Get financially prepared and know the cost addition to the rental payments?

To reserve a property you’ll probably be asked for a reservation fee, equivalent of one weeks rent.  This is to secure the property for you while agreements are being drawn up, but it’s still subject to satisfactory references and right to rent checks. This will be deducted from the total deposit taken with the first month’s rental.

The deposit is normally 5 weeks’ rent and is paid with the first month’s rent.  You will get full details of this in a statement from your letting agent.

Are the utilities included in the rent?

Normally the tenant will arrange and pay for all of the utilities, including water and council tax. They are not included in the rent generally, but occasionally may be with shared accommodation.

What is a letting agent’s role for the tenant?

The agent is employed by the landlord, so they will act in the landlord’s best interests.  That said, a professional letting agent always tries to make sure things work for both landlord and tenant.

The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement is an important part of this.  It clearly sets out the responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant, and makes everybody’s life easier.  You’ll find more details of the AST further down.

Who do I deal with – the letting agent or landlord?

The letting agent will deal with the property viewings, references, agreements and getting you moved into the rented property.  Once you are in the property, it depends on whether the landlord is on a fully managed service for their property. If it is managed, you will normally report any repairs or queries to the letting agent, if the property is not managed you will deal directly with the landlord.  We will explain exactly how it will work as you move in.

What privacy am I entitled to? What are my landlords’ access rights?

While you are letting a property, the letting agent or landlord will visit the property on average twice a year, but it can be more than this. They should give you at least 24 hours notice in advance, so your privacy is respected.  All the details are normally covered in the tenancy agreement.

Repairs at the property?

The landlord or lettings agent should arrange any repairs at the landlords cost.  However tenants are responsible for damages which would normally be deducted from the deposit unless otherwise agreed.  As a tenant, you should report repairs and damages immediately.

How long does a tenancy last?

Rental tenancies range from 6-36 months.  They are often set on a 6 or 12 month agreement, potentially with a 6 month break clause in the case of a 12 month agreement.

Where the landlord has instructed or accepted a break clause, the landlord and/or tenant can normally terminate the agreement 6 months before the end of the tenancy.  As there is a 2-month notice period, the tenancy then comes to an end 4 months before the natural expiry. Whoever is giving notice has to inform the other party in writing.

What type of rental agreement is used? Can I change or add to it?

An Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is used for the majority of residential tenancies.  It is normally a standard contract between the landlord and tenant.

Any special requirements, such as an extra item the landlord agrees to supply (e.g. a bed) or variations to the standard tenancy agreement should be listed in a rider document and attached to the tenancy agreement. Otherwise, those special requirements are not guaranteed.

This does not apply to any items that are required by law, or that properly arise after occupation.

Can  I sublet a room to a friend or a flatmate?

The names of all of the occupiers must be declared on the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement.  If a tenant sublets to a friend/flatmate which is not detailed on the AST, they’ll be breaking the terms of the agreement.

Where several people are sharing a property the tenants are ‘jointly and severally’ responsible, and as such as listed on the AST.  This expression means that each tenant is liable for any breach of agreement, and liable to pay all of the rent.

If repairs are not carried out can I stop paying rent?

We not advise to withhold rental payments for any reason, as you would be in breach of the tenancy agreement – this would mean the landlord could take you to court and potentially evict you from the property.

It is best to relay any concerns to whoever is managing the property. To avoid any confusion it is always best to report any requirement for repairs in writing.

If the landlord is managing their own property, then it may be worth taking advice from a solicitor if any important repair is not dealt with.

Where the letting agent is managing the property there is often a small repairs fund held with the agent for minor repairs, but it’s likely they will still have to seek the landlord’s permission before carrying out any repairs.

If I wish to leave the property, when can I give notice?

If you leave earlier than the agreed end of tenancy date you will be liable to pay the rent until the end of the tenancy.  There may be certain circumstances where it is mutually agreeable between the tenant and the landlord for an early end to a tenancy.

However, when the agreements are being drawn up, you may be able to negotiate a break clause – see How long does a rental tenancy last? above for more details.

When will my deposit be returned?

By law landlords must arrange for a Deposit or Custodial Deposit Scheme to hold or insure tenants’ deposits.  Many deposits can be returned on the last day of the tenancy, and must be returned within a maximum of 10 days if there’s no dispute.

Letting agents encourage landlords to make the process as fair as possible, by having a professional inventory agent inspect the property at the beginning and again at the end of the tenancy, recording the condition of the property.

After the property has been inspected at the end of the tenancy the deposit will be returned, less any deductions for damages.

What happens if the landlord won’t return my deposit?

Landlords are required by law to pay a tenant’s deposit into a separate Custodial Deposit Scheme.

Either type of scheme protects tenants’ deposits.  If only part of the deposit is in dispute, then the remaining balance that is not in dispute must be returned to the tenant within a maximum of 10 days of the tenancy ending.

Deposit schemes vary but they all act to protect a tenant’s deposit.  The tenant and landlord can jointly or separately apply to the Deposit Scheme to have their case referred to resolution.  Once a resolution has been reached, the deposit must be returned within a maximum of 10 days.

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