Agent showing a flat

Top Tips To Make Renting Easier

When deciding to rent a home, there can be a lot of unanswered questions and it can often feel overwhelming, confusing and even a tad scary at times. Our guide provides a checklist of what to look out for and detailed information on each stage of the rental process.

Before You Start Looking

Things to consider before you start looking, you need to decide how long you want the tenancy for. Generally, tenancies are between six months to seven years long.

Money

Think about what you can afford before you start house hunting. The average monthly cost of rent is 35% of your regular wage. Remember you will also have to budget for amenity bills like gas, electricity and water, a phone and internet connection, TV licence, council tax as well as food and general household items.

You will also be required to pay a deposit, this is usually between one and two months' rent and is held for the duration of the tenancy.

Choosing an Agent

Look for an ARLA Propertymark protected agent. ARLA Propertymark agents are experienced and trained professionals who are required to undertake regular training to keep up-to-date with complexed legislation and best practice. They are also backed by Propertymark’s Client Money Protection Scheme which means that you and your money are safeguarded. You do not get this protection if you rent directly from a landlord or through an unregulated letting agent.

Use our find an expert tool to search for your local property agent.

Choosing Your Housemates

If you are planning to live with other people, make sure you choose wisely. Disagreements between housemates are a common problem if you are sharing a house. Conflicting lifestyles and personality clashes can cause misery and stress – Remember, a fun friend is not necessarily a good housemate.

looking at agent window

Looking For Your New Home

Start looking early and work out what are the deal-breakers; such as the number of bedrooms or parking spaces as well as local amenities and proximity to friends, family, schools and work.

Property Checklist

Condition

  • Keep an eye out for damp patches: mould, peeling wallpaper and musty smells.
  • Test the plumbing: check the toilets and taps, water pressure, and drain flows.
  • Check the central heating, including the boiler and radiators.
  • Is there double glazing?
  • Look out for cracks, mould and rot in the outside walls, slipped tiles on the roof and gutter leaks.

Safety and Security

  • Are there working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors?
  • Is there a working burglar alarm?
  • Ask the landlord how they will protect your deposit.
  • Are all windows lockable?
  • Ask to see the Gas Safety Certificate. This shows that gas fittings have been inspected and approved.

Questions to Ask Current Tenant

  • How long have you lived in the property?
  • Why are you moving?
  • How much is the council tax on the property?
  • What are the neighbours like?

Questions to Ask The Agent

  • How long is the tenancy for?
  • How many viewings has the property had?
  • Why are the current tenants leaving?
  • Can the décor be changed?
  • Are animals allowed?
  • Does the property come fully furnished?
  • Which bills are included?

Useful Information

  • Ask to see a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate.
  • Check for noise levels (from the road, local church, local shop, local pub?)
  • Check for phone signal and internet black spots.
  • Is there adequate parking?

Tenancy Agreement

The Contract

Know Your Rights

Before you sign your tenancy agreement, you may be asked to provide proof that you have the right to live in the UK so make sure you have photo identification such as a driving licence or passport to hand.

Be aware that landlords or letting agents in England are legally required to check identification of all prospective adult occupiers to ensure they have the right to rent. If you have a time-limited right to rent, landlords and letting agents will need to conduct follow-up checks. These rules do not currently apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It is not a legal requirement, but most landlords and letting agents will also run a credit check to see if you have had problems paying bills or rent in the past.

When it comes to signing the contract, make sure you have a written tenancy agreement and read it carefully so that you understand your rights and responsibilities. If you are unsure about any part of the tenancy agreement, speak to an impartial solicitor.

Make sure you are given a copy of your new home’s Gas Safety Certificate (if the property has gas), Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), the Government’s How to Rent Guide or tenant information guide, your Deposit Protection Certificate and the Prescribed Information (this may take a few days) and any licence issued by the local authority (if the property is subject to any form of local authority landlord licensing scheme).

In England, the landlord or agent must provide you with a copy of the Government’s How to Rent Guide, so use the checklist and keep it safe to protect yourself from problems at every stage.

Equivalent guides and information have also been produced by the Government’s in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Fees

Agency charges – Whilst upfront fees are banned in Scotland, letting agents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland may charge you for their services. Fees vary and should be transparent, but make sure to always ask for details of costs that will or could be incurred. In England and Wales, agents have a legal obligation to clearly display all fees, charges and penalties you might incur (including VAT) on their websites and in their branches.

Deposit – You will be asked to pay an initial deposit to your landlord, which will be approximately six weeks’ rent. Your landlord is required by law to register the deposit with an approved scheme within 30 days (14 days in Northern Ireland) of you paying it. They must also give you the details of where the money is being held.

Find out more about tenancy schemes for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Your deposit is usually refundable unless you have damaged the house or any of its contents. Make sure an inventory is completed and take dated photos of damage before you move in. Get the agent to date and sign copies of the photos - this could save your deposit at the end of the tenancy!

Family

Need to Know

Make Sure Your New Home Is Safe

The legal requirements in rented properties can vary across the UK. It is the law in England to have smoke alarms fitted on all floors of a rented home, and carbon monoxide detectors in any room where solid fuels are burnt (such as wood, coal or biomass).

In Wales, carbon monoxide detectors must be fitted if a new solid fuel appliance is installed. Any properties built after 1992 must be fitted with mains-powered, interlinked smoke alarms on every floor of the property, and in older properties, landlords should provide at least battery-operated alarms.

Scottish law requires all rented properties to have a carbon monoxide detectors fitted regardless of when the tenancy started and landlords must provide fire-detection equipment for your property. There should be at least one working smoke alarm in all circulation spaces such as hallways, one smoke alarm in the living area and a heat alarm in the kitchen.

In Northern Ireland, gas appliances must be inspected every year and a record of this should be given to you, the tenant, within 28 days of your tenancy starting. If a new or replacement fuel burning appliance is fitted, your landlord is then responsible for installing a carbon monoxide detector. To comply with building regulations, all new properties must have a fitted fire alarm.

All alarms and detectors must be tested and working on the first day of the tenancy. This is usually done at Check-In when the landlord or agent will probably also undertake an Inventory and Schedule of Condition. Make sure you go through these documents thoroughly and notify your landlord or agent if you disagree with what they contain as it will affect how much of your deposit you get back at the end of the tenancy.

For more information, take a look at our guide on safety.

Bills and Insurance

You will need to notify the utility companies and give them meter readings, your move-in date and the names of all tenants, if your agent hasn’t already. The landlord is responsible for insuring the building and their own contents but you need to cover your own belongings so make sure you have contents insurance.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

HMOs are properties which house tenants from more than one household with shared facilities such as the kitchen or bathroom. Large HMOs (more than 2 floors and more than 4 people) need to be licenced.

Details of HMO licences vary according to local authority so search ‘HMO licence’ and your town to find out what is needed in your area. Without a licence, the property may not be safe or have enough working smoke alarms and fire escapes.

You can apply for your HMO licence on the gov.uk website.

Protection for You and Your Money (Client Money Protection)

Client Money Protection (CMP) is mandatory in Wales, and will be compulsory in Scotland from 31 January 2018. Whilst CMP is not currently mandatory in England or Northern Ireland, all ARLA Propertymark Licensed agents do have to pay into a Client Money Protection scheme which recompenses landlords and tenants should an agent misappropriate their rent, deposit or other client funds. It is one of several additional measures that agents have to satisfy in order to become an ARLA Propertymark Licensed member.

What If You Have a Serious Problem with the House?

Don’t be afraid to report repairs to your landlord or agent. It’s much easier, faster and cheaper for your landlord to fix an issue when you first notice it than further down the line.

All letting agents are required to sign up to a property redress scheme. ARLA Propertymark Protected members in England and Wales will belong to either The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property or the Property Redress Scheme. ARLA Propertymark Licensed members in Scotland fall under the remit of the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber). This means that if you have a dispute with your landlord, the case can be referred to a neutral expert for independent redress - note which scheme your agent is signed up to.

Leave the Property as You Found It

The most common deposits disputes are over the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy. Make sure you give the property a thorough clean before you move out and leave the property in the same condition as the day you arrived.

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