A tenants' guide to renting property for the first time

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9 Oct 2017

A tenants' guide to renting property

Author: Michael Cook

Moving out on your own for the first time can be daunting and there are lots of things to consider to ensure that your tenancy runs as smoothly as possible. We’ve compiled a tenants’ guide to renting answering many of the questions we are frequently asked by first time tenants.

How can I ensure I hear about new properties quickly?

You can of course sign up for property alerts from online portals but registering with a local agent offers you the chance to stay ahead of the competition and be one of the first to know if a property which meets your criteria comes onto the market. Many rental homes are snapped up quickly so having regular communication with a letting agent could speed up your property search.

What is ARLA and is it important?

ARLA stands for Association of Residential Letting Agents and is the governing body of the lettings industry. ARLA agents have a strict code of conduct and service level which they must work to and so by working with an agent who follows this you ensure that everything is done by the book and your best interests are looked after. It also gives you added protection that if you were not happy with the service, you could complain to ARLA who would assist you in resolving the issue.

How many viewings should I book?

If you are only looking at property in one area, I would say no more than 5 if you want to avoid looking at the same type of thing over and over again. If you are more flexible on the area and/or your budget then you may want to book a few more to ensure you’ve seen a good representation of each area and price range.  

What references do I need to provide?

The most important reference you will need to provide is one from your employer verifying that your earnings are as you’ve stated. If you have previously lived in rental accommodation, a reference from your previous landlord is required. You may also be asked to provide personal references, this can be a friend or a colleague who can vouch that you are who you say you are and, that they believe you will be a good tenant.

Am I a suitable tenant?

A landlord’s ideal tenant is someone who pays their rent on time and doesn’t cause any damage to the property. That’s why we run through background checks on all prospective tenants, these checks highlight issues which may be of concern to landlords including; bad credit scores, debt, a criminal record or even if you’ve filed bankruptcy.

What if I’m not a suitable tenant?

Don’t panic if you’ve got a bad credit rating or previous debt, you may still be able to become a tenant by using a guarantor. A guarantor is a family member or friend, who firstly is a homeowner and is prepared to sign a contract stating that if you fail to pay your rent, they will be liable for it. This offers landlords added peace of mind that rent will be paid on time and in full.

Furnished or unfurnished?

Again, this one is down to personal preference and whether you already have your own furniture. Be careful not to fall into the trap of wrongly assuming that going unfurnished will mean you pay less. If money is your sole motivation for choosing unfurnished, make sure you check with your agent that this is the most cost effective option. Whichever option you go for, make sure it is crystal clear what state the home and furniture was in when you moved in and who is responsible for replacing or repairing it.

Will I get my deposit back?

Yes, you are entitled to receive your full deposit when you leave the property - providing it is left in the same condition as when you moved in. If the property needs to be professionally cleaned or there are any damages or repairs, the landlord may deduct the cost for rectifying these issues from your deposit. If there are any disputes over the deductions from the deposit, these can be raised with either the letting agent or the deposit holding company who can act as a mediator until the dispute is resolved.

What repairs & maintenance issues am I responsible for?

As a tenant, you are responsible for looking after internal decorations, furniture and equipment. There is an expectation for wear and tear to the property and landlords won’t be able to deduct this from your deposit so long as it’s reasonable. It is your duty as a tenant to report any maintenance or repair issues to the landlord in a reasonable amount of time to prevent the problem from worsening. Minor maintenance works such as changing light fittings and checking smoke alarms work all fall within your responsibilities as a tenant.

What repairs & maintenance issues is my landlord responsible for?

Landlords are responsible for the properties structure and exterior, as well as the sanitation fittings such as sinks, drains and pipes. Heating and hot water are also the responsibility of the landlord as are gas appliances and fittings.

What happens when I want to leave?

You will need to review your contract to understand if you are on a fixed term tenancy or a periodic one. If you are on a fixed term agreement you must check if there is a break clause and what the terms are, otherwise you will have to continue paying rent until the end of the fixed term. If you are on a periodic tenancy your tenancy rolls on each time you make a payment so you will need to give notice equivalent to the gaps between payment e.g. if you pay monthly your notice is 1 month. Notice should be given in writing and you should always keep a copy for your own records. Include in the letter the property’s address, the date you will be leaving, and how the landlord can contact you.

If you are thinking about renting a property and would like to find out more about the process, contact Romans on 01344 985 666

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