Renting has become an increasingly common alternative to property purchase and offers some attractive advantages. The most important benefit is flexibility, particularly the ability to relocate quickly and easily for employment. It can also be cheaper as it is the landlord who assumes all responsibility for maintaining the property. At the outset you will need to have your finances in order, including the ability to pay the various up-front fees, together with references. The following guide sets out the steps to a successful tenancy.
Prioritise your requirements bearing in mind that renting is not the same as buying. Practicality is generally the most important aspect of renting and you should consider the following:
Rent: does it include any bills or service charge? How long is the potential rental contract? Is the rent subject to review?
Location: Are there good transport links, easy access to schools and amenities?
Do you require furnished or unfurnished accommodation?
Security: Is the property adequately safe and secure?
Do you need a garden? Remember you will need to keep it tidy.
Do you need to accommodate pets or children? Do you smoke? Are you in receipt of housing benefit? There may be restrictions which you will need to consider.
Safety: Does the property comply with Fire and Furniture Safety Regulations? Are there smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted? Is there a clear means of escape in the event of a fire? Are the electrics safe?
There are numerous ways to find property to rent including searching the classified advertisements in newspapers, creating your own “wanted” ads for notice boards and local shops, researching the internet and “To Let” boards. Visiting estate and letting agents is probably the most fruitful. They will be able to arrange and accompany you on viewings, answer any queries you may have and guide you through the process.
The most commonly used tenancy agreement is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy which is for a period of 6 or 12 months. Beyond this term the tenancy becomes a periodic contract. The landlord is required to give 2 months’ notice to terminate the contract, and the tenant is required to give one month’s notice. The tenant’s responsibilities are laid out in the tenancy agreement and generally include the following:
To keep the home clean, warm, free from damp and in good order inside and out.
To promptly report any breakages or malfunctions.
To attend to minor maintenance such as replacing smoke alarm batteries and light bulbs.
To respect the rules of the tenancy regarding pets, smoking, sub-letting etc.
To allow reasonable access to the landlord and his workmen.
The landlord assumes responsibility for insuring the property and for attending to maintenance issues.
You will need to satisfy a credit reference check before the tenancy agreement can be effected. You will need to supply copies of references from your employer and previous landlord, bank details, proof of identification and address with postcode for the last three years.
There are up-front costs to consider when renting:
There will be varying charges for drawing up the Tenancy Agreement, preparing the Inventory, and undertaking a credit reference check. There will be an administration fee. The charges are not normally refundable if you fail the credit reference check. For a very small fee you can check your own credit rating via an agency such as Experian or Equifax.
Holding/Reservation Deposit: This may be required to secure a property and is normally deducted from the first month’s rent.
Deposit: Usually one month and a half months rent payable in advance. This should be held in a government approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme. The deposit will be returned in full at the end of the tenancy agreement, providing there have been no damage or breakages.
You will also be responsible for insuring your personal possessions, utility bills, telephone and broadband, council tax, T.V. licence and any other services you choose to subscribe to.
Ensure you have the contact details of the managing agent and/or the landlord in case of malfunction.
Carefully check the details of the Inventory. If there is no inventory, make your own for your personal records.
Check the landlord gas safety certificate and make sure the electrics are safe.
Take meter readings and inform the utility companies.
Make a note of the final meter readings.
Be present for the inventory check out. Your deposit should be returned in full providing the property is returned in the same condition as when you moved in. In the event of a dispute contact the deposit scheme administrator. Obtain a signature when you return your keys to the property.