Ask for full contact details of the landlord and managing agent. This should normally be included in your tenancy agreement or contract paperwork and will include a correspondence address, telephone number and/or email address and emergency out of hours contact telephone number.
The most common form of contractual arrangement is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. This can be made for a specific period but is usually made for a period of six months or more. If you are in a Home Stay scheme or staying with the owner of the property, then you will not be a "Tenant" and should not be required to sign a contract.
If you are sharing a house, then you may need to sign either a joint tenancy or a separate tenancy. A joint tenancy will mean that you and the other tenants will all be responsible for each other's debts and any damages to the property. If you have your own contract, then any debts or damages are dealt with between yourself and your agent/landlord and should not involve your housemates.
Rents must be agreed before the contract is signed since this is a binding agreement. You can negotiate with the agent/landlord over rents and opt out clauses before signing the contract.
Unless there is a specific clause allowing you to give notice of your intent to leave the property, you will still be liable for paying remaining rent if you leave before the end of the fixed term.
Agents/Landlords must comply with legislation on Notice to Quit and Termination of Tenancies.
An agent/landlord cannot simply evict a tenant without a Court Order and this will only be granted on certain grounds.
If in doubt, get your contract checked by an independent body. The Citizen's Advice Bureau will be able to check your contract and give impartial advice.
Will the landlord be providing an inventory that you can both agree and sign? If not, it’s worth making your own inventory to protect you against any subsequent claims or retention of your rent deposit. The inventory should include: