You've 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.
Securing a property to rent
Begin by putting down a holding deposit in order to state your intention to rent the property and have it taken off the market. Don't forget to check whether there are any other letting agents marketing the same rental home.
The letting agent or landlord will then begin the administrative process of requesting references from you and a full security deposit (for more, see below).
If you proceed with the tenancy, the holding deposit will typically be deducted from your security 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. They may also be interested in whether you have rented a property without any major problems in the past.
If instructed, the letting agent will organise this and is likely to ask for the administration fee and your permission to conduct relevant searches.
Be aware that if 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. Check your credit rating with our partners, uSwitch
- 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 part in securing the property is putting down 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 you.
It used to be the single most disputed area of the renting process but new legislation was introduced in April 2007 to help protect all parties with regard to the return of deposits.
Tenancy deposit protection in summary
Landlords are required to join one of the Government-backed tenancy deposit schemes ( TDP )
You will get all or part of your deposit back at the end of the tenancy if you have kept the rental property in good condition
The schemes offer alternative ways of resolving disputes which aim to be faster and cheaper than taking court action
Find out more about the tenancy deposit schemes in our guide to being a landlord
This is one of the most important documents in the renting process and can be key in deciding how much of your deposit is returned at the end of your tenancy.
You should 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, as well as the state of the property itself, 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 or video evidence to give you extra protection and 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 will 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 legally-binding 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. It is therefore vital that you read, understand and agree with the contract.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies
ASTs are the most common form of tenancy agreement and set out the duties of both you 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 you have the right to remain in the property for at least six months.
However, if the fixed term is for three or more years, 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(s)
- The property must be the main home of the occupant(s)
- 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
- What payments are expected, including Council Tax, utilities and 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
When all the paper work has been completed, 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.
When you come to the end of your time at the property, you 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.
Landlords like low maintenance tenants, so 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, 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 should have no problem. Here is what you should do:
- Give the property a thorough clean, including carpets, windows, walls and furniture
- Clear away any rubbish
- If it's your responsibility, tidy up the garden
- Remove all your personal belongings
- Be satisfied you're leaving the property as you found it
- Return all the keys to the landlord
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 as 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.
You might also be interested in...
- 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.