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 (update, 11) things you should know as a renter to make sure you get a fair deal:
1. 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.
2. 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, though these will be banned from June 1st 2019. 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.
You will need to pay a holding deposit to secure the property (usually one week's rent) and then a security deposit (up to five weeks) before you move into the property. However, there are new schemes being offered, including the Zero Deposit Scheme, so it's important to check what kind of deposit you will need to pay with the agency that you're renting from. Landlords are required to register all deposits with professional schemes, such as the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Who manages the property
As we stated earlier, some landlords like to manage their own properties, which means they will be your first point of contact during your tenancy. However, many landlords - especially ones from overseas - employ a managing agent to handle repairs and issues. It's important to know who you contact about such issues so there is no confusion once you have the keys to your new home.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
At the beginning of your tenancy, the landlord will create an inventory (they will either do this themselves or through a professional inventory clerk). The inventory will state the condition of the property before you moved in, and landlords will expect it looks the same when you leave. If there are any disagreements between yourself and the landlord, you need to report it to the scheme handling your deposit, who will then decide who is liable for the damage.
So, the key aspects that you need to recognise as a renter are as follows:
- Point of contact
- Calculate sums
- Deposit amount
- Read small print
- Get repairs in writing
- Identify who manages the property
- Estimate bills
- Know your responsibilities
- Check which professional body your letting agent is registered with
- File disputes with the tenancy scheme that manages your deposit