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A Tenant's guide to renting

JoeA81 Posts: 266 Forumite
edited 24 July 2018 at 3:02PM in House buying, renting & selling Insert July 2018:
For the latest read 50+ Tips for Renters
The aim of this guide is give prospective and existing Tenants (T) a comprehensive source of information to help avoid the pitfalls of renting !!!8211; which can be avoided if the correct questions are asked at the appropriate time. This guide is predominantly built up from the knowledge of Tenants (T) and Landlords (LL) in England and Wales - some tenancy laws in Scotland are different. Where written, AST stands for "Assured Shorthold Tenancy" ( which is the "standard" tenancy which will be created if you are in England and Wales.
Important Note: Don't think that you must adhere to everything in this guide to have a successful tenancy. It is likely that if you try and go through every single point in this list, you will just end up frustrated and never renting a property! Just use your common sense and pick out the suggestions that are most important and relevant to you. If you are well prepared, and ask the right questions at the right time, then you are less likely to have problems along the way.
Understanding the Local Market: In the uncertain financial climate of the last few years, certain regions have been affected in different ways. In some locations rental costs are rising due to increased demand, however in some cites an excess of newly built flats means there are more properties than potential tenants, so renters should bargain hard for good deal. You need to understand what the market is like in your area, and then take this into account when considering some of the suggestions in this guide. For example, if demand for rented properties is high where you live and you make life too hard for your prospective LL or LA, then they may decide to rent the property to someone who is easier to deal with.
> I've never rented before - Please explain!
As this post is too long Please see here:
A) Some ideas on what to ask the Landlord or Letting Agent BEFORE parting with any cash
Questions relevant to both a Landlord (LL) or a Letting Agent (LA)1. Ask what deposit protection scheme your deposit will be held with. By Law LL/LA must protect your deposit with one of the approved schemes within 30 days of receipt of the money. Within this 30 day time limit they must also inform the T of the "Prescribed Information" which is a document outlining the specific scheme being used, the deposit amount, the names of LL/LA and T, and all the details on how the scheme is operated in terms of disputes, etc. If LL/LA does not do these two things within 30 days of receipt of the deposit, then the T can take them to court and claim for the amount of the original deposit plus a penalty of between 1 and 3 times this original value. This can even be done if the tenancy has ended. Failure of LL/LA to protect the deposit within 30 days also stops them from being able to issue a Section 21 "notice to quit" which starts the legal proceedings to end the tenancy. See section F for more detail.
2. Keep your website log-on details for the deposit protection scheme to yourself, don!!!8217;t be persuaded into giving them to your LL/LA for any reason.
3. It is important to check that your potential LL has the permission of their mortgage lender to let out the property. This is important because if the mortgage lender repossess the property, and they didn't give LL permission to let, then the T can be made homeless immediately. However if the lender did give LL permission to let, then they will honour the terms of the rental agreement. You can tactfully ask LL about this by mentioning a friend who went through a LL repossession which has made you much more aware of the issues. Or for £3 you can download the property documents from Land Registry Online - this will show the mortgage lender. If the mortgage lender has LL down as living in the property then they most likely don!!!8217;t have permission to let. You can also write to the mortgage lender and ask them directly.
for more info:
4. Ask LL/LA if the property is insured for tenants.
5. Find out if they are accredited with the local council private sector housing department.
6. If you are applying for a local authority bond in place of a deposit, check that this is acceptable to LL/LA.
7. Ask how the inventory check will be handled on the first day of your tenancy. Ideally LL/LA will be able to hand over the keys in person, and then go through the inventory with you. You can then note down discrepancies and get both of your signatures on the completed documents. Then there can be no argument on the state of the property and its furnishings at the start of the tenancy. If in doubt take photos and then get the LL/LA to sign and date them as representative of the condition of an object. (Note: an inventory check is still important for an unfurnished property as the condition of carpets, curtains, white goods, surfaces etc need to be noted down).
8. Ask how the inventory check will be handled at the end of your tenancy. Again ideally this will be a repeat of what is described above, with you and the LL/LA going through the inventory and checking each item against its stated condition at the start of the tenancy - remember you are allowed fair wear and tear. Some LA have a policy of sending in a "professional cleaner" to ensure that the property is in a fit state for the next T, and some try and make it hard or impossible for you to attend this check out process.
9. With regard to cleaning, ask if the LL/LA will allow you to clean the property yourself, as some may have a policy of only allowing a professional cleaner to do the job, regardless of if you have cleaned or not.
10. Ask if you can have a "sample copy" of the tenancy agreement, which you can then read at your leisure before signing anything (of course, you still must read your real contract through thoroughly, as there is no guarantee that it will be identical to the sample copy).
11. If you have pets, confirm that the landlord is aware and that this is permitted under the terms of any head lease before you pay any money for the tenancy to proceed. The landlord may not have checked that their leasehold property permits pets. If you pay admin fees and reference check charges and later find out that your pet is not allowed under the terms of the head lease, you may have to fight to get your money back. This can also come to light within the fixed term of your tenancy as a result of complaints from neighbours. In this case your landlord may have no choice but to not renew your tenancy.
Questions more specific to a potential private Landlord (LL)
1. Ask if the LL can supply any references from previous T (if they are a good LL they should have no problem with this). An alternative would be to try and talk to the current T, and ask their views on the LL. Please note that if you are in an area where the rental market moves quickly, then it is unlikely that you will have enough time to do any really in-depth checks on the LL.
2. Ask if LL is a member of a professional body such as the National Landlords Association.
3. Ask if LL will require you to pay any fees for a credit check or similar. Ask (to save money) if they would be satisfied by looking through your recent bank statements.
4. Ask if LL will want to regularly come round and inspect the property, and how much notice you would like them to give you for this. Legally they have to give you 24 hours notice, and if it is not convenient for you, you can refuse.

Questions more specific to a potential letting agency (LA)

1. Ask if LA is a member of a professional body such as ARLA.
2. Ask what fees you will be expected to pay up front, before you move in. These can consist of some or all of the following: Application fee/holding fee, credit check fee, inventory check fee, tenancy agreement fee, and maybe even a random "admin" fee. Ask for a breakdown of the fees, especially if a credit check is involved. Ask if the remainder of the fees will be refunded if you fail the credit check. Ask if there will be any inventory checking fees when you move out of the property, and whether this is covered by the inventory checking fee when you move in.
3. It is likely that fees will vary between different LAs. So ask all the LAs in the area you like, what total fees they charge, including any hidden charges (so you don't get any nasty surprises when you have signed the contract). Then view houses with the LAs whose charges are the most reasonable. Remember it is possible for a rental property to have 2 or 3 LAs trying to let it out.
4. Ask what LA policy is on regular inspections, how often they will be coming round to inspect, and what time of day they usually do it (If you are not comfortable with the LA coming into your home when you are out, then a LA that only inspects 9-5 on work days may be a problem for you).
5. If the tenancy is for a fixed term, then ask what the policy is on renewing the tenancy agreement, and if there are any fees associated with this. Ask if the LA would consider allowing your tenancy agreement to become a "periodic agreement", at the end of your fixed term. This means the terms of your AST remain the same, and you can live in your property for as long as you wish without having to constantly renew your tenancy agreement. From another viewpoint, you do not have the same security of tenure with a periodic tenancy, as you could in theory be given 2 months notice to leave. If you prefer the security of a longer "contracted" period of tenancy then sign a new AST, and you will be safe in your home for the period of the agreement.
Before signing anything
1. Don't sign a tenancy agreement without reading everything carefully, including all correspondence and the full text of the agreement. If there is something you don!!!8217;t agree with in the agreement, ask if it can be removed.
2. If you are unsure about anything in the tenancy agreement, then ask for copies and get legal advice or take it to your local CAB (Citizen Advice Bureau).
3. Take care if you are issued with a "Section 21" notice at the very beginning of your tenancy. The S21 is a legal document issued by the LL/LA which gives T two months notice that they must vacate the property, and is usually used near the end of a tenancy. However if one is issued at the start of a tenancy, then in theory the LL does not need to give two months notice to evict the T at the end of the fixed term rental period.
If you have asked all the questions which are relevant to you, and are happy to go along with the answers, then there is nothing stopping you from renting through your desired LL/LA.
B) "False deposit fraud" when trying to secure a property from a distance
There are many reasons why someone might have to sort out a rental property without being able to physically inspect the location, or meet the LL beforehand. Obvious examples are international students needing somewhere to stay as soon as they arrive in the country, or people needing to quickly move somewhere a long distance from their current location. Whatever the reason, these T need to be aware of the "False deposit" scam.
This scam involves a fraudster taking a deposit or other payments, for a property which is totally fictitious. When the T arrives at their new home and realises it does not exist, the fraudster is long gone, along with their money.
To avoid this kind of scam:
1. Check that the price of the rental is realistic for the area to which you are moving. Research rental prices for properties near to the one you are interested in. If there is a huge difference, this could indicate a scam.
2. Try and find out as much information as possible from the potential LL/LA about the house and the local area. Then try and verify this information, for example through contact with your academic institution or place of work.
3. Always try and contact LL/LA by phone if possible, a UK landline number will give you confidence that they are legitimate.
4. Question why LL/LA requires a deposit or fee up front. Some will be happy to take a deposit when you arrive at the property and they hand over the keys.
5. If you need to send money, make sure you use a reputable escrow agent. Avoid using Western Union or MoneyGram (the favourite of many fraudsters) as money send via these services is not secure, and not traceable.

C) Simple things to remember when viewing a property
1. Take someone with you. It is amazing how another pair of eyes can see thing differently, or spot things that you missed.
2. If it has a gas supply, ask to see the gas safety certificate for the property, and confirm that it is renewed yearly. Also check carefully for any small red warning stickers stuck on gas appliances, this could mean there have been gas problems in the past.
3. Try and pay attention to the structure of the property rather than just the aesthetics. For example, beware of things like a leaking roof, rotten windows, draughts, damp etc. Things like lack of double glazing can also impact on the cost of heating the property. Unscrupulous landlords may cover up damp issues with a lick of paint so looking inside cupboards/wardrobes can often reveal the tell tale signs. Also opening kitchen cupboards, opening windows, looking at the boiler to determine it's age, will show the general state of repair of the property. If the property has resident T at the time of your viewing, respect their personal property and always ask before delving into cupboards etc.
4. If it is important to you, check that you can get television reception in the property, or if it has cable or a satellite dish. If you can't receive terrestrial television through an aerial, then cable or satellite TV may be your only option.
5. Check that the speed and availability of broadband in the area is adequate for your requirements.
6. Ensure that you have reception on your mobile phone in all areas of the property.
7. Check there are enough electrical sockets for your needs.
8. The LL/LA is required to provide an energy performance certificate (EPC) for each property they rent out for any new tenancies. The EPC should be made available to the prospective T before any agreement is signed. It should be available for any prospective T to view before deciding to move in. It will address things like how much it costs to heat the house, loft insulation, double glazing, boiler age, efficiency etc.
9. If you are looking at a flat which is part of a large block, have a look at local 'hotel apartment for rent' websites, and see if any other flats in your building are listed - usually this happens in blocks of new build flats/conversions. If this is the case, it will mean a high turnover of occupants in these apartments, which could cause a range of problems for longer term T.
D) Moving in
1. Make sure you and the LL/LA both note down the gas and electricity meter readings, and you find out what companies the previous T was using for all their utilities.
2. Go through every item in the inventory and note down its condition. If it!!!8217;s not on the inventory, then there is no proof of its condition before the tenancy and you could argue that a small inventory is an advantage for the T. However in reality, a good inventory can solve many petty disputes that can arise at the end of a tenancy agreement. If you see damage to a fixture or furniture then make sure you note it down and get LL/LA to sign in agreement.
3. It is a good idea to take pictures of the fixtures and fittings, in the state they were in when you moved in. Although these may not be legally binding, they could certainly help refresh both yours and LL/LAs memory if there is an argument over deposit deductions when you come to move out of the property.
4. If the property is not being managed by a LA, then ask LL for a list of his "handy helpers" that you can call if there is an emergency especially plumbing. Obviously, only to be used if you can't reach LL first.
5. Ask LL/LA for the user manuals for appliances and heating, and learn the correct way to turn on the heating and hot water. There have been instances of T being accused of breaking appliances or the heating as they didn't know how to use them properly, and been given a large repair bill.
Utility Bills - Gas/Electricity/Water/Council Tax etc
1. When you first move into a property it is likely to be one of two scenarios. Either you are replacing the previous T more or less immediately - meaning they were the ones who have been paying all the utility bills. Or the property has been empty for some time - meaning the LL has been the one paying all the utility bills.
2. Regardless of the who has been paying them, what should have happened is that whoever was paying the bills will have informed the utility companies that they will no longer be paying from the date that you move in. Generally this will then kick start the process of the utility companies sending you a "To the new occupier" letter explaining that they are the Gas/Electricity/Water/etc supplier, and can you please phone them with your moving in meter readings and set up a new account. You have to first set up an account with the current supplier before you can (in the spirit of MSE) switch to a new supplier for a better deal.
3. If for whatever reason the previous T or LL have not informed the utility companies of the change in T, then you can contact them yourself (if you know who they are) and set up an account with your moving in meter readings. If the previous T have left leaving debts owed to any utility companies than it is very important to get in contact with them as soon as possible and inform them of the situation. You will soon find out which companies are owed money, when the final demand letters start appearing in your post addressed to the previous T.
4. Council tax is something you can either set up yourself by contacting your local council and informing them that you have just moved in, or generally the council will send a "To the new occupier" letter saying that you are now liable for council tax. You are the one who must pay the council tax so it is up to you to ensure that you are paying it.
E) During your tenancy
To avoid deposit deduction disputes when you leave:
1. If you break anything in the property or something is broken by someone else (e.g. a repairman) and it can't be easily repaired by yourself, then notify LL/LA as soon as possible - an email with photo attached will be useful. Try and sort out the repair during your tenancy. If you can't, then having written proof that you contacted LL/LA, will mean no surprises on either side, when it comes to the final inspection on the day you move out.
2. Particularly if you rent through a LA, if you agree a change to the tenancy agreement - like having pets, wanting to put up pictures or painting a room, make sure you have some record in writing that LL/LA has agreed for you to do this.

F) Moving out
1.Either T or LL can decide to bring a tenancy to an end, but notice must be given to the other party.
1a).If LL decides to end the tenancy they must issue the T with a Section 21 "notice to quit", giving a date on which the LL wants to take possession of the property. Importantly the Section 21 must be issued giving two months notice to the T of this intended possession date. If the tenancy is still in its fixed term, then the Section 21 can be issued at any time during this term, and give two months notice, providing the possession date is not before the end of the fixed term (usually 6 months) of the tenancy. If the tenancy has lapsed beyond the fixed term, and has therefore become a "Statutory Periodic Agreement" (SPA), then the LL must issue the Section 21 with two "clear" months notice of the intended possession date - this means two months notice from the next rent period/payment date. If the LL/LA has failed to protect the deposit of the T within 30 days of receipt then they are unable to issue a Section 21, until they have either repaid the deposit in full (or with deductions as agreed by the tenant) or legal proceedings started by the T because of the LL/LAs failure to protect the deposit have come to a conclusion.
1b). If the T decides to end the tenancy, then if they are at the end of their fixed-term contract (in Eng/Wales) they may do so without giving the LL specific notice - it is however courteous for the T to confirm with the LL what their intentions are. However if the tenancy has gone beyond the fixed term and become periodic (SPA), the T must give the LL one "clear" months notice - which must line up with the end of the rent period/payment date. For example: If the original fixed term ends on 19th of the month, subsequent periods run on monthly (where rent due monthly in original fixed term agreement) from the 20th to the 19th of future months and the T would need to give notice by the 19th. Giving notice on, say, 28th of March, would mean that T would be bound to pay rent etc until 19th May unless LL agreed to a pro rata rent payment.
An important point to make is that these are the statutory legal requirements - if LL and T are able to come to a private mutual agreement about notice that keeps them both happy, then these complex rules do not need to be followed so strictly. However these laws are in place to make sure that each party is treated as fairly as possible by the other, so don!!!8217;t tolerate landlords who try to impose "unenforceable" terms for notice within their contracts.
For more detail, see:
2. Ensure that you inform all of your utility suppliers (gas/electricity/phone etc) of your intended date of departure, and give them a forwarding address so they can send you a final bill. Take final gas and electricity meter readings on the last day of your tenancy.
3. Try to avoid leaving it to your LL/LA to sort out your final bills for you (and taking the total of the bills paid, off your deposit). It is you who is liable for those bills not LL or LA, and so it is you who has the most to lose if they are not dealt with properly (being chased for debts, getting charged fines for non-payment etc). So make sure you deal with your final bills personally.
4. All good T will have cleaned and tidied the property, and returned it to the same state it was in when you moved in (apart from fair wear and tear of course!). However, if despite your best efforts, LL/LA refuses to allow you to be present during their "check out" (final cleanliness inspection and inventory check) process, then it makes sense to take a few pictures of the clean and tidy house before you leave, just so you have some evidence of how you left the property.
5. If LL/LA want to show potential new T around the property while you are still living there, then they must give you 24 hours notice, and if the timing is not convenient you do not have to agree to the viewing - you are entitled by law to "quiet enjoyment" of the property. However it is usually a good idea not to be too awkward, especially if you want a reference from LL/LA.
6. If you are renting with a private LL, and they attend the check out process with you, then try and come to an agreement there and then about any deductions from the deposit that LL feels are necessary. Hopefully there will be no deductions, but if there are, a quick verbal agreement means you will be able to get your deposit back much faster than if you have a protracted disagreement about deposit deductions via phone or by letter.
7. If you are renting through a LA, and they do not allow you to be present at the check out process, then you will be waiting for them to present you with a final inspection report, including any deposit deductions they think are necessary. It is very hard to argue with this report, especially if it appears weeks or months after you moved out, which is why it is key to try and attend the check out process with the LA.
8. When you return the keys, get LL/LA to sign for receipt of all the keys. This way there can be no arguments about if/when keys were properly returned.
* If you have any suggestions or comments for this guide please say! *
Don't pay off your student loan quicker than you have to.


  • neverdespairgirl
    neverdespairgirl Posts: 16,501 Forumite
    Great post, and some really helpful suggestions.

    Under "Part B", I'd add as an essential moving in element, "find the kettle and make a nice cuppa".....
    ...much enquiry having been made concerning a gentleman, who had quitted a company where Johnson was, and no information being obtained; at last Johnson observed, that 'he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney'.
  • poppy10_2
    poppy10_2 Posts: 6,575 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary
    Good post :)
  • prudryden
    prudryden Posts: 2,075 Forumite
    If the property is not being managed by a Letting Agent, then ask the LL for a list of his "handy helpers" that you can call if there is an emergency especially plumbing. Obviously, only to be used if you can't reach the LL because he is away on vacation.

    He should be pleased that you asked.
  • Rabiddog_2
    Rabiddog_2 Posts: 418 Forumite

    Also why not get a digital camera and take pictures of the fixtures and fittings .. these are not legally binding (afaik), but could certainly help refresh both yours or the LL memory..
    tribuo veneratio ut alius quod they mos veneratio vos
  • xtessx
    xtessx Posts: 178 Forumite
    Hello Joe

    Thanks for this post, I am soon to be a first time tenant, and this has been very useful!:T :T :T

    Total debt at May 08 - £28,934.53 :eek:
    Proud to be dealing with my debts!
    Spendaholics Anonymous No 53 RED PEN MEMBER # 18 July grocery challenge £0/£280
  • sasp
    sasp Posts: 1,117 Forumite
    Well done, useful thread. I am currently in my first rental property and my lease is up soon. The questions are useful if I do have to move, although I'm hoping I can stay on but you never know.

    Thanks again
    sasp x
    "You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said 'Parking Fine.'"

    (How funny was Tommy Cooper)
  • JoeA81
    JoeA81 Posts: 266 Forumite
    Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I've added them, and corrected the spelling errors!

    Keep them coming..

    Don't pay off your student loan quicker than you have to.
  • MissMoneypenny
    MissMoneypenny Posts: 5,324 Forumite
    This should be a sticky. Good, helpful thread Joe.
    RENTING? Have you checked to see that your landlord has permission from their mortgage lender to rent the property? If not, you could be thrown out with very little notice.
    Read the sticky on the House Buying, Renting & Selling board.

  • MissMoneypenny
    MissMoneypenny Posts: 5,324 Forumite
    Check with your proposed ISP what the broadband rate is for that property. We can only get 1mb speed where I live and I only found that out after I moved in. Very frustrating.

    Also read on here about someone who didn't have a tv reception in the house they rented.
    RENTING? Have you checked to see that your landlord has permission from their mortgage lender to rent the property? If not, you could be thrown out with very little notice.
    Read the sticky on the House Buying, Renting & Selling board.

  • MissMoneypenny
    MissMoneypenny Posts: 5,324 Forumite
    Someone else posted a thread a few months ago about their rental house not having enough electric sockets. This is something else worth looking at when viewing rentals.
    RENTING? Have you checked to see that your landlord has permission from their mortgage lender to rent the property? If not, you could be thrown out with very little notice.
    Read the sticky on the House Buying, Renting & Selling board.

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