Renting a property
Whether you are about to rent a whole property or a room in a shared house, there are some things you should know before you make a commitment.
So we have put together a beginner’s guide to renting, to answer some of the key questions you might have.
What additional costs do I pay on top of my rent?
Aside from the deposit, a key thing to consider when you are looking at renting is whether or not the cost quoted includes bills and utilities. For example, the headline price may or may not include:
- council tax
- utility bills such as gas, water, electric
- internet and television
If the rental amount doesn’t include these then it is worth asking the landlord (or previous tenants) for bill estimates before you commit. This way you will get an idea of roughly how much you can expect to pay.
You can check council tax rates for the property on your local council’s website.
In some cases – especially if you are renting a whole property alone – the bills can add a big chunk on top of the rental price.
There may also be one-off fees to pay the agent or landlord, although how much they charge can vary. Be sure to find out in advance how much the fees are and what they cover so that you are not caught out.
What about letting agent fees, holding deposits or other upfront charges?
On 1 June 2019 a ban on landlords and letting agents charging fees like letting fees, viewing fees or administration fees for new tenancy agreements came into force. These fees often added hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of pounds to your upfront costs.
The only fees that are allowed are:
- the rent itself
- a refundable tenancy deposit capped at five weeks rent (where the annual rent is less than £50,000) or six weeks rent (where the annual rent is more than £50,000)
- a refundable holding deposit to reserve a property capped at no more than one week’s rent
- payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant – generally capped at £50
- payments associated with the early termination of the tenancy when requested by the tenant
- payments for utilities, communications like broadband or telephone lines, TV licence and council tax
- default fees for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement
If your landlord or letting agent is charging you fees in excess of these limitations you may need to get in touch with your local Trading Standards office or redress scheme. Find out more about what to do if a landlord or letting agent has charged you a prohibited payment.
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you can find out more about the Tenancy Act 2019 on the Government website.
Will I need a deposit to rent?
Most landlords will ask you for a deposit up front. This is capped at five weeks rent (where the annual rent is less than £50,000) or 5 weeks rent (where the annual rent is more than £50,000). This might seem like a lot but assuming there is no damage and you take good care of the property you can expect to get the deposit back when you move out.
Where does my deposit go?
For assured shorthold tenancies, by law in England and Wales, your landlord or letting agent must place your deposit in a separate account to their own, known as a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDP).
They are required to put your deposit in a TDP scheme within 30 days of receiving it and then return it to you within 10 days of you both agreeing how much you’ll get back at the end of your tenancy.
If there are any disagreements about how much you should get back, your deposit is protected in the TDP scheme until an agreement is reached. (Note: the rules in Scotland and Northern Ireland can differ.)
Should I take out insurance?
While insuring the building is usually the property owner’s responsibility, there are exceptions. So it is always best to check with the landlord before renting.
In terms of your own possessions such as furniture and other belongings, you can take out ‘contents insurance’. Depending on the type of contents insurance you take out, you can cover against most events ranging from theft through to accidental damage.
Will I need to provide references?
Most landlords/agents will ask you to provide a reference. If it is your first time renting, or you don’t yet have a full-time job, you may be asked to provide a ‘guarantor’ who will be responsible for covering your rent if you get stuck and can’t pay it.
If you can’t supply a guarantor or don’t pass the reference checks you may not be offered the property – or you might be asked to pay more rent in advance.
What is an inventory for?
An inventory is a list of everything that the landlord has left in the rented property and the condition it is in (from the curtains to the cutlery). It is put together and signed at the start of your tenancy and benefits both you and your landlord – so that when you eventually move out you can receive your deposit back.
Your landlord can deduct the value of anything that is damaged or not in the same condition as when you moved in (beyond reasonable wear and tear) from your deposit. Therefore, it is always best to be present when the inventory is checked and to make sure that you get a copy and check it yourself. It might be worth noting down and taking photos of marks, scratches or damage that is not listed on the inventory and let the landlord/agent know if you disagree before you sign it.
If when you leave the property, there is anything that needs to be repaired or replaced, it may be cheaper for you to do it yourself rather than leaving it for the agent or landlord. You may also have to get the property professionally cleaned as part of your tenancy agreement – so be sure to check the tenancy agreement so you don’t encounter any unexpected costs.
What is my landlord responsible for?
Your landlord/agent’s responsibilities will be listed in your tenancy agreement. They should include:
- keep the rented property safe and free from health hazards
- make sure all gas and electrical equipment is safely installed and maintained
- provide an energy performance certificate for the property
- protect your deposit in a government approved scheme
- check you have a right to rent the property (if it’s in England)
- give you a copy of the Government’s How to rent checklist (this can be emailed)
- fit and test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
- follow fire safety regulations where appropriate
- keep the property in good condition, giving 24 hours’ notice to you if they intend to access the property for inspections or repairs
- making the necessary repairs to the property while allowing you to live there without ’unnecessary interference‘ (such as giving you 24 hours of notice if they need to come into the property)
What am I responsible for?
Some of the things you will be responsible for when renting include:
- taking good care of the property
- paying the rent on time (even if repairs are needed or you are in dispute with your landlord)
- paying other charges such as council tax and utility bills if they are not included in the rent
- repairing or paying for any damage caused by you, your family or friends
- making minor repairs or maintenance like changing light bulbs and fuses, or unblocking sinks, toilets and drains
- adhering to the terms of your contract
It is also a good idea to submit gas and electricity meter readings as soon as you move in as well. This way, when you leave you will not be asked to pay somebody else’s bills.
- The rental cost may not include bills like utilities and council tax so check the information carefully and make sure you budget for this on top if necessary
- Find out in advance what you may need to pay upfront like a holding deposit or refundable tenancy deposit. Don’t forget that many other upfront fees are now banned
- In England and Wales your deposit is held separately to the landlord’s bank account in a Tenant Deposit Scheme
- Always check the inventory with the landlord or letting agent and make sure any damage is noted, especially before you move in
- Check the gas, electricity and water meter (if applicable) readings when you move in and when you move out to make sure you are not paying someone else’s bill