The Association of Residential Letting Agents has issued a 10 point guide for tenants - with the emphasis very much on getting them to rent though an agent.
“First and foremost, it’s stressful if you’re not dealing with a good letting agent – using an ARLA Propertymark agent means you’re in good hands, as they adhere to the highest professional standards” says ARLA Propertymark president Sally Lawson.
Know what’s important to you: 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.
What can you afford?: 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.
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.
Using a letting agent: If you are using a letting agent, make sure they are a member of ARLA Propertymark as they have Client Money Protection. This ensures that if the agent goes bust or runs off with your money, Propertymark will reimburse you and make sure you’re not left out of pocket. You do not get this protection if you rent directly from a landlord or through an unregulated letting agent.
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, 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.
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.