Entering the lettings market can be daunting, particularly for those renting for the first time. There are common problems and pitfalls experienced by first-time tenants. To ensure things go smoothly, it is essential that students are up-to-date with their rights and responsibilities. To help tenants on their way to a successful tenancy, we have compiled the following top tips.
1. When looking for properties, whether directly with a landlord, through a letting agent, or via the university accommodation office, ask if they are members of a professional organisation such as the National Landlords Association and check their membership status via the online register of members. If you’re using a letting agent then check to see if they are a member of the UK Association of Letting Agents or the Association of Residential Letting Agencies.
2. Once you’ve found a property that you like the look of, ask about any additional fees such as reference fees and check-in fees. This is particularly relevant if you are using a letting agent as you should be aware of the scale of the financial commitment before you sign a contract.
3. Before signing a contract, study the Gas Safety certificate to check it has been updated in the last year. A Gas Safe registered engineer must check all gas appliances every year, by law.
4. Read the property’s Energy Performance Certificate to get an idea of how much it is likely to cost to heat your new home. The landlord or letting agent must provide this when they advertise the property.
5. Consider the whole cost of renting the property, not just the rent. If the property is energy efficient then the gas and electricity bills should be low. If the energy bills are high, ask the landlord about low cost improvements which could save you money and improve the property in the long-run.
6. Read the contract carefully before you sign and ensure you understand the obligations you are signing up to.
7. Before you hand over your deposit, check the inventory provided by your landlord, letting agent or third party. Be sure that the inventory is accurate and includes a fair description of the condition of the furniture before signing and dating it. If not included in the inventory ask the landlord to take photos to document any damage which pre-dates your tenancy.
8. When you hand over your deposit, ask which tenancy deposit protection provider the landlord will be using. Landlords must, by law, protect all deposits within a government-licenced tenancy deposit protection scheme, such as my|deposits, and send you the prescribed information shortly after your tenancy begins.
9. Once you’ve settled into the property, report any accidents, breakages or damage to the landlord as soon as possible so that they can resolve the problem quickly, before it gets worse.
10. When you come to leave the property, ensure it is in the same condition (apart from fair wear and tear) as when you moved in. Ensure you leave the property clean and tidy and any rubbish is disposed of. The cost of reconciling any damage or dirt may be deducted from the deposit.
There is more information for tenants available from the NLA’s website at http://www.landlords.org.uk/tenants