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So you want to rent a property?
There is plenty to think about when you begin looking for a property to rent. Andrew Luxton of Stags outlines the key steps you'll need to take when letting your new home.
1 Prepare your finances
To decide how much you can afford to pay in rent each month, take into account your general cost of living, including council tax, utilities and other household expenses. In addition, you will need to budget for your rent being payable in advance and you’ll also need a deposit, which is usually equivalent to 4-6 weeks’ rent.
2 Decide what you really want
When it comes to working out where you want to rent, consider transport links, employment and other amenities that are important to you – be they schools, shops or even the beach. Property portals (such as rightmove.co.uk) and estate agent websites allow you to filter search results by the amount of rent as well as the number of bedrooms, etc. Remember, though, the rental market is often very fast moving and properties to let in popular areas do not stay on the market for very long.
3 Ask questions
When you find a property that you would like to rent, don’t be shy about asking as many questions as you need to be sure that you are happy with the property and the terms of the rental. Ask about your responsibilities - who is maintaining areas such as the garden? Are there any restrictions concerning pets, smoking or number of occupants? You will need to confirm any additional charges that you may be liable for, such as fees for taking up references, etc.
Once you have found a suitable property, you will need to complete an application form and be put forward for referencing. The letting agent will process your application on behalf of their client – the landlord - to find out if you are going to be a suitable tenant. This will involve credit checks on you, enquiring about details of your employment, taking up references (usually from previous landlords) and making sure that you have the right to reside within the UK.
5 Sign the tenancy agreement
Once you have passed the checks and referencing process, the letting agent will draw up an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. Read this agreement carefully before signing and if you are unsure of anything do not hesitate to ask for clarification. This tenancy agreement is a legal document and binds you and the landlord to its terms, so make sure that you are happy with it.
6 Pay the deposit
In most cases you will be asked to pay a security deposit that will be held by the letting agent on behalf of the landlord for the duration of your tenancy. By law, all security deposits now need to be held within a government-approved scheme. The deposit scheme will also provide a dispute resolution service. It’s a service that ensures no one can run off with your money or take money for dilapidations without your consent.
7 Sign the inventory
Even if the property is being let unfurnished it is vital to have a properly prepared and detailed inventory. This will be checked by you, as the tenant, to confirm the condition of the property when your tenancy begins. This document will be used in assessing any deposit deductions at the end of the tenancy, so it is a key piece of protection for both tenant and landlord. A good inventory will include photographs and note readings such as utility meters and oil tank levels.
8 Pay the rent
You will probably be asked to pay the monthly rent by standing order to the landlord or their agent. Always ensure that the rent is paid on time and in full as on-payment of rent is a serious matter that can end up in the court. If there is any problem with the property, do not withhold payment of the rent. Such an action will make resolution all the more difficult and puts you in breach of the terms of your tenancy agreement. It will also affect your credit rating if you wish to rent another property.
9 Moving out
When your tenancy period is nearing its end you can ask the landlord if he will agree to renew the tenancy for either a further fixed term or on a rolling periodic basis. If you wish to vacate - or the landlord requires the property back - then ensure you are fully aware of the end of tenancy arrangements and moving out day. Make sure the property is left clean and tidy and in the same condition as it was when you took occupation, allowing for fair wear and tear. The inventory should be checked either on the move out day or shortly afterwards and any proposed deductions discussed with your letting agent or landlord. In addition, you should make a note of the utility meter readings and inform your suppliers that you have moved.
10 Returning your deposit
Shortly after you move out, you should receive an account from your landlord or their agent detailing any proposed deductions for dilapidations and asking for your agreement. Providing you agree the amounts, the balance of your deposit should be returned to you without delay. If you cannot agree on the amount payable, you have the option to use the dispute resolution service provided by the nominated deposit scheme in which your deposit is held.
Andrew Luxton is a Partner at Stags and runs Stags Lettings Department. Visit stags.co.uk or your local Stags office to find rental properties right across the South West.