Renting a Property

A simple, step-by-step guide

How much do I need to budget in addition to the rental payments?

To reserve a property you’ll probably be asked for a reservation fee of £300.

This is to secure the property for you while agreements are being drawn up, but it’s still subject to satisfactory references. The fee is deducted from the total deposit taken with the first month’s rental.

As a general guide, the deposit is 6-8 weeks’ rental and is taken along with the first month’s rental. You’ll get full details of this in a statement from your letting agent.

The agent will usually charge an administration fee for preparing agreements. If you change your mind about renting a property after it’s been reserved, you may be charged a cancellation fee.

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Who pays for utilities? Are these included in the rent?

Normally the tenant takes over all of the utilities, including water and council tax. They’re not included in the rent.

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

The agent is employed by the landlord, so they’ll 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 responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant, and makes everybody’s life easier.

You’ll find more details of the AST further down.

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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 in to your rented property.

From that point onwards, it depends on whether the landlord pays the agent to manage their property. It it’s managed, you’ll normally report any repairs or queries to the letting agent. Otherwise, you’ll deal directly with the landlord.

We’ll let you know exactly what you need to do when the time comes.

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Who should arrange and pay for repairs at the property?

The landlord should arrange any repairs including appliances.

However tenants are responsible for breakages which would normally be deducted from the deposit unless otherwise agreed. As a tenant, you should report repairs and breakages as soon as they happen.

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What privacy am I entitled to? When should I expect visits from the landlord or agent?

As a general guide, while you’re renting, the letting agent or landlord will visit the property at least twice.

They’ll usually let you know in advance, so your privacy is respected. All the details are normally covered in the tenancy agreement.

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How long does a rental tenancy last?

Rental tenancies range from 12-36 months. The average tenancy length at Location Location during 2011 was 26.2 months.

In most instances, the longer the contract, the stronger your offer.

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’s a 2-month notice period, the tenancy then comes to an end 4 months before the natural expiry.

Whoever is giving notice has to let the other know in writing.

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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’s normally a standard contract between the landlord and tenant.

Any special requirements, such 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.

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Can I rent a room to a flatmate or flatshare?

The names of all of the occupiers must be declared on the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement. If a tenant sublets to a flatmate or flatshare 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.

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Can I stop paying rent if repairs are delayed?

It’s a dangerous tactic to withhold rental payments for whatever reason because you’d be in breach of the tenancy agreement – so the landlord could take you to court.

It’s best to discuss any concerns with the letting agent, if they’re managing the property. To avoid any confusion, many letting agents ask tenants 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.

Letting agents often hold a small deposit from the landlord for minor repairs that crop up during the tenancy, but they may still have to seek their permission.

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If I want to leave the property can I give notice at any time during the tenancy?

If you leave earlier than the agreed end of tenancy date you’ll be liable to pay the rent until the end of the 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.

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When do I get my rental deposit 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.

After the property has been inspected at the end of the tenancy the deposit will be returned, less any deductions for damages. Letting agents encourage landlords to make the process as fair as possible by having a professional inventory agent examine the property.

A report is prepared at the beginning of the tenancy recording the condition of the property, and then again at the end of the tenancy.

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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 or insurance based Deposit Scheme.

Either type of scheme protects tenants’ deposits. If only part of the deposit is in dispute, then the remainder that’s 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 at Resolution or in Court. Once a resolution has been reached, the deposit must be returned within a maximum of 10 days.

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