The link below relates to a checklist which should act as a useful guide for tenants or landlords that wish to clarify their rights and responsibilities in regards to letting in the private sector. It includes a checklist and more detailed information on:
- What to look out for before renting
- Living in a rented home
- What happens at the end of a tenancy
- What to do if things go wrong
When looking for an agent you may wish to concentrate first and foremost on looking for an ARLA (The Association of Residential Lettings Agents) registered letting agent. This will be an agent that is governed by the UK’s professional body for letting agents that was set up in 1981 in order to regulate the lettings process in the UK by making sure that all of their members follow a strict code of practice. Although it is not compulsory for a letting agent to register with ARLA as a consumer it does offer some reassurance. To see more on the organisation and the benefits of using an ARLA registered agent please see www.arla.co.uk/about-arla.aspx.
If you want to begin your search by using a search engine you will be able to have a broader overview of properties that are currently on the market at the moment. The most common search engines are Rightmove and Zoopla but there are others if you look online. Many agents advise starting your search and arranging some viewings at least 6 to 8 weeks before you are due to move to the area, any earlier than this then the market would have moved on too much before you are in a position to view and move in. Leaving your search or viewings any later than this and you may find that most properties that would have been available for your required time frame have already been let.
A Guide to Renting Property in the UK
Once you have found a property that you wish to rent in the UK there is a process that should be followed by yourself, the letting agent and the landlord:
Having found a suitable property you may be asked to provide a holding deposit in order for the agent to take the property off the market. The letting agent will then begin the process of referencing and collecting a full deposit from you. Please be aware that your landlord does not have to protect against a holding deposit and it is only once you have a signed a tenancy agreement that they have a responsibility to protect your full deposit in a secure tenancy deposit protection scheme. Please see www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection for further information regarding deposits.
It is common practice in the UK for your letting agent to seek references for an applicant on behalf of the landlord to check that you have the ability to pay the rent and that you have previously rented a property without any problems. Referencing can involve paying an administration fee in order for them to process the paperwork involved and they should also ask your permission to carry out the relevant searches. Searches and documents required will normally involve:-
• References from your previous landlord - usually details of property that you have let over the last 3 years.
• A credit check - this will allow the landlord to check that you have a good history of paying bills.
• Your bank details – including your bank name, account number and sort code in the UK.
• Details of your employer- your employer, job title, payroll number, salary and previous employers number.
If the referencing does show any concerns or you fail any of the checks you may not get your administration fee back so it is extremely important to check this before signing forms and handing over funds.
If you are finding it difficult to provide references or fail a credit check some letting agents may ask that you have a guarantor or that you insure against default of rental payments on behalf of the landlord. If you have had previous issues or have knowledge that you may fail some of these checks it is best to discuss this from the outset with your agent.
The deposit is the final step to securing a property- it is an amount of money held in a secure tenancy deposit scheme for the duration of the tenancy and is usually the equivalent of between one and two months rent. (This is a rough guide some amounts may differ slightly).
A landlord that takes deposits will be required to join a statutory tenancy deposit scheme. Please double check which scheme the landlord uses for deposits and get as much information as possible regarding this before handing over any deposit funds.
New legislation has been brought out to protect all parties when it comes to the deposit- The Housing Act 2004 with an update in 2007. Please see www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/34/contents.
To summarise what information a landlord must make available to a tenant in terms of a deposit please see - www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection/information-landlords-must-give-tenants.
Please note that if you have not rented in the UK before and do not have a UK bank account, then you may have to pay up to 6 months rent in advance. If you need any information on opening a UK bank account please take a look at HR advice.
The inventory is one of the most important documents when renting a property and should be giving thorough attention when moving into the property right from the outset. It is key when referring back to the condition of the property if any disputes arise when return of deposit is due at the end of the tenancy.
You should have access to the inventory from the day you move in and you should go through every details on the inventory to make sure the condition of the property and the items within it are present and correct and in the same condition as stated on the inventory. Any damage should be noted and photographed from the outset before signing and initialling the inventory as will be expected. Your landlord and letting agent will then sign and initial when any changes have been made where necessary.
Some landlords will request checks during a tenancy to check the condition of the property and any furniture and contents provided by the landlord. You should be informed of these checks and notified when they will occur before the tenancy commences. The landlord should send a reminder and property notification of a request for access before the checks are carried out during the tenancy.
Some landlords will not require this and will be happy to go through the inventory once you have come to the end of the tenancy and any disputes may be dealt with then.
Most tenancies in the UK are Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements which states the tenants rights to live in a property for an agreed term and the landlords right to receive a certain amount of an agreed rent for that term. In order to get an overview of the tenancy agreement and what it involves along with the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant please see www.gov.uk/private-renting-tenancy-agreements.
If an initial agreement is for a period of more than three years then a deed will need to be drawn up with solicitors acting on behalf of you and the landlord.
Once these steps have been completed you should be in a position to collect the keys on the specified move in date on the contract.
At the end of your tenancy you are able to either give the correct notice period that you contract states and move out at the end of your tenancy term or request a tenancy extension.
When you depart it is worth returning to your inventory and making sure the property is returned to the landlord in the condition that it was made available to you, this should avoid any disputes and make it easier to get your deposit back without undue delay.
Before you depart:
• Thoroughly clean the property including carpets, windows, furniture walls and woodwork.
• Allocate time to making sure the garden is also left neat and tidy as this is a common area that gets neglected before departure.
• Clear away any of your own possessions and remove everything from the property that belongs to you and was not there on arrival.
• Return all keys to the landlord.
In the event of any disputes at the end of a tenancy and if you feel your deposit has been withheld for no fair reason please see the link below to see the best course of action to take. It offers advice on how initially to approach and negotiate a dispute and what further action can be taken if you are unhappy with the outcome.