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A tenant’s foolproof guide to renting a property
Today’s economic climate means more and more people are choosing to rent a new home, rather than buy. But how do you avoid the pitfalls of renting a property, whether it is a single room, a flat or a house? Read this rental guide for advice on securing your rented property and getting through the maze of tenancy agreements.
How do you find the perfect property to rent? There are two main routes. Through a letting agency who manages rental properties on behalf of landlords or through a private landlord who manages their own property. And some landlords appoint letting agencies to help them find a suitable tenant but manage the tenancy themselves. The renting experience can be very different depending on whether a letting agency or landlord is managing the property.
Renting through a letting agency
There are pros and cons to going through a letting agency. It can be a time-saver for a tenant. A good letting agent has many rental properties on its books and will arrange viewings at those that suit your requirements. They can often deal with all aspects of the tenancy quickly and efficiently.
However, it is usually more expensive to rent through a letting agency as they charge admin fees for most of their responsibilities, such as drawing up the contract, carrying out credit checks and auditing inventory. A letting agent introduces as many rules and regulations as possible. While this safeguards you as a tenant, some rules may be unnecessary, restrictive and inflexible – and expensive for you.
If you decide to use a letting agency, connect with as many possible to secure a property for rent quickly. Keep in contact with them as the best rental properties are usually snapped up immediately.
Renting through a private landlord
Renting a property through a private landlord can have advantages. There usually fewer fees as, for example, many private landlords will not run full credit checks; they are often satisfied with looking at your pay slips to confirm your income. They may have less stringent rules about allowing pets to reside in the rented property and, on the whole, tend to be more flexible. And, it’s easier to foster a real relationship with a private landlord than with a letting agent who could have hundreds of rental properties to look after. This can make the tenancy run more smoothly throughout.
Be aware that not all landlords are au fait with rental legislation which can lead to tenants not being protected should things go wrong.
Tenancy agreements – dealing with the small print
The tenancy agreement lists your responsibilities as a tenant. It is essential that you read the tenancy agreement carefully before you sign it.
- If there is anything in the tenancy agreement that you don’t agree with, discuss it with the landlord or letting agent and ask if it can be removed.
- If you are unclear about any clause in the tenancy agreement, your local Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) should be able to help. Alternatively, get legal advice.
- Take care if you are issued with a Section 21 (S21) notice towards the start of your tenancy. This is a legal document which gives the tenant two months’ notice that they must vacate the rented property. It is most commonly used towards the end of a tenancy. However, if an S21 is issued at the beginning of the tenancy, the landlord does not need to give two months’ notice at the end of a fixed term rental period.
- If you have never met the landlord or letting agent prior to signing the tenancy agreement, the agreement may be subject to Distance Selling Regulations. This means you have a seven day cooling off (right to cancel) period. However, landlords and letting agencies are being discouraged from drawing up tenancy agreements when the signing parties have not met so, in most cases, there will be no cooling off period.
Securing the rental property
So, you’ve find a rental property you like and you’re happy with the tenancy agreement. Your next step is to state your intention to rent the property by providing a holding deposit. This will take the property off the market. The letting agent or landlord will then request references from you and carry out any necessary credit/income checks. You will then be asked to pay the full deposit and the property is yours for the rental period.
Before you move in
A few hints to help avoid common tenancy problems.
- Take a note of gas and meter readings and ensure your landlord or letting agent does the same.
- Find out which utility provider the previous tenant used. You will usually be expected to take on most utility bills. If you decide to stay with the existing utility providers, you’ll have to notify them that you are taking over the account.
- Carefully go through the inventory list. Ensure every item is there and make a note of its condition. If there is any damage to fixtures or fittings, mark this on the inventory and get the letting agent/landlord to sign against it.
- You make think a small inventory is an advantage. This is not actually the case. A good, thorough inventory will help resolve disputes that may arise at the end of the tenancy agreement.
- Take photographs of fixtures and fittings. These are not necessarily legally binding but they may help in the event of disputes over deposit reductions at the end of your tenancy.
- Your landlord or letting agent is responsible for repairs to the property. But get a list of the people they use (plumbers, electricians, etc.) so you can act in the event of an emergency or if your landlord is on holiday.
- Arrange your own home contents insurance to cover your personal belongings.
Make sure your letting agent is a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) who has to adhere to a stringent code of practice.