As much as we would all like to own our own homes, it’s hard to get on the property ladder. There has been a huge increase in the number of people living in rented accommodation due to soaring house prices and difficulties getting mortgages.
So, here’s a quick guide on how to make renting a property go as smoothly as possible.
Before You Move In
- Read and re-read your tenancy agreement. This has all the details about who is responsible for what. For example, if you or your landlord is responsible for keeping the garden maintained, or if any utilities are included. Landlords are usually responsible for repairs, including issues with appliances, plumbing, the roof, walls, windows and drains. It’s important you read the tenancy agreement carefully and flag up anything you’re not sure about.
- Set a rent date that suits your financial situation. You don’t want to end up paying your rent on the day before pay day.
- Make sure that the landlord has all the relevant safety certificates, especially for gas appliances. A yearly gas certificate has to be issued by an official Gas Safe registered engineer for any gas appliances such as boilers and hobs.
- Landlords that live abroad should appoint a letting agent to manage the property and deal with such issues as repairs whilst the landlord is out of the country. Check that this is the case as, if not, it can lead to problems and delays in getting essential issues such as repairs completed.
- Make sure to check on who is holding your deposit. By law, all tenancy deposits must be held in an official protection scheme rather than the landlord’s own bank account. Make sure that this is the case and keep hold of any documentation.
Agreeing to a Contract
If you don’t know how long you want to stay in a property, you can opt to only sign up to a 6-month contract.
Most short term residential lettings tend to be entered into on the basis of what is known as an “assured shorthold tenancy” (AST) and ASTs do give tenants some protection. Some agents allow rolling monthly contracts after a certain amount of time. If you want security of a longer contract but the flexibility to leave when you want, you may wish for a ’break clause’ to be added to the contract.
A break clause can allow the landlord, tenant or both parties to end the contract early, but they can be subject to onerous conditions and you need to be careful.
You must carefully check what your tenancy agreement says about rent increases. Landlords can usually only increase the rent once the fixed term has finished. If the new rent is too much you can always try to negotiate a lower rent or suggest an increase in stages.
It costs landlords to have empty properties and to find new tenants so you may find that they are open to negotiation. You must also bear in mind your long term plans and rents in the local market.
Your landlord is not allowed to just walk into the property, no matter what. They may own the property but it’s your space for the period of your letting and you are entitled to privacy.
A landlord usually has to give you at least 24 hours’ notice to enter the property and get your permission before entering, except in case of emergency.
When you decide to leave your rented accommodation you must leave it in the state it was in when you arrived. Clean the house, take meter readings, return all keys and leave a forwarding address. Your landlord can dispose of any possessions left in the house within a reasonable time after you have vacated the property so make sure you take everything!
Depending upon the terms of your tenancy agreement, special rules apply in relation to the return of your deposit. You have to make the first move to get it back; don’t assume it will be returned automatically
Landlord disputes can quickly escalate, so if you’re having problems with your landlord, seek legal advice quickly to make sure you are aware of your rights.
Slater and Gordon Property lawyers have many years’ experience in dealing with residential tenancy issues. Call us on freephone 0800 223 0760 or contact us online and we will call you.