Top ten things renters need to know

Knight Frank's latest Multihousing Report reveals that one in four households will be privately rent

Knight Frank's latest Multihousing Report reveals that one in four households will be privately renting by 2021, with investment in the PRS rising to £70 billion in the next five years - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

From losing your deposit to falling foul of unprofessional landlords, make your renting experience as easy as possible by reading these top tips

Renting a property can present challenges for anyone if you’re unprepared. ARLA Propertymark shares its top 10 tips to help avoid the common pitfalls and Vidhur Mehra, finance director at north London agents Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings, offers his advice for London-based renters.

Before you start looking:

Know what’s important to you and act fast

Before you start, work out what’s most important to you; such as the number of bedrooms or parking spaces as well as local amenities and proximity to friends, family, schools and work.

Vidhur also suggests acting quickly when you think you’ve found the right property. “It might seem like there are lots of properties on the market, but it is true that the best homes really do get snapped up quickly. So it’s important that if you see something you really like, get your offer in as quickly as possible. Many properties are renting at first viewing, particularly in new build developments,” he says.

Do the maths: What can you afford?

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Decide what you can afford before you start house-hunting. Remember you will also have to budget on top of your rent for your household bills; including things like gas, electricity and water, internet connection, TV licence, contents insurance and Council Tax, as well as food and general household items.

Vidhur recommends “factoring in the fees associated with renting a property in London, namely the Tenancy Agreement deposit registration and references. Also, ask your agent to confirm all the fees in writing so you know exactly what is expected. If you are taking a property with parking, do double check the parking space is included in the rental, don’t assume anything.”

Choose your housemates carefully

Disagreements between housemates are common if you’re sharing a home. Conflicting lifestyles and personality clashes can cause misery and stress. Remember, a fun friend is not necessarily a good housemate.

When you’re looking:

Ensure you are protected

You are entering a legally binding agreement so don’t feel pressured into signing immediately. Make sure you take your time and read the contract thoroughly. Ask as many questions as you want to, until you’re comfortable you understand everything it contains. If you’re not happy, ask for any changes or amendments you want.

Know your rights

Before you sign your tenancy agreement, you will be asked to provide proof that you have the right to live in the UK so make sure you have your passport to hand. After you sign the contract, you must be given a copy of your new home’s gas safety certificate (if the property has gas), Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), the Government’s How to Rent guide, your deposit protection certificate and any license for your property from the local council (where licensing schemes exist).

Once you’re in:

Make sure your new home is safe

Smoke alarms are required on all floors of your home and carbon monoxide detectors in any room where solid fuels are burnt (such as wood, coal or biomass). These need to be tested and working on the first day of the tenancy. This is usually done at check-in when the landlord or agent will probably also undertake an Inventory and Schedule of Condition. Make sure you go through these documents and notify your landlord or agent if you disagree with what they contain, as it will affect how much of your deposit you get back at the end of the tenancy.

Sort out the bills and insurances

If this hasn’t been done by your agent, notify the utility companies and give them meter readings, your move-in date, and the names of all the new tenants. Make sure you also have contents insurance; the landlord is required to insure the building and their own contents but you need to cover your own belongings in the event of theft or damage.

Consult an agent if you are in doubt

“The Tenancy Agreement is a legal binding document so you must be sure you can keep the property in the condition expected and pay the rent on time. Even if you lose your job or become incapacitated, you will still be liable but talk to your agent as they will be the best people to guide you when things don’t go to plan,” says Vidhur.

Address issues before they become problems

Don’t be afraid to report repairs to your landlord or agent. It’s much easier, faster and cheaper for your landlord to fix an issue when you first notice it than when the issue becomes a big problem. If you leave the house empty for a prolonged period, consider leaving heating on low to ensure that pipes don’t freeze. Also, if you’re going away for more than a couple of weeks, tell your landlord or agent so they can keep an eye on the property.

Return the property as you found it

Most deposit disputes are over the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy. Make sure you give the property a thorough clean before you move out and leave the property in the same condition as the day you arrived.

Vidhur also adds: “disputes over deposit returns can be made more difficult if a professional inventory was not carried out at the beginning of the tenancy. Cleaning is another disputed issue and a ‘professional’ clean means using a proper cleaning company, not doing it yourself. If you move into a rental property and it’s not looking like it has had a professional clean, then this should be reported in writing to the agent immediately with photographic evidence if possible.”