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Tenants Guide

Finding a Property to Rent

Whether you have rented before or this is your first time when you rent a home there is a lot to think about.

  • Does the property meet my needs?
  • Cost – How much is the rent and will you need to pay extra for bills?
  • Location – is the property close to local amenities i.e. shops, doctors, schools etc.
  • Size – will the property accommodate your needs? i.e. no. of bedrooms or garden

What type of length of tenancy should you have?

If the rent is less than £25,000 per year and you do not live with the Landlord the tenancy automatically becomes an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). An AST usually lasts for 6 to 12 months unless you agree a fixed term for the tenancy in advance with the Landlord.

What happens at the end of my tenancy?

When the fixed term of the tenancy has expired, the landlord is able to gain back possession of the property provided they give two months written notice to the tenant. In addition if you owe at least 2 months or 8 weeks rent the landlord can ask you to leave.

What can I afford?

Before you even look at a property work out what you can afford by looking at what your basic outgoings are likely to be. For instance:

  • £_______ Monthly rent
  • £_______ The costs of getting your references
  • £_______ Inventory and tenancy agreement costs
  • £_______ The deposit and any maintenance costs
  • £_______ Council Tax
  • £_______ Water rates, gas, electricity and telephone charges
  • £_______ TV Licence
  • £_______ Insurance for your belongings
  • £_______ TOTAL

Role of the Letting Agent

Most people find a place to rent by looking in the local press, on property websites or local agents. However if you find a property to rent it will be managed either directly by the Landlord or more usually by a letting agent.

Remember the Letting Agent is acting for the landlord and has no contractual duty to you. Check if the agent is ‘sole agent’ if not other agents may be trying to let the same property. Check the agent is an RICS member as they follow a Rent Only Management Code and Service Charge Management Code – protecting your consumer rights.

Agreeing the Let

Once you have found a property, before you sign anything you should:

  • Check the property – is it clean, is it well maintained, is anything broken?
  • Find out if it is furnished or unfurnished
  • Ask about any management and maintenance costs
  • Find out what your responsibilities are such as cleaning, garden maintenance or replacing broken items

Insurance

Protect your rental payments, lifestyle outgoings and contents:

As a tenant, your landlord cannot be responsible for insuring your possessions, and as someone who has a financial commitment to pay rent for your home, not to mention regular household bills, you may also be concerned about what would happen if you lost your income.

  • How would you pay your rent and monthly bills?
  • How long could you live on your savings?
  • What would happen when your savings ran out?

Our partners Mortgage Advice Bureau can arrange cover for your contents, as well as cover in case of accident, sickness or unemployment, and it may be simpler and more affordable than you’d expect. For insurance business we exclusively arrange products from Legal & General.

Health and Safety requirements

You should get assurances or certificates from the landlord that the property complies with these regulations:

  • Furniture and Furnishings (Fire & Safety Regulations 1988 amended in 1993)
  • Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
  • Smoke Detectors Act 1991 (if the property doesn’t have smoke alarms ask if they can be installed)
  • Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.

References

Once you have found a property you will need to agree the terms and conditions with the landlord. You will need to supply the landlord with relevant information and ensure you sign the necessary paperwork.

Before you sign anything the landlord or agent should provide you with a clear statement of rent, tenancy, deposit and any costs of setting up the tenancy. This includes the administration costs of getting your references. The letting agent will get reference by contacting either:

  • Your bank
  • Credit referencing agencies
  • Current and previous employer(s)
  • Current and previous landlord(s)

Even if someone is going to be your guarantor you will still need references. If you are self employed you may need to provide copies of trading accounts and an accountants reference.

Tenancy Agreement and Deposit

Once the letting agent and landlord are happy with your references you will be asked to sign a tenancy agreement. Before signing read it thoroughly and check the paperwork mentions the following important points:

  • Length of tenancy
  • How often and when to pay the rent
  • What the deposit is
  • How the money will be held. Letting agents who are RICS registered hold the money in a client account where it will be protected.
  • Is your deposit covered by Tenancy Deposit Protection? Under new legislation a landlord is required to ensure that deposits they hold are covered under a scheme from 6 April 2007. RICS members are qualified to join the Tenancy Deposit Scheme for Regulated Agents which ensures that your deposit is protected during the tenancy and that any dispute over its return will be resolved quickly and independently without any future cost.
  • How you will get the deposit back at the end of the tenancy
  • You landlord must by law give you an address in England and Wales for serving your notice
  • How much and who you will pay for work at the end of the tenancy such as checking the inventory renewing the agreement or cleaning the property
  • The contact details of the manager responsible for the property
  • Whether gas electricity and other services have been connected and that meters have been read
  • You will not be discriminated against because of sex, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, marital status or disability

Moving In

You will not be able to move in until you have paid your deposit, first months rent and any fees. Once this has been done don’t forget a few important things:

  • Insure your own belongings at the property
  • Make sure all equipment works and you have their manuals
  • Find out the telephone numbers of the various emergency maintenance services
  • Tell your gas, electricity, water and telephone companies the day you move in making your own note of the meter readings
  • Speak to your local authority if you are responsible for Council Tax

Looking after your rented property

Return the property to the landlord at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as at the start allowing for fair wear and tear. Remember if you are away:

  • You will need to pay the rent on the right date
  • You are responsible for the property’s security
  • Make sure the property is not damaged by weather
  • Let your insurer and your landlord know so insurance arrangements can be made
  • Give emergency contact details to the landlord