A renter’s guide: advice for tenants
You have found a property to rent. So what happens next? This guide will provide you with all the information and advice you need to clinch the deal and become a tenant.
Securing a property to rent
You should begin by putting down a holding deposit in order to state your intention to rent the property and get the property off the market. The letting agent will then begin the administrative process of requesting references from you and a full deposit.
Your prospective new landlord will be keen to make sure that you are a suitable tenant and that you have the ability to pay your rent, while also making sure that you have rented a property without any major problems in the past (if this is applicable). If instructed, the letting agent will organise this, and at this point, they are likely to ask for the administration fee, along with your permission to conduct the relevant searches. Be aware that should you fail any of the necessary checks, you may not get your administrative fee back. Check with the letting agent before agreeing to hand over any cash or signing any forms.
If you agree, some, or all, of the following documents may be requested by the letting agent:
- References from previous landlords - you may be asked to give the details of where you have lived within the last three years
- A credit check - this will allow them to see if you have a good history of paying your bills
- Your bank details, including bank name, account number and sort code
- Details of your employment, including your employer, job title, payroll number, salary and previous employer
In the event that the information highlights any potential of risk to the landlord, you may be asked to provide a guarantor. A guarantor will be contractually liable, both financially and legally, should you fail to pay the rent during your tenancy or in the event of damage to the property.
The final event in your securing the property is the deposit. This is usually between one and two months' rent and held for the duration of the tenancy. The deposit is a safety net for the landlord to guard against the cost of replacing or repairing property damaged by the renter. It is, however, the single most disputed area of the renting process.
New legislation was introduced to the Housing Act 2004 in April 2007 to help protect all parties with regard to the return of deposits.
Tenancy deposit protection in summary
Landlords will be required to join a statutory tenancy deposit scheme, if they take deposits
This will mean that deposits are safeguarded
Tenants will get all or part of their deposit back, if they have kept the rental property in good condition and are entitled to get their deposit back
The scheme offers alternative ways of resolving disputes which aim to be faster and cheaper than taking court action
Find out more about the Tenancy Deposit Scheme in our guide to being a landlord
This is one of the most important documents in the renting process and can often be key in deciding how much of your deposit you get back at the end of your agreement. You should therefore be extremely thorough and give it your full attention, while taking the necessary precautions to protect your interests.
How is the inventory prepared?
The inventory is a simple list detailing every item contained within the property and the condition each listed item is in on the day you move in. This may be prepared by either the letting agent or the landlord. Either way, you should go round the property with the landlord or agent and agree the state of each item before signing anything.
If necessary, take photographic evidence to give you extra protection and to avoid any unnecessary disagreement at a later stage. You will be expected to sign the inventory and initial every page, along with the landlord or letting agent.
When will the inventory be checked again?
It is not uncommon for landlords and letting agents to schedule in regular three monthly inventory checks at the property in order to assess any damage that may have occurred. Find out if there are regular checks planned and when they are likely to take place. It is most common, however, for a final inventory check the day you are scheduled to move out.
The tenancy agreement is a contract between you and the landlord. It specifies certain rights to both you and the landlord, such as your right to live in the home for the agreed term and your landlord's right to receive rent for letting the property.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies
Since the late 90s, ASTs have been the most common form of tenancy agreement and set out the duties of both tenant and landlord. The most important aspect of the agreement is that the landlord has the right to repossess the property at the end of the agreed term. Despite its name, the agreement does not have to be short and can continue as long as both parties are happy to do so. There is no minimum term specified either, although the renter has the right to remain in the property for at least six months.
If the fixed term is for three or more years, however, a deed must be drawn up and a solicitor employed to do so.
There are specific requirements linked to an AST that include:
- The tenant(s) must be an individual
- The property must be the main home of the occupant
- The property must be let as separate accommodation
- The landlord is obliged to provide the tenant with two months' notice if they want to terminate the agreement
The agreement will most likely contain the following information:
- Your name, your landlord's name and the address of the property which is being let
- The date the tenancy will commence
- The duration of the tenancy from the start to the agreed finish of the occupation
- The amount of rent payable, how often it should be paid, when it should be paid and when it can be legally increased
- The agreement should also state what the payments are expected, including Council Tax, utilities, service charges
- What services your landlord will provide, such as maintenance of common areas
- The notice period which you and your landlord need to give each other if the tenancy is to be terminated
Tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities
The responsibilities of both parties are likely to be detailed within your tenancy agreement, although some conditions may vary between properties and landlords. Find out more about tenant and landlord rights.
Preparing to move in
So, all the paper work has been completed and it is time to move in. PrimeLocation's comprehensive moving home section contains all the helpful hints and advice you could need, including a dedicated moving checklist, a removal guide, a selection of removal and storage companies and much more.
So, you've come to the end of your time at the property. You now have two options to consider:
Extend the agreement
Remember, you need to provide two months' notice in writing to your landlord, stating either your intention to vacate the property or to ask permission to stay on beyond your initial agreement. Providing your landlord is happy with you and the condition of the house or flat, you'll most likely be allowed to continue with your occupancy.
If you decide to move out, then it's worth putting in a bit of work to get the property up to scratch to maximise the chances of getting your full deposit back. As long as the condition of the property is the same as when you moved in (barring normal wear and tear), you'll have no problem. Here is what you should do:
- Give the property a thorough clean, including carpets, windows, walls and furniture
- If it's your responsibility, tidy up the garden and clear away any rubbish
- Return all of the keys to the landlord
- Remove all of your personal belongings
- Be satisfied you're leaving the property as you found it
Final inventory check
You'll have the opportunity to run through the inventory checklist on the day of departure. It's important that this job is done before you leave the property to avoid you being accountable for any damage that occurs after you've left. If there is any damage, you should agree with the landlord the cost of repairing or replacing such items.
If an agreement cannot be reached as to the damage of particular items, which items have been damaged, or repair costs, then you should make sure you take photographs. Get your own repair cost estimates and write to the landlord with your findings and work towards a mutually agreeable solution.
If both you and the landlord are satisfied the property has been left in an acceptable state and you have made your final rental payment, there should be no problem getting your deposit back.
For further insight, read our how to rent a house guide.
- How to rent a house
- Guide to being a landlord
- Guide to letting a property
- Moving checklist
- How to choose a removal company
Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.