Below are a number of tenant frequently asked questions to help you when renting a property.
I need to find a place to rent. What do I do first?
Before you start searching for your new home it's a good idea to work out what your budget is. What are your current outgoings and what money do you have left each month to spend on rent?
Take into account that when you first move in you will need to provide a security deposit as well as the first month's rent and a refundable holding deposit. You can find out more about these charges known as Permitted Payments here.
If you haven't already, make sure you go and view the property. If it's a house-share, meet all the people you'll be moving in with.
The letting agent will ask you to sign a Tenancy Fee Declaration form which lists the services they will provide and the Permitted Payments expected from you, in line with the Tenant Fees Act 2019.
The agent will then begin the referencing process, making the required checks to ensure you're in a position to rent the property.
Why do I need to be referenced?
A reference looks into current financial commitments, credit history, and previous tenancies to check everything is in order. The landlord needs to be sure that that their tenant won't have any problems paying the rent on a monthly basis and will take good care of their property.
What does referencing involve?
Referencing is nothing to worry about. Tenants applying to rent need to give details of their employer and income, their previous address, and some bank account details. These will be checked to ensure they are able to commit to monthly rental payments.
Do I need to show ID?
As part of the referencing process we need to be sure a tenant is who they say they are, and that they have the right ot rent in the UK. We will require a proof of residency (such as a utility or council tax bill from the last 3 months) and proof of ID (such as a passport or driving licence).
What if there are problems with my reference?
In some circumstances, a tenant may not be approved immediately via referencing. Obvious examples are students without a regular income, or someone leaving their family home for the first time with no renting history, previous credit issues, or temporary work placements.
This is not uncommon, and there are still options for tenants in this position, including paying the rent for the full term up front, or seeking out a guarantor.
A member of our team will be able to discuss options open to you depending on your individual circumstances.
What is a guarantor?
If a tenant is not fully approved by the referencing process, they can ask a guarantor to support them. A guarantor (usually a parent or guardian) will agree to take responsibility for the rent if the tenant fails to pay it.
Guarantors are parties to the Tenancy Agreement and are required to pay any rent arrears if the tenant does not pay and for any damages costing more than the deposit.
What does a guarantor need to do?
A guarantor needs to go through the same referencing process as a tenant. The normal requirement is that they are employed and a UK resident, with sufficient earnings to cover the tenant's rental commitment.
Why does my guarantor have to guarantee all tenants?
In the case of a house-share, the tenancy agreement makes all tenants jointly responsible for all rents and responsibilities. There is no individual 'share' of the rent written into the agreement. The guarantor therefore has the same responsibility.
Why do I have to pay a deposit?
The landlord trusts the tenant to keep the property in a good condition and in good order. The deposit is held to ensure that any damages (over and above fair wear and tear) can be corrected at the end of the tenancy.
What will happen to my deposit?
Landlords and letting agents are required to register tenants' deposits with an approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme within the first 30 days of a tenancy starting.
We register deposits with My Deposits, which is a government-backed scheme that ensures you will get the deposit back if you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement, pay the rent and bills and do not damage the property.
The deposit is either held by the landlord, the agent or the deposit scheme itself. You should receive details of the scheme, explaining where the deposit is held.
What does a Tenancy Deposit Scheme do?
A Tenancy Deposit Scheme like Deposit Protection Service (DPS), My Deposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) will protect the security deposit paid by tenants and can offer assistance should there be a dispute about the deposit at the end of the tenancy.
What is a tenancy agreement?
A tenancy agreement is a contract signed by both the tenant and the landlord. It outlines what has been agreed and all the terms to which both parties must comply during the tenancy.
What is an inspection?
Your landlord or letting agent will regularly schedule visits to the property. They want to make sure that the property is being looked after and maintained in a good condition, and they'll be looking for any maintenance issues. They are required to give tenants a minimum of 24hrs notice of the visit.
Who is responsible for repairs?
The landlord is responsible for maintaining the property in a good state of repair. They will either take care of this directly, or do so via a letting agent. Make sure you know at the beginning of the tenancy who to go to when there's a fault. If you cause damage to the property you are expected to cover the cost of putting this right.
Can I decorate or make changes to the property?
In most cases, a tenant can only decorate or make changes to the property with the express permission of the landlord. We recommend receiving this permission in writing.
What if I accidentally cause damage to the property?
Don't worry accidents happen. Tell whoever is responsible for the property maintenance (either the landlord or letting agent) as soon as possible.
You will be expected to cover the cost of putting it right. Don't try to ignore or hide damage because it could get worse, and it will only come out of your deposit at the end of the tenancy.
What if the landlord isn't keeping to their side of the agreement?
If a tenant believes the landlord is not keeping to their side of the agreement (for instance, not maintaining the property in a fit state of repair) then the first thing the tenant should do is speak to their letting agent.
The letting agent has a duty of care to the tenant, and may be able to help to resolve issues. Alternatively, a tenant can find independent advice from The Citizens Advice Bureau.
When can my landlord enter the property?
A landlord has to give a tenant 24 hours notice in writing before entering the property, unless it's an emergency.
What if I want to end the tenancy?
If you are within the initial fixed term of a tenancy agreement, you will be liable to keep paying the rent until the fixed term is finished. If you are no longer within the fixed term of the agreement (i.e. a rolling contract or "statutory periodic tenancy") the original tenancy agreement will define the notice you need to give.
What if I can't pay my rent?
It is always your responsibility to pay the rent. If circumstances change and you become unemployed or are unable to work due to sickness, it is important to speak to your landlord or letting agent and see if you can reschedule your payments.
The most important thing is not to let arrears pile up until they're unmanageable and cause you unnecessary stress. To keep yourself protected, you could consider purchasing insurance against sickness and unemployment.