Tenants - Before you start looking to rent, know your rights
December 2, 2018
Renting in the UK can be a tricky process. Struggling to find the balance between cost and location can sometimes leave you in a tricky situation. However, by taking the time to familiarise yourself with your rights and following these instructions you can make the whole process as easy as possible.
This is a guide that lays out your rights before you sign anything, and also outlines how to mitigate or avoid any of the pitfalls that could befall you in the tenancy process.
Anything you receive from a landlord or letting agent is important. Make sure that you securely file it away and keep everything ordered. This extends to things like emails or letters, as well as taking notes from phone calls. By keeping a record of what was said you will save time by avoiding confusion if anything were to go wrong further down the line.
Count the costs
Ensure you know what any costs are for and where they are going. Agency fees, deposits, and holding fees can all add up, meaning you might need to be prepared to have a significant amount of money before you even start paying rent. If you are expected to put down a holding deposit to a letting agent it means that you have agreed to pay for the property, and that they have agreed to let it to you. The agreement could still be cancelled, for example if you are found to not have a right to live in the UK. These holding deposits are not protected in the same way that a security deposit would be, meaning they are generally non-refundable.
Changes in the law
The Tenant’s Fee Bill is going through Parliament currently, and will probably be passed early to mid 2019. This will be a significant bill that aims to make renting more accessible by banning various forms of letting agency fees, especially unprotected fees like holding fees. Hopefully this will have a profound impact on the way the housing market operates, and make it easier for more people to rent without having to have access to large amounts of capital. Currently, lettings agents and landlords are required to display their fees on their website, although sometimes these can be difficult to find. It is worth having a proper dig around on a variety of different websites to make sure that you won’t be caught out by any hidden costs that might slide under the radar.
It’s important to check to see if the property is being advertised anywhere else by other agents. If it is then the letting agent might not be able to ensure that you will get your desired property, even after you’ve paid the housing deposit. If they still ask you to pay a deposit make sure you ask them what this will mean. The most important question to ask is will putting down a holding deposit give you priority on the house? Get it in writing, either way, and save it with your other documents. At Vesta Property, we ensure that a housing deposit is meaningful, by removing the listing of any property on our website as soon as the housing deposit is paid.
Make sure you download the Government’s How to Rent Guide. It details things like deposit protection and how to check that your landlord has protected it in a government approved scheme. This will protect your security deposit, which exists to protect the property against any damage that you might cause when you live there. If you look after the property responsibly there shouldn’t be an issue with the deposit when you come to the end of your tenancy. However, we know things aren’t always that simple so make sure it’s protected!
Read your tenancy agreement
A tenancy agreement might not be the most thrilling read but it is certainly one of the most important things out there. Take the time to sit down with a cuppa and go through it carefully. If you are renting with other people you should sit down and read it together so that you are all agreed that it is something you are happy to commit to. The government have a model tenancy agreement that can easily be used as a template or as a comparison to what other people are offered.
If you are eligible for some or all of your rent to be covered by benefits then some landlords may (legally) refuse to rent to you (as we previously covered in our ethical landlord post). This can present quite a problem, but asking your local authority for a list of landlords that will rent to you is a good place to start. This of course will not be a comprehensive list, so continue looking around.
A County Court Judgment can be a significant barrier to getting a lease. You will almost always be asked whether you have one, and it is acceptable on legal grounds to reject your application. You might incur a CCJ if someone has taken you to court over outstanding payments and you have lost the case. Records of these judgements can last a long time, up to 6 years, so it is vital that if you have one you ask your local authority or Citizen’s Advice Bureau for more information.
Have documents ready
In order to rent in the UK you should be over 18 and have a legal right to live in the UK. Make sure you have any documents that are relevant, such as letters from universities, governments, or passports.
On a slightly lighter note we all have certain things that we need to bring with us in order to make a house a home. Whether that be your beloved pet toucan or your trusty bike make sure that you check that you can keep these things in the house. The tenancy agreement is the place to negotiate these kind of things. Make sure you tell your landlord if you want a pet, or to use a bike. With rights come responsibilities, and you are much more likely to get the best treatment from your landlord if you are a good tenant.
Moving house is always stressful. There’s not really much you can do to avoid it. But hopefully by following these steps, being aware of your rights, and weighing these up when you choose a house you can make sure that you don’t waste time trying to get a house that won’t fit your needs or will pass on the cost of all its fees to you.
At Vesta, we aim to make any costs as up-front and transparent as possible, and strive to minimise them where we can. We are a marketplace that specialises in buy-to-let properties with tenants already in place for a reason. When landlords sell-up, tenants can stay where they are. This prevents turmoil for tenants as they are not forced to uproot their lives as well as ideal for landlords as they avoid long and rent-less sales periods. We don’t think that’s too much to ask.
For further advice on renting in the UK or for more information on the residential buy-to-let industry, please get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable team.
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