You will be asked to pay a reservation fee which then secures the property for you to move into, subject to you passing referencing and then moving in within a reasonable time frame (see Information for Tenants). Each tenant and Guarantor will have to pay a referencing fee. In addition to this, you will be asked to pay a deposit or bond for the property, which is often higher than one month’s rent. If rented under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, this money will be registered with a government approved ‘tenancy deposit scheme’. You will receive official information which will explain the scheme, including how you reclaim your money at the end of your tenancy.
Check on the landlord’s rules: no smoking and no pets are common. Often landlords are unable to accept tenants on benefits and some restrict children. If in doubt, ask. Some landlords may agree to relax their rules if you can prove that you will be a good, responsible tenant.
There are no legal requirements on furnishings but, in general, an unfurnished property will have carpets, light fittings and a cooker, whilst city apartments will have all furniture, including pots and pans and TVs. When you view the property, check the fixtures and fittings, and ensure the property has smoke alarms on all habitable levels and a carbon monoxide detector where there is solid fuel. Make sure you are happy with the property before renting it.
Under an AST, the tenant has the right to occupy the property and if the landlord wants the property back, s/he must follow the procedure laid down by statute, whereby s/he provides at least two months’ notice of their requirement to take back the property. This can be done either 4 months into a fixed term or at any time during a periodic tenancy. A tenant must give at least one month’s notice to end a tenancy at the conclusion of the fixed term or, if running periodically, from the day of the month on which the tenancy was signed. For example, if the tenancy was signed on the 2nd of the month, one month’s notice must be given from the 2nd of any month.
Ask whether the property is to be let for a long or short-term. There is usually a fixed term of 6 or 12 months, but if you wish to have more security you may ask for a longer fixed term.
Assess your income and current outgoings and decide how much you can afford to spend on rent. You must also remember to factor in council tax, utility bills, a TV licence, water rates, telecommunications and contents insurance in your budget. Look for properties within your budget – you may need look at new areas if your first choice of location proves to be too expensive. If you are claiming benefits, check that your allowance is sufficient to rent the property.
You will be asked to provide ID (ideally a passport and a utility bill or bank statement) so that your identity and immigration status can be verified. In addition to this, you will be asked to provide information to our referencing agency, who will check your credit history, income level and contact your previous landlord. If you are self-employed, they may require information from your Accountant (see Information for Tenants).
Agents charge fees for conducting referencing, administrative tasks and Right to Rent checks may apply. These fees are usually payable in advance of signing the tenancy agreement, so ensure you have some monies to meet these costs when you start viewing properties (see Information for Tenants).
• Provide a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
• Provide a valid Gas Safety Certificate. This needs to be reissued annually.
• Provide a copy of the latest Government’s Guide – How to Rent.
• Provide the tenant with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme paperwork.
• Insure the building and the landlord’s contents.
• Fit working smoke alarms on every floor.
• Fit working carbon monoxide alarms in rooms using solid fuel.
• Maintain the structure of the property, appliances and furniture (where applicable).
• Carry out most repairs, if something is not working, in a timely manner.
• Give at least 24 hours’ notice of visits to the tenant. A landlord or agent cannot access a property whenever they like.
• Pay the rent as outlined in the tenancy agreement.
• Pay the council tax, utility bills and water rates, unless otherwise stated.
• Obtain a TV licence for the property.
• Obtain contents insurance for their own goods. It is also recommended that a tenant takes out accidental cover for their landlord’s belongings.
• Look after the property, but a tenant should get the landlord’s permission prior to attempting any repairs or decoration.
• Report any maintenance problems.
• Regularly test the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarm.
• Not cause a nuisance to any neighbours.
• Not sub-let the property or take in a lodger without speaking to the landlord or agent.
Tenants must obtain their own contents insurance for their belongings, as they are not covered under a landlord’s policy. The landlord is responsible for insuring their contents and the building, as well as payment of any mortgage, ground rent and service charges.
If you have a poor credit history or a low income, are a student, or are on benefits, you may be asked to provide a Guarantor. This is someone who will sign a Deed of Guarantee agreeing to the same terms and conditions as your tenancy. For example, if you do not pay the rent, the Guarantor will be required to pay this on your behalf. Your Guarantor will require referencing in the same manner as you, and will remain a Guarantor for the length of your tenancy.
Make sure you have a written tenancy agreement and that you read this prior to signing. A tenancy agreement is legally binding and you will be committed to paying the rent until the end of the agreement. If your circumstances change during your tenancy, you should contact the agent/landlord so that a settlement that works for both parties can be negotiated.
The most common tenancy for residential letting is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) created by the Housing Act 1989, latterly revised by the Housing Act 1996. An AST must be for a fixed term – usually a minimum of six months. At the end of the fixed term you can agree another fixed period with your landlord, or the tenancy will become a statutory periodic tenancy subject to the same terms and conditions as the original tenancy.
At the outset of a tenancy, it is good practice that a written document accompanied by photos is drawn up. This is a schedule of the condition of the property and its fixture and fittings. It is recommended that you read it carefully and, within 7 days of the beginning of the tenancy, make comments or notes regarding the inventory and return it to the landlord/agent. This inventory will be referred to when the tenancy ends to verify the state and condition of the property when you hand it back, allowing for fair wear and tear for the length of time that you have been in occupation (see Information for Tenants). The inventory is the main document upon which the return of the deposit is adjudged, so it is essential for both the landlord and the tenant.
• Contractual Tenancy
If certain specific circumstances exist, a contractual tenancy must be created. For example, where a tenant is a company – often referred to as company lets – or where the annual rent is over £25,000.
• Assured Tenancy
This would be used if a landlord wishes to grant the tenant more security of tenure and longer term security. The landlord can only obtain possession in very limited circumstances.
First of all, think about what type of property suits you and your lifestyle. For example, do you want a flat or a house? Do you want a garden? If yes, can you manage the upkeep of a garden?
Do you want a leafy borough or would you prefer to be at the heart of the action? Do you need to be near public transport? In a larger area, there is more likelihood of finding the right property for you.