Ensure you have contents cover to start as soon as you move in
If you rent, your landlord is responsible for buildings insurance, however you will be responsible for getting your own contents cover. This is including anything that would fall if you turned your home upside down.
Check your deposit is protected
Under the law in England and Wales, if you have got an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement that started on or after 6 April 2007, your landlord or lettings agent must put a deposit into a government scheme within 30 days of getting it.
If your deposit is in a scheme, it means:
- You will get the full deposit back at the end of the tenancy (provided you’ve met the terms of the tenancy agreement and left the property to a good standard)
- Once the tenancy has ended and you agree with your landlord how much of the deposit you are due, it’ll be returned to you within 10 days of the tenancy ending.
- If you don’t agree with your landlord, a free dispute resolution service will investigate and decide how much of the deposit you should get back.
Switch your energy providers every year
If you rent, you could save money every year by switching. You don’t need to own the property to do it either. Don’t just stick with the previous tenant’s gas or electricity firm until you have checked out all of your options.
Your landlord or lettings agent must ask before entering
When you are a tenant in a rental property, a landlord, lettings agent or contractor from either two may need to come in from time to time for repairs, as well as to inspect the property.
If your lettings agent or landlord wants to access the property, they should give you notice and arrange a time with you first. Government guidelines on private renting says tenants must be given 24 hours’ notice and visit at a reasonable time of day unless it is an emergency.
Make sure you know where your stopcock is
Your mains stopcock is the off switch for all the water in your home so hopefully you will never need to use it. But if you do and haven’t made sure you know its location then you will be powerless if a pipe burst. If you don’t know where yours is, check now.
Tenant letting fees are banned in England, Wales & Scotland
Landlords and letting agents are now banned from charging letting fees in England and have been since 1 June 2019. Before this date you could have found yourself paying £100s in fees when taking out a new tenancy. Here at Horizon, we are still hearing of agents trying to charge fees to prospective tenants, having said that, we still hear of deposits that don’t get registered correctly!
The only fees a landlord or letting agent can now pass on to a tenant are:
- Utilities and council tax (if included within the tenancy)
- A refundable deposit (capped at five weeks’ rent)
- A refundable holding deposit (to reserve the property, capped at a week’s rent)
- Changes to the tenancy requested by the tenant
- Early termination of the tenancy requested by the tenant
- Defaults by the tenant (such as fines for late rent payments or lost keys)
Always get permission before you make any changes
When you rent a property, you need to return it in the same condition as you found it, unless there is any prior agreement otherwise. Landlords will expect some reasonable wear and tear such as slight wearing of carpets but not destroyed furnishings.
It might sound obvious, but the key point to remember is the property is not yours so you can’t just make changes to it without permission. If you want to make permanent changes, it is always best to get it either written into the contract from the outset or in writing after the initial contract stages.
Take a meter reading when you first take over the property
It is very easy to forget this when you are just wanting to make a start on your unpacking but do meter readings for your gas and electricity as soon as you get started! This means you can pass them on to the suppliers to ensure you aren’t charged for energy that you are not liable for.
It is also worth doing a meter reading each time you receive a bill. Do not rely on your energy provider’s estimate; these are often wrong.
It is always good to ask as many questions as possible while you are viewing to ensure you know fully what you are taking on by signing a tenancy agreement for a property.
Here are our top 10 rental questions to ask:
- How long is the contract? Are there scheduled rent increases?
- How long has it been up for rent?
- Can I see electrical, boiler and gas installation checks/reports?
- Is the deposit in a deposit protection scheme? Which one?
- Is maintenance of communal areas expected)?
- Is it furnished, part or unfurnished? Which items are included?
- Who lives upstairs/next door? Have there been any disputes?
- How long were the previous renters living there?
- Is a parking space included, or is a parking permit needed?
- What is the council tax band?
Pack an ‘essentials’ box to help for when you arrive
Put items you expect to need as soon as you get there in a clearly labelled box and pack this box last so that it is the first box out when you are unpacking.
You could include things such as: a kettle, mugs, tea, biscuits and loo roll, cleaning products.
Save your landlord or agents number in our phone for emergencies
You don’t want to be locked out before you realise you never did this! It will be no good pinned to a notice board or in the back of a book somewhere – save it now if you haven’t already – you never know when you might need it!
Remember to redirect your mail and update your addresses with relevant places
When you move, remember to get your post redirected to your new address. This can help to avoid missing a bill as it is being sent to your old address.
Follow your instincts
If a prospective landlord or lettings agent seems unreliable or unreasonable when you first meet them, think twice. After all, it is easier to walk away now than be stuck with a landlord who won’t carry out essential repairs and maintenance as needed – or worse.
Your lettings agent or landlord has responsibilities too
If you are renting, you’re not responsible for everything and there are several things your landlord needs to take care of.
Full details of this will often be set out in your contract, but as a minimum it should include: organising and paying for buildings insurance, putting in fire alarms, checking plug sockets, making sure wiring and electricals are safe and generally maintaining the property to a safe and liveable standard.
There’s also certain certification which they are required to provide when you move in:
- Gas Safety Certificate
- Deposit Protection Scheme paperwork
- Fire safety label on any furniture that has been provided.
- Energy Performance Certificate.
- How to Rent guide (either as a link or printed copy)
Don’t sign a contract you aren’t happy with
Make sure you read the contract carefully before signing it. You need to ensure it includes
- how much the deposit and rent are
- when it’s due
- what it covers (e.g. council tax & utility bills
- specific agreements (e.g. pets & decorating)
Discuss any points you disagree on, or don’t understand, with the landlord or letting agent. If they agree to change it, don’t just take their word. Ensure the contract’s changed too so you’ve proof. At Horizon we will always amend a tenancy agreement when necessary to reflect any personal circumstances or any changes specific to a tenancy – it’s very easy to do and keeps things super simple!