RENTING a home is far more straightforward than buying your own bricks and mortar – yet there are still plenty of practicalities to think about when you have found your perfect place. Here are the seven things you should know as a renter to make sure you get a fair deal:
Your point of contact Dealing with an agent means the legalities are done properly. You might have seen a property through social networking websites such as Facebook where private landlords want to cut out costs of an agent. But be wary of anyone dealing direct. It’s better to pay for a letting agent and get the right service. It is common, however, for some landlords to manage the property which means they are your first port of call when something goes wrong. Ensure you have the relevant contact details from the outset.
Do your sums Searching for a new home is exciting, but don’t forget about the administration costs. You will need to pay a letting agent for credit checks, references and signing the contract, known as a tenancy charge which shouldn’t be more than £500. Ensure you get a breakdown of what this covers. Ask about renewal fees too, and confirm all charges from the beginning so there are no surprises.
Read the small print Your tenancy agreement is likely to be a lengthy document but it’s worth reading because it can list extra costs which are hidden away in seemingly standard paragraphs. Upon leaving the property, you might be expected to have carpets professionally cleaned, for example. Make sure you know what you’re signing and, if there’s something you’re not comfortable with, raise it with the agent who can help negotiate amendments if necessary.
Get repairs in writing If you’re moving in on the condition that certain repairs are carried out, get a list of the work and a date by which it will be completed in writing and signed by the landlord.
Avoid bill shock It is a good idea to find out how much your utility bills will cost before you commit – after all, this is the second biggest cost you are likely to incur after your rent. So pay attention to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to get an idea of whether you will be shelling out more – particularly in the winter – than you expect. And don’t be afraid to ask the current renters about what they pay for energy, water and council tax.
Your responsibilities Estate agents will need to confirm your identity, check your credit history and possibly your employment or immigration status. So make sure you have all documents ready to go if you want to secure somewhere quickly. When you move in, make sure you get contents insurance and consider getting accidental damage cover. If you or a housewarming party guest spills red wine all over the carpet, you don’t want to be stuck with a bill for replacing it.
You must also notify the landlord or agent of any problems with the property at the earliest opportunity and keep a record of communication.
If things go wrong All letting agents have to belong to a redress scheme which is another reason to go with a decent firm rather than direct with the landlord. The purpose of these schemes is to deal with complaints made about agents, which helps to keep standards high. If you are unfortunate enough to have a problem they can deal with the complaint and even award compensation. The Property Ombudsman can award up to £25,000.