December 19, 2017 REPLY

    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?

      December 24, 2017 REPLY

      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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