When you finally decide to rent a home, there are many things to consider and a lot of unanswered questions. For the first time renter sometimes things can seem confusing, overwhelming and even a bit scary. This guide will provide you with detailed information and a checklist of things you need to look out for at every stage of the renting process.
Advise for First Time Renters & Tenants
Before you start looking
- You need to decide how long you want the tenancy to last. The tenancy time can be anywhere between 6 months to 7 years.
- How much can you afford to pay? Most people can only afford to pay 35% of their regular income. However, it also depends on other expenses such as children, amenity bills, council tax, TV license, etc.
- Pick an area where you would love to live in and decide how you are going to search for a home to rent. If you cast your net wider by considering many places, your chances of finding the perfect home will increase.
- Prepare your documents in advance. Agents and landlords must first confirm your identity, credit history, employment status and immigration status. Have these documents ready to be on the safe side.
Rent from a Landlord or Agent?
Renting from a Landlord
Not everybody who claims to be a landlord is legit. Don’t just give money to anyone, landlords have certain responsibilities to the tenant. Unsure about a landlord, you can find landlords who are registered to an accreditation scheme. Contact your local authority to advise you about the accreditation schemes operating within your area.
Rent through an Agent
Make sure the estate & letting agent is accredited to protect and safeguard your money. Agents are certified by professional bodies such as NALS, ARLA, UKALA or RICS. What costs and fees do they charge and when are you required to pay them? All agents are obligated by law to provide a breakdown of all the fees that they charge in their office and website. You should also find out what independent complaints scheme they are a member of. Priestley’s have offices in Leeds and Bradford
After finding a Property to Rent
Before committing, the landlord will first need to ascertain that you have the right to rent property in the country and that you can indeed afford to pay the rent for the house. They will also need to do a little digging to confirm that you don’t have a history of giving your landlords problems.
The agent will be responsible for organising the relevant searches, after getting your permission of course. They are likely to ask for an administrative fee at this point. The fee is non-refundable regardless of whether you pass the test or not. Confirm this with your letting agent before accepting to sign any forms or giving out any money. The agent may ask for some or all of the following documents.
- References from former landlords – you will be requested to provide information about where you have lived for the last three years
- Credit history – this will let them know how good or bad you are at paying your bills
- Bank details – You will provide your bank name, account number and sort code
- Employment details – the name of your employers, your salary, your job title, payroll number and details of your previous employer.
- If you are renting as a student and first time renter, you may require a guarantor
If the landlord is satisfied that you can pay your rent and cater for any possible damage to the property, this step will not be necessary. However, if the information obtained above points to the possibility that you may not entirely manage to pay the rent, the landlord may not be willing to take that risk. In such cases, they will require you to provide a guarantor. In case you fail to honour your obligation of paying rent, the guarantor will be contractually liable from a financial and legal standpoint.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies
You and the landlord must enter into a tenancy agreement. The agreement is a contract that guarantees your right to live in the property within the stipulated tenancy period and the right of the landlord to receive rent for letting you the property. assured shorthold tenancy is the most popular form of tenancy agreement.
Despite the name, the contract doesn’t need to be short. It can continue for as long as both parties agree. It does not spell out a minimum term either. However, the tenant is allowed to stay in the property for at least six months. The contract will usually contain the following information.
- The name of the landlord, that of the tenant and the address of the property being let
- The commencement date of the tenancy
- The tenancy period as agreed upon
- The amount of money to be paid as rent, when it should be paid, how often it should be paid, and instances where it can be legally raised
- The types of services the landlord is expected to provide
- The notice period you both need to give each other in case you wish to terminate the tenancy.
To secure the property, you need to put down a deposit. The purpose of the deposit is to give the landlord a safety net in case they need to repair or replace anything that you damage within the duration of the tenancy period. The deposit is the equivalent of one or two month’s rent. It remains in the possession of the landlord until the end of the tenancy period. Naturally, a lot of disputes arise in this area. This necessitated the new legislation introduced in April 2007 to the Housing Act 2004. According to the Act;
- If the landlord intends to take deposits, they must join a statutory tenancy deposit scheme. This is meant to safeguard the tenants deposit money.
- The tenant is entitled to get all or part of their deposit provided they have kept the property in good condition
- Should disputes arise, the scheme provides for faster and cheaper ways of resolving conflicts instead of taking court action.
The inventory is a list of all the items within the property and the condition they are in on the day of moving in. It is a very important document and can help avoid conflicts over how much of the deposit money you’re entitled to when the tenancy ends.
Although the landlord or agent is responsible for preparing the inventory, make sure to inspect the condition of each item before you agree to sign anything. You can also take pictures of the items as photographic evidence in case disagreements arise at a later stage. A final inventory check is usually done the day you move out. It is then compared with the first one to calculate the cost of damages if any.
When the tenancy ends
When the tenancy agreement ends, you have two options: Extend the agreement or move out. You are expected to give a two months notice to the landlord either stating your intention to move out or seeking permission to extend the agreement. It is up to the landlord to decide whether they want to extend the contract or not. If you have enjoyed a healthy relationship and the property is in excellent condition, it should be an easy decision for them.
If you intend to move out, do your best to keep the house in good order to avoid deductions from your deposit. Although you might not be able to undo any significant damages you may have caused, there are various steps you can take to avoid massive deductions on your deposit money.
- Clean the property before leaving – leaving the house dirty or untidy can attract massive deductions
- Don’t decorate without seeking the landlords permission first – if you have already done this, however, make sure to undo all the changes before leaving
- Keep essential documents – keep a copy of every crucial document until you get your deposit. Also, make sure to keep records of communications between you and the landlord or agent
- Pay all arrears – the landlord can and will deduct money from your deposit to cover for unpaid rent. Always stay on top of all your payments.
If things go wrong
If you’re having financial problems
If you are dealing with financial problems and are falling back on your rent, your first recourse should be to talk to the landlord. In most cases, they will understand if you communicate promptly.
If the landlord refuses to make repairs
Sometimes the landlord may refuse to deal with a serious problem that is making the property unsafe to live in. In this case, you can contact your local authority and report the matter. The landlord is obligated to deal with serious health and safety hazards.
If the landlord is harassing you
If the landlord keeps making unannounced visits and is harassing you, you should contact your local authority immediately. Remember you can still dial 999 if you need urgent help.
If you are illegally evicted
If the landlord wants you to move out of the property, they should write to notify you of this intention. They should give you the right amount of notice as stipulated in the Assured Shorthold Tenancy. If they insist on evicting you without proper notice , contact the police.
We hope all of your concerns and queries have been adequately addressed in renting a property. If you have any question or comment, please feel free to share your thoughts below.
P.S. Some of the information outlined above is subject to change. Please consider seeking help from a qualified financial or legal expert.