Tenants Guide









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1 Research


In the current climate, the volume of people renting property is far higher than those that are buying.  Once you have decided that you want to rent a property, you need to research the market carefully.  It is advisable to rent through a regulated agent such Oliver Jaques who through the property Ombudsman have to follow a strict code of conduct.


The internet is a valuable tool in your search for a property.  Have a look online to find agents who are advertising properties that interest you in your areas of choice. They will have the most up to date properties available for you, and most agent’s websites are updated on a daily basis. Also, look in local property newspapers and magazines.


If you have friends, family or colleagues living in your area of choice, speak to them for recommendations of the agent that they used.  Research the agents that you have found, don’t be drawn in by large corporate companies, in many areas there are independent agents, who whilst may be relatively small they may have been trading for a number of years. Longevity is a good indication of the service that you will receive and also their knowledge of the area.


Ensure that that they are members of the Property Ombudsman and of other regulatory bodies like NAEA, ARLA or UKALA. These companies have strict codes of practice, therefore agents who are members of these should be taken more seriously.


Once you have a shortlist of potential agents, call into their office, this will give a feel for what they are like on both a professional and personal level.  It is imperative to discuss with the agent all costs that will be incurred for renting, such as tenancy agreements, administration charges, credit reference fees and check-in costs. Nobody wants to be surprised with hidden charges.


 

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2 What are your requirements

You need to decide what are you looking for:


A house, a flat? or studio?

What is your budget?

Where do you ideally want to live?

Do you want or need a garden/ outside space/balcony?

Do you need parking?

Do you have any Pets?

Do you need to be near a Tube or Train station?

Do you need to be near a gym or shopping centre?


Be guided by the agent’s knowledge of the area. You might be surprised once you start viewing what is out there and where.


You need to bear in mind that the busiest time for lettings is normally from early spring through to late autumn, so you need to be prepared that you may have to be decisive during these busier periods.  Whilst many properties can be available up to two months ahead, lettings is an industry with a very quick turnaround, you may need to make offers quickly to ensure that you don’t miss out. 

How quickly you can make decisions could determine your offer being secured. Make sure you do your sums correctly in order to calculate monthly rent correctly, multiply the weekly rent by 52 and divide by 12 (= per calendar month rental). Remember to factor into your budget the additional bills on top of rent, including council tax, water, electricity and Gas.

Keep an open mind, and don’t be deterred before you’ve even seen a property. When there is more than one person renting, it is advisable that you all view the property together, rather than going back and forth to visit the property. It’s good to remember not to cram in too many viewings into one day. Select no more than five properties, otherwise there will be aspects of a property you could forget. This is potentially your new home; quality should count, and not quantity.

Once you have viewed your shortlisted properties, provide your agent with as much feedback as you can.  If you have viewed something that is not what you want, let them know. Detail exactly your likes and dislikes, they can then find you something more suitable next time which will save you wasted journeys and precious time.



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3 Checklist

Be prompt for viewings and make a good impression with your agent.  First impressions really do count and many a landlord will be asking their agents for feedback on what the prospective tenants are like, as much as you may choose the property in where you live, a landlord can choose the tenant to live in their property.

Check to see if the property has been well maintained both externally and internally. Where possible look at the windows, guttering, the roof area, and any outside areas.  Check that the carpets and walls are in good condition, and also ensure that the storage space is adequate for you.

If you have any items of large furniture, bring the measurements with you, and take a tape measure along on viewings to ensure it will fit in the rooms.  Most importantly, do not forget to measure the entrances; you need to get the furniture into the property.  Ask to see the Energy Performance Certificate, this will give you an insight into the cost of your utility bills.

Make notes and if possible take some photos. Many phones these days have cameras built in, which will make them easily accessible for you to look back over.

Are there adequate electrical sockets for your requirements?

If allowed run the taps / bath / shower and flush the toilet. Are they all working? Is the water pressure suffice to your needs?

Check that the windows can be easily opened and that the relevant window keys are available.

If you have any requests in relation to the property, discuss them with your agent so they can ask the landlord if these are possible?

Whilst many landlords can offer flexibility, try not to be too demanding early on as you might put them off renting their property to you.

Enquire who will be managing the property? Will the landlord be dealing with this or is it the agent?


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4 Prices

Properties are priced in line with the most up to date market value, therefore ensure that you put your best offer forward, this will increase your chances of it being accepted. It’s not uncommon to be outbid if you offer under the asking price.

If your initial offer is not accepted, you may need to increase your offer and in some instances, revise any requests you have made.

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5 Special Requests

If there are any special requests that you may have in relation to the property, approach your agent with these early on, failure to do this could jeopardise your offer if you wait until further down the line.

It is best to request them sooner rather than later as they can then be included in the tenancy agreement and form part of your initial offer.  Remember not to overload your requests as this could deter your landlord.


If you’re already in a rented property, then you may need to consider an overlap in tenancies to secure your new home. Some landlords might consider a week or two at most.

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6 Referencing

Referencing checks will be carried out to assess your overall suitability to enter into a tenancy so make sure that you can afford the offer that you have made, as they will look at your rent to salary ratio (combined tenants must be earning 30 x monthly rent). It is essential that you are always honest on the referencing forms and if you do have any adverse credit history it is always advisable to declare it. Should you fail any references because you have adverse credit, and you have not advised the agent, then you could forfeit your holding deposit.

If your employment status isn’t straightforward, you could be asked to pay an upfront rental payment which could be as much as six months or provide additional references and/or have a UK based guarantor.

You will be required to pay the equivalent of one weeks’ rent as reservation fee upfront to secure the property, once this has been paid, the agent will stop marketing that property and nobody else will view it.

As part of the new regulations albeit introduced in 2016 ‘the immigration act 2014’ The agent will have to check that prospective tenants have the right to be in the UK, this will involve providing proof of your identity, which will include photographic ID, therefore be prepared to provide them with a copy of your passport as well as any relevant UK visa’s.



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7 Sign…on the dotted line

Types of contract

AST

Most agents use an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) which will require you to remain in the property for a minimum period of time, which is usually 6 months. You should note that at any time you are looking to vacate, you will need to provide the landlord /agent with the correct amount of notice this should ideally be sent to the landlord/agent by recorded or registered post.


The landlord can also exercise the right to serve you with notice at 6 months, should the landlord wish to, they will do it in a specific fashion as governed by the housing act.  If you have any queries regarding notice periods it is best to check and ask the landlord/agent.  Prior to the end of your tenancy, usually around 3 months before it ends, your agent should write to you regarding the renewal of your tenancy agreement.  This will generally continue on either a New Tenancy agreement or on a periodic tenancy.

Periodic Tenancy

If a tenancy is extended on this basis, it is done so without the need of issuing a new tenancy agreement.  On a periodic tenancy, if you wanted to leave the property you would need to give one months' notice at a rent due date i.e. if you paid your monthly rent on the 15th of every month, you would need to provide the months’ notice by the 15th of any said month to vacate the 14th of the following month. If you paid your rent on the 15th and gave your months’ notice on the 19th of the month, then your notice would not be effective until the 15th of the following month.


If the rental figure on the property is £100,000 or higher or you are letting the property through your company, then a different type of tenancy will be used. Your agent will be able to advise you in more details if this is applicable to your circumstances.

Remember a tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract, therefore it is vital that you have read your contract thoroughly beforehand and should you be unsure of anything ask the agent. If you are still a little unsure it may be worthwhile to take some legal advice.


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8 Preparing to Move

Be aware that the tenancy paperwork process may take a little time, as both yourself and the landlord need to sign. There are several things for the agent and landlord to organise before the move-in day which will include meeting the legislative requirements in order to let a property.


Whilst the references are being carried out, it is a good idea for you to notify the people who will be contacted by the reference company as this can help to speed things up for you.  Also, be prepared to supply additional financial information if your circumstances are unusual.


Remember:


Nothing is absolute until both parties have signed the agreement. The completion of tenancy is dependent on the signed tenancy agreement, the references being acceptable to the landlord and cleared funds received by the agent prior to the move-in day.



The Deposit


A standard deposit is usually the equivalent of six weeks’ rent.  Your agent will be able to explain this to you in more detail. The agent will usually hold the deposit with an appropriate deposit protection scheme to take care of your money until the deposit is released at the end of tenancy, minus any agreed deductions for any damage. It is worth remembering that a deposit is NOT to be used for rent, it is in place for any dilapidations to the property. Should you leave the property in the same condition as it was noted on your inventory report at the start of tenancy, and there are no rent arrears or outstanding utility bills, then your deposit should be returned to you in full. Usually there is no interest paid on the deposit.


In the eyes of the law this money still belongs you so any deductions that the landlord wishes to deduct when you vacate, will have to be agreed by you first. If you feel that deductions are being made unfairly, then you should contact the company that protects your deposit for information on how to lodge a dispute. For the most up to date information on Tenancy Deposit Schemes it is worth visiting the Direct Gov website.



The Keys


These will be released once your initial rent, security deposit and other administration charges have cleared, the references are satisfactory, and you have signed your tenancy agreement.  These are usually given to you by your agent or on some occasions by the check in clerk meeting you at the property.


On most occasions the property will be in the condition that you expect it to be, however it is worth remembering, that you’re not moving into a hotel. Be prepared that some things may not be perfect straight away. Give yourself a little time to settle in before you report the issues to your agent or landlord.


Your agent should have advised you whether or not they will be managing your property or if it is to be your landlord. It is important for you to know your point of contact throughout your tenancy. If it is your agent then your point of contact throughout your tenancy will be the property management department, they will deal with all aspects of your tenancy, including maintenance, accounts and renewals.


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9 Move-in day


As you prepare to move into your new property, you need to remember to either set up your new utility bill accounts, and any other service that you require such as the telephone line, broadband, parking permit and contents insurance. Or if you are moving from another property then you can transfer these to your new address.


Don’t forget to notify the relevant local authority of your move in date, your agent will be able to advise you of the local authority that you will need to contact.  Even if you are a student and not eligible to pay council tax, you should still contact the local authority with your move in date and make them aware of this. They may ask for proof of this.  It is worth asking the agent if there are parking bays with restrictions outside the property, as if you are using removal vans, you may want to ask the council to suspend them temporarily.


The agent will usually ask you to complete a standing order mandate for your rental payments, which they will then post on to your bank. It is your responsibility to check that this has been received and actioned by your bank, as once it leaves the agent’s office they will not have the authority to check that with your bank.


Property Reports

The day you move into the property, it is likely that you will meet a check in clerk at the property who will check you in. Most agents will use a third-party inventory company to carry this out, as they will be impartial to all parties concerned.

The Inventory Check-In should be a comprehensive and detailed report of the state and condition of the property, which will include dated and timed photographs. It will also list everything that is in the property. Where possible the clerk, will also make a note of the relevant meter readings, you will need to provide your utility provider with this information as soon as possible. Normally an agent will send you a copy of this report within 10 days of moving in and you must check it is correct, if you feel that there should be any amendments, notify the agent within the time frame they have specified, so they can deal with them as soon as possible.


The property report will be vital in any future deposit discussions so make sure you are happy with the information that is recorded.


 Running like clockwork

Be aware of your responsibilities as a tenant and report any issues you have or if there is a maintenance problem in the property, to the landlord or to the agent if they are managing it.  Be aware that whilst a leaking pipe may seem like a minor issue, if left to leak it could cause a ceiling to collapse? If this were to happen, this could be seen as your responsibility.


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10 Ongoing responsibilities

Make sure that your rent is always paid on time. If for any reason you are ever unable to pay your rent or will need to pay late, let your agent/landlord know as soon as you can. Some agents may charge a late payment fee, for repeated late rent payments. It is always best to make sure that your rent is paid by the standing order set up at the start of the tenancy as this will ensure the rent is always on time and will protect you from having a bad payment history.


Remember that you are governed not only by your tenancy agreement but also by the obligations in the head lease of the property that is leasehold which is very common in London. You also need to be aware of any special conditions such as your activities or level of noise permitted in the premises.

Be respectful of your neighbours, so try to avoid making loud noise, and ensure that rubbish is put in its correct place and try not to obstruct any common areas.

You must make your landlord aware if you are going to be away for longer than 14 days, as this may affect the landlord’s buildings insurance policy.

Ensure that the property is locked adequately at all times when you are out. If the property has a working alarm system, then use it.

Basic maintenance issues such as replacing light bulbs and batteries in smoke alarms are your responsibility. If you are in doubt as to what is your responsibility contact either the agent or the landlord, they will be able to guide you.

If you wish to vacate the property prior to the expiration of your tenancy agreement, you will need to contact your agent; they will be able to confirm if your tenancy is at a point whereby your notice can be served. You should also be aware that you still need to provide the requested amount of notice as specified in your tenancy agreement, even if you are looking to leave at expiration of your tenancy agreement.

Once notice has been served, the property will then be put on the market again by the agent, so you should be prepared for viewings from prospective tenants to take place during the notice period. During this time, please ensure that the property is presentable and allow the agent to conduct the viewings. You will always be given notice of any viewings and remember that all viewings will be accompanied.

Generally, your agent will handle the check-out including the returning of the keys. They will also arrange the release of the deposit minus any agreed deductions for repairs which will directly depend on the condition the property is left in.


We hope that this guide has been informative and useful and wish you the best in the search for your new home.