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Renting Process

1 Register your interest

The first step is to call or visit local letting agents in the area you wish to move to and register on their rental database. Be prepared with everything you need: in particular the type of property you are looking for, number of bedrooms and your maximum budget. Initially the registration process is very quick, but it’s important to be contactable at short notice when the right property comes up as if they’re desirable they’ll go very quickly. If you have been served notice by your current landlord or you have served notice to leave, be sure to tell the agent and give them the latest date you need to move out.

2 Finding the right property

Sit down with a pen and paper and describe your ideal property. Most importantly, be strict with what you do and don’t want, and what you consider to be a deal breaker. Don’t compromise on those deal breakers or you’ll come to regret it. It can be tempting to rush into the first property you see, however you’re better off taking you time to find the right property for you and your bank balance, even if it means taking slightly longer in the search. Budget should be a key factor in your property search. Don’t overstretch yourself financially, make sure you take into account all other costs involved, including bills, council tax, moving costs, agency fees etc. Your take home pay (of all tenants combined) should be at least 2.5x your proposed monthly rent, otherwise you may not pass referencing on your income level.

3 Is a short let right for you?

An assured shorthold tenancy agreement is issued for either 6 or 12 months. However, if you’re waiting for the purchase of a property to go through or you’re relocating for work for a short time, you may want to consider a short let. Periods available can be anything from a month to 5 months however the rent you’ll pay for these lets are significantly higher as a result.

4 Managed properties

Properties will either be managed by the agent or the landlord. As with anything there are good and bad agents and landlords but the improvements to industry regulation and codes of practice that estate agents should abide by means that good practice should be the norm rather than the exception. Compulsory Landlord Registration is slowly coming into legislation making private landlords more accountable and to try to curb rogue landlords but this is not yet commonplace.

5 Holding deposits

So you’ve found a property and you’d like to put down a holding deposit. From now on, if you pull out on the deal or you fail your referencing checks for any reason, chances are you’ll forfeit your deposit. Some agencies use these to pay your referencing fees and other costs, other agencies will offset the entire holding deposit against your first months fees, and you’ll pay your costs on top. More information on fees in the next step.

6 Fees

By law, letting agents now need to display their fees on their website, marketing materials and on their property adverts on portals such as Zoopla. Fees may include (but are not limited to):

  • Tenant and guarantor referencing fees.
  • administration fees.
  • agreement fee.
  • renewal fee.
  • late payment fee.
  • check in and inventory fee.
  • professional cleaning fee.
  • court costs and legal fees.
  • Service of Notices charge.

Always ask your chosen agent for their fee structure so you don’t get any nasty surprises.

7 Referencing

Once you have placed your holding deposit, you will be required to undergo reference checks to confirm your identity, your place of work and your earnings, and to confirm that you do not have any adverse credit. You will also be verified as permitted to reside in the UK and are not subject to any immigration controls, or are an overstayer. You should declare if you have any unsatisfied CCJ or bankruptcies as this may jeopardise your application. You will be asked to provide evidence of your earnings and your current address as well as photographic ID.

8 Guarantors

If you are on a low income, a housing benefit claimant, a student or have adverse credit you may need a guarantor. A guarantor is someone who should have a clean credit history, a homeowner and/or be in full time employment with take home earnings of a minimum of 3x monthly rent. The guarantor should understand their obligations as they will be asked to sign a legally binding document agreeing to certain conditions – including paying the rent if for any reason the tenant is unable to pay their rent - or other costs during the lifetime of the tenancy including any renewal terms.

9 Your Tenancy Agreement

The tenancy agreement will be the legal document that details your rights and obligations as tenants, and the obligations and expectations of your landlord, and the agreements made by all parties. It will set out the core terms and will include all of the rules of the property. Specifically this should include:

  • The basic details of each party and the address of the property
  • The start and end date of the tenancy
  • The tenancy duration
  • The rent amount, the frequency of the rent and the details as to how this should be paid
  • Any additional payments to consider, such as Council tax, utilities and service charges, and to whom these may be paid
  • The tenancy notice period required by both parties should the tenant wish to vacate the property, or should the landlord which to notify the tenant to vacate.
  • Where, how much and how the deposit is held, and the Prescribed Information for that deposit scheme.
  • An address in the UK for service of notices.

You should make sure your agent or landlord gives you a copy of the draft tenancy agreement well ahead of the start date of the tenancy for you to read in the comfort of your own home and you should ensure you do this so you are clear as to what you are signing. If you are not sure of anything contained in the agreement, ask the agent for clarification, seek legal advice or get help from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

10 The security deposit

Before you move in, you will need to pay a security deposit along with your first months rent. Your security deposit (also called damage deposit) is there to indemnify the landlord against loss of rent or to pay for any damage if you were found to be responsible for causing it. In general, the amount required is equivalent to between 4 weeks and 8 weeks rent, and by law this must be protected in a Government approved deposit scheme within 30 days from the start of the tenancy, and returned to you in full - unless any deductions are agreed - within 10 days of the end of the tenancy.

Certain information needs to be given to you regarding your deposit and how it is held. Failure to register your deposit or provide you with the prescribe information will affect how he can serve notice on you to end the tenancy (section 21). You could also take them to court and if proven you could be awarded up to 3 times the amount of the deposit. More information on the deposit schemes used and your rights can be found at:

TDS: https://www.tds.gb.com
DPS: https://www.depositprotection.com/
MyDeposits: http://www.mydeposits.co.uk

11 The Inventory

The inventory and/or Schedule of Condition processes are formal ways of noting the cosmetic condition and contents of a rented property. Meter readings, sets of keys given and other pertinent information is recorded. This descriptive information, ideally supported by good quality photographs are contained in a document put together following a detailed visual inspection of the empty property before the tenancy starts, usually performed by an Inventory Clerk.

This completed document is then given to all parties to sign at the beginning of the tenancy to confirm that it’s accurate. At the end of the tenancy, the same document is then used compare the state of the property and on the findings of this comparison the deposit is then awarded appropriately.

12 Cleaned to a professional standard

Cleaned to a professional standard” is a phrase most often found in the Inventory, to describe what the inventory clerk feels is cleaned satisfactorily, and no further cleaning is required. However it is one of the biggest bones of contention and it causes the most disagreements at the end of a tenancy. What one person calls “professionally cleaned”, another person doesn’t and where the tenants have cleaned the property themselves before they leave, they might understandably feel a bit hurt when the inventory clerk doesn’t acknowledge all their hard work in the check out report.

A “professional” or “end of tenancy clean” is something of an art form. It goes way beyond pushing around a vacuum cleaner and feather duster. It’s a fine detailing of every inch of the property including all carpets, vinyl flooring, around door handles and light switches, the cooker hood, oven, windows and door surrounds, the white goods (including door seals) inside all the cupboards and drawers and even the walls, taps shower screens, shower heads, baths and toilets. The whole property is cleaned with a fine tooth comb, and the result – if done well – is something spectacular.

Of course, the cost of an End of Tenancy Clean reflects the work involved – on average £200 - which is why disputes often occur when tenants pay the average £8-£10 per hour for a domestic clean, and then wonder why the check-out document notes that further cleaning is required. The rule of thumb is that if an End of Tenancy clean was done before you move in, one will be required after you move out. So allow for that expenditure when you vacate.

13 The end tenancy process

There are strict timescales involved in ending a tenancy. This starts from the date notice is served which is usually one or two months, depending on what has been agreed.

Once notice is served the clock starts ticking. The date you leave will be agreed and the agent will put the wheels in motion. If the property is put back on the market, viewings may take place so it’s important to keep the property looking nice for them to show round prospective new tenants.

If an inventory was compiled when you moved in, the inventory clerk will meet you at the property on your last day to conduct the check-out process and at that point you surrender the property back to the agency by handing over your keys. From that point on you will not be allowed to return to the property. The agent will then be in touch with you within 10 days of that date to arrange the return of your deposit if there are no deductions. If however the landlord wishes to make deductions from your deposit, there will be a set procedure for that to take place. Details of which can be found on the website for the deposit scheme that is being used.