Whether you are an experienced tenant, or someone renting for the first time, renting a property can sometimes be a little daunting.
Firstly, What Do I Want?
- Where do you want to be
- What sort of property – flat, house, studio, room
- Length of tenancy period
- Furnished or Unfurnished
- Number of bedrooms, bathrooms, reception rooms
- Off-street parking
How Much Can I Afford?
Take a look at the local prices to make sure that your budget is sensible and to get an understanding of what you are likely to achieve in the current market.
Be aware, once you’ve found a rental property, letting agents will charge you a fee to handle administrative work, such as checking references. These administrative costs can range from £25 to £150 or more, depending on the agent, what is included, the property and the location. In addition, they may also ask for a holding fee of £50 to £200 or more to secure the property for you.
Most agents and landlords will ask for a formal deposit (sometimes known as a ‘bond’) which will be held during the life of the tenancy against any damages.
Try and establish all costs with the agents in advance of your search as they may vary.
Contact Hackney & Leigh and we can provide more detailed information about our Fees and Costs.
What Else Should I Budget For?
In addition to your monthly rental costs, you’ll also need to budget for other related expenses.
These might include:
- Contents insurance – We ask you obtain insurance to cover the landlords fixtures as this will cover you for damage or theft against all moveable contents. You will need to consider insuring your own personal belongings.
- Council tax - the tenant will be responsible for paying this, so ask for an estimated cost from the agent or landlord
- Utility bills - unless otherwise agreed you will pay for your own services: eg Gas, Electricity, Water, Oil, Phone, etc. from the day you move in. Hackney & Leigh will read meters when you go in and when you leave a property
- Service charges - occasionally, if the property is in a block of flats or is a services apartment, there may be a service charge to pay, so clarify with your agent or landlord whether it’s included in the rent or an additional charge
- Removal costs - unless you are doing it yourself, you may need to obtain estimates from reputable movers and will need to budget for this extra cost
There are plenty of factors to consider when thinking about the location of a property. It is important that you prioritise what’s most important to you in terms of location before starting the search, as this will save time in the long run. For example, how important are the local amenities to you, the commute distance to work, quality of local schools and shops, accessibility to restaurants, bars or public transport, closeness to friends or relatives, crime rates, neighbours, etc.? All of these things will vary in importance but it pays to prioritise them and any other factors that may be relevant, to help you determine your ideal location and to make your search as efficient as possible.
Other Rental Considerations
There are plenty of options for those looking for property to rent in terms of the types of accommodation available but much will depend on your personal circumstances.
The types of property might include:
- A house or flat with a sole tenancy - a person or family are the only tenants in the property
- A house or flatshare - a person or couple may rent a room in a property also occupied by other tenants, or a group of friends may share occupancy and split the rent between them although at Hackney & Leigh we do not usually let to ‘sharers’
- Studio flat, usually a single room containing bathroom, kitchen and bed
- Furnished or Unfurnished
You will need to establish what will be included with the property from the outset. Some rental properties may be listed as being ‘furnished or unfurnished’ and in some cases the landlord may be flexible about letting you decide which option you prefer. While a furnished property may take away the hassle of having to buy lots of new furniture, damaging the existing landlord’s furniture or fittings may increase the risk of your deposit being swallowed up.
Searching For A Property To Rent
Once you have a firm idea of what you’re looking for and where, it’s time to start searching for the right rental property for you. These days, searching for rental properties has never been easier and there are plenty of ways to track down the one for you.
Local Agents’ websites or a property portal, such as On The Market.com or Rightmove is often a good place to search for properties in your chosen area. In fact, property hunters rate the Internet as their preferred and most used source for finding property. At Hackney & Leigh all our available rental properties are shown on our own website. You can Search right now.
There are many advantages to searching online including:
- Greater choice
- Access to photos and floorplans
- Getting e-mail alerts
- Saving time
By searching for property to rent online, you can save time by discarding properties you don’t want to view and quickly finding those you do want to view.
Other Ways Of Searching
In addition to the internet, there are a number of other ways you can search for property:
- Local newspapers and classified sections - a useful source for finding properties, but be aware that by the time many papers are printed, some properties may have already have been let
- Letting agents - walk into your local estate agent offices and ask for details of relevant houses and flats which you can look through at your leisure. It’s a good indicator of whether the agent has on their books a decent number of properties to rent that match your criteria. Registering your details with letting agents is one of the more common ways to source a property
- ‘To Let’ boards in your area - drive around your designated areas and have a look at any ‘To Let’ boards that are up and make a note of which agents they are with
A Few Tips To Remember When Dealing With Letting Agents
- Make sure the agents you deal with are members of a recognised professional body (eg RICS, NAEA, ARLA) as they have a code of practice all their member agents must adhere to. Hackney & Leigh are bound by the strict rules of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- It pays to contact as many letting agents as you can find in your local area to give you the best chance of finding properties to rent
- Keep in touch with agents regularly by telephone, as rental properties tend to come and go quite quickly, particularly in a fast-moving market – persistence pays!
Viewing Rented Properties
Before you begin the process of finding a suitable house or flat to rent, give as much consideration to your requirements as you would if you were buying. After all, the property will be your home for the next six months, twelve months or even longer. Be clear about the kind of property you’re looking for, where you want to live, what amenities you need to be close to and the budget you have available.
Houses and flats to rent are generally on and off the market more quickly than properties for sale so you’ll need to move quickly and be ready to pounce when the right property arrives on the market.
Being organised in advance will help make your search easier. Please feel free to use our checklist to help your decision making process. Remember, the property you are looking at may be your home for the foreseeable future so take time to make an informed judgement – work out whether you like the area and its amenities as well as the practical aspects of living in the property. Look at the condition inside and out and think about the costs that come with it. Your own priorities will vary depending on whether you’re viewing houses or flats but the checklist should act as a basic guide to help you keep all of your bases covered.
Obviously not all properties will be the same and some will be better or worse than others and will usually be priced accordingly. However at Hackney & Leigh, all our properties should offer a clean safe environment for tenants and all mandatory safety tests are carried out and properties regularly inspected.
- What does the outside look like? Is it well maintained?
- Does the property seem secure with locks on doors and windows? If the property is a flat or part of a complex, are external doors secure? Is there an entry-phone system? Depending on the area it may be more or less important to you considering security
- Is there a garden? If so, who is responsible for its maintenance and what would your liability be?
- What is the area like? Would you have ready access to the services and amenities you want?
- What are the neighbouring properties like?
- Are there any potential nuisances?
Don’t be afraid of having a good look – after all, the property could be your home for a while and you need to be comfortable there! You won’t usually be able to test things on a first visit but you can ask questions!
- Does the property seem in good condition? Are there signs of damp? What is the décor like?
- Are there any obvious repairs needed?
- Is there double glazing? The property’s EPC rating will give you an idea on the level of insulation. It will also give you a rough idea of the likely running costs of a property although these can vary between properties. (The EPC must be available to any potential tenants during marketing)
- What is the method of heating? Do all the heaters/ radiators function properly?
- Is there any sign of dodgy wiring or faulty plugs and lights?
- Do kitchen appliances such as washing machines/dishwashers work?
- Are there enough kitchen cupboards and work surfaces?
- Is any furniture provided sound and in clean condition?
- Are pots, pans and kitchen equipment in good enough condition to use?
- Are the bedrooms adequately heated? Are there curtains?
- Do taps and showers seem to work adequately? What do the sealants around the bath and shower look like?
- Are you allowed to change the decoration in the property?
- Are there enough electrical and telephone points?
- Does it have decent broadband?
- Is there enough storage space for your belongings?
To reserve a property you will need to complete an application form (one each if more than one person applying) you will be asked to pay a non-refundable application fee of £120 inc. VAT. If you are unsuccessful or withdraw your application, this will be retained to cover our administration costs.
You will also be asked to pay £20 inc. VAT per person credit reference fee. Our tenant referencing service will then begin the administrative process of requesting references for you. Your prospective new landlord will be keen to make sure that you are a suitable tenant and that you have the ability to pay your rent, while also making sure that you have rented a property without any major problems in the past (if this is applicable). Be aware that should you fail any of the necessary checks, you may not get your holding fee back. Check with the letting agent before agreeing to hand over any cash or signing any forms.
You may be asked to provide some, or all, of the following documents:
- References from previous landlords – you may be asked to give the details of where you have lived within the last 3 years
- A credit check – this will allow them to see if you have a good history of paying your bills
- Your bank details – including bank name, account number and sort-code
- Details of your employment – your employer, job title, payroll number, salary, previous employer
In the event that the information highlights any potential of risk to the landlord, you may be asked to provide a guarantor. A guarantor is also credit referenced at £20 inc. VAT. A guarantor will be contractually liable, both financially and legally, should you fail to pay the rent during your tenancy or in the event of damage to the property.
The final part of securing the property is the deposit. The deposit is a safety net for the landlord to guard against the cost of replacing or repairing property damaged by the tenant. It is, however, the single most disputed area of the renting process. At Hackney & Leigh this will usually be the value of a month’s rent plus £100 but may be more depending on the property. We will always tell you the exact amount. The deposit will be held under the Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme Regulations and will be protected by a government authorised scheme throughout the tenancy. (Please ask if you would like to know more).
New legislation was introduced to the Housing Act 2004 in April 2007 to help protect all parties with regard to the return of deposits. A brief summary of the legislation can be found below:
Tenancy deposit protection in summary:
- Landlords will be required to join a statutory tenancy deposit scheme, if they take deposits
- This will mean that deposits are safeguarded
- Tenants will get all or part of their deposit back, if they have kept the rental property in good condition and are entitled to get their deposit back
- The scheme offers alternative ways of resolving disputes which aim to be faster and cheaper than taking court action
Summary of costs at Hackney & Leigh:
- Application Fee - non-refundable £120 inc. VAT will be required to accompany your completed application form and to state your intention to rent the property
- Referencing Fee - non-refundable £20 inc. VAT for the credit referencing
When the lease for the property is signed you will be required to pay:
- Deposit - this is equal to one month’s rent plus £100 (it can be more, depending on the property)
- One month’s rent - this must be paid in advance
This is one of the most important documents in the renting process and will often determine how much of your deposit you get back at the end of your agreement. You should therefore be extremely thorough and give it your full attention, while taking the necessary precautions to protect your interests during the tenancy.
How Is The Inventory Prepared?
The inventory can be a simple list detailing everything within the property and its condition on the day you move in. This may be prepared by either the letting agent or the landlord. Either way, you should go round the property, possibly with the landlord or agent and agree the state of each item. If necessary, take photographic evidence to give you extra protection and to avoid any unnecessary disagreement at a later stage. You will be expected to sign the inventory and initial every page, along with the landlord or letting agent.
At Hackney & Leigh, we will prepare a Photographic Inventory and Schedule of Condition which will form part of your tenancy documentation. You will be asked to check the property against the inventory and report any discrepancies to us within 48 hours. These will be noted on the inventory which will then form the basis of the check-out procedure when you leave the property.
When Will The Inventory Be checked Again?
It is not uncommon for landlords and letting agents to schedule in regular checks in order to assess the ongoing condition of the property. Find out if there are regular checks planned and when they are likely to take place. It is most common, however, for a final inventory check when you move out.
Hackney & Leigh will carry out periodic inspections of the property, usually every three months and a final Inspection will take place when you have left the property. We also do a Pre Move Out inspection for fully managed landlords. If there are any outstanding issues you will be given the opportunity to return to the property and put them right. The deposit will be returned at the end of the tenancy after the property has been checked over unless the landlord or agent want to make any deductions. Any deductions must be agreed with the tenant, who will have the opportunity to make a dispute application under the Deposit Protection Regulations if agreement cannot be reached.
The tenancy agreement is a contract between you and the landlord. It specifies certain rights to both you and the landlord, such as your right to live in the home for the agreed term and your landlord’s right to receive rent for letting the property.
Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST)
Since the late 90’s, AST has been the most common form of tenancy agreement and sets out the duties of both tenant and landlord. Assuming the tenant observes the conditions of the tenancy and behaves in an appropriate way, the tenant is entitled to live at the property for the agreed period without interference. The most important aspect of this agreement is that the landlord has the right to take back the property at the end of the agreed term if he wants to. Despite its name, the agreement does not have to be short and can continue as long as both parties are happy to do so. There is no minimum term specified either, although the renter has the right to remain in the property for at least six months.
If the fixed term is for three or more years, however, a deed must be drawn up and a solicitor employed to do so.
There are specific requirements linked to an AST that include:
- The tenant(s) must be an individual (i.e. not a company)
- The property must be the main home of the occupant
- The property must be let as separate accommodation
The landlord is obliged to provide the tenant with two months’ notice if they want to terminate the agreement and tenant must give at least one month’s notice (sometimes more by agreement).
The agreement will most likely contain the following information:
- Your name, your landlord’s name and the address of the property which is being let
- The date the tenancy will commence
- The duration of the tenancy from the start to the agreed finish of the occupation
- The amount of rent payable, how often it should be paid, when it should be paid and when it can be legally increased
- The agreement should also state what other payments might be expected, including Council Tax, utilities, service charges, etc
- What services your landlord will provide, such as maintenance of common areas
- The notice period which you and your landlord need to give each other if the tenancy is to be terminated
- Any other conditions appropriate to the tenancy
Tenant & Landlord, Rights & Responsibilities
The responsibilities of both parties are likely to be detailed within your tenancy agreement, although some conditions may vary between properties and landlords.
Preparing To Move In
Once all the paperwork is completed and you have had the opportunity to inspect the proposed agreement, you will usually be asked to attend an appointment either at the property or the Agents Office to sign the Tenancy Agreement and make any final payments due. If there is anything that you are unclear about or don’t understand, do not sign anything until you have asked for clarification or taken independent advice, perhaps from a Citizens Advice Bureau.
At The End Of The Fixed Term Agreement
So, you’ve come to the end of your time at the property. Remember, you need to provide one or two months’ notice in writing (as agreed) to your landlord, stating either your intention to vacate the property or to ask permission to stay on beyond your initial agreement. Providing your landlord is happy with you and the condition of the house or flat, you may be allowed to continue with your occupancy. At Hackney & Leigh will will write to you in good time to find out what you would like to do.
Depending on the decision of the landlord, you may now have three options to consider:
- Create a New Fixed Term Agreement.
- Continue to live at the property on a ‘Month to Month’ basis (A periodic Tenancy).
- Move out.
If you decide you want to move out agree the move out date with the Landlord or Agent. It’s then worth putting in a bit of work to get the property up to scratch to maximise the chances of getting your full deposit back. As long as the condition of the property is the same as when you moved in (barring normal wear and tear), you’ll have no problem. Here’s what you should do:
Give the property a thorough clean, including carpets, skirtings, windows, walls and furniture and especially cookers.
If it’s your responsibility, tidy up the garden and clear away any rubbish.
- Return all of the keys to the landlord
- Remove all of your personal belongings inside and out
- Be satisfied you’re leaving the property as you found it
- Make sure that all your rent payments are up to date. You should not assume that you may use the deposit as the last rent payment!. Also make sure your standing order has been cancelled
Final Inventory Check
Take time to run through the inventory checklist on the day of departure. It’s important that this job is done before you leave the property to reduce the risk of you being accountable for any damage that occurs after you’ve left. Soon after you have vacated the property, because damage can occur between a tenant actually leaving and an inspection, Hackney & Leigh will visit the property to make a final inspection, checking the condition against the original Inventory and taking dated photos of any damage or deterioration). If there is any damage, you should agree with the landlord/agent the cost of repairing or replacing such items.
If an agreement cannot be reached as to the damage of particular items, which items have been damaged, or repair costs, then you should make sure you have taken photographs. Get your own repair cost estimates and write to the landlord with your findings and work towards a mutually agreeable solution. If you cannot agree then you will be given the opportunity of submitting a dispute to arbitration under the Dispute Resolution Scheme.
If both you and the landlord are satisfied the property has been left in an acceptable state and you have made your final rental payment, there should be no problem getting your deposit back.
As a tenant, you would be responsible for insuring your own furniture and personal possessions. You would also be asked to make sure that your insurance covers accidental damage to your Landlord’s contents and fixtures/fittings.
For this you will need ‘Tenants Insurance’ which is not just the same as ordinary ‘Contents Insurance'. 'HomeLet' specialise in lettings insurance and as an Introducer to HomeLet, we are can provide information on buildings or contents cover. Please also ask for details of their legal protection/rent guarantee schemes.
Alternatively, there are several specialist providers available and information is widely available ‘on-line’.