ARLA Propertymark has compiled some fresh advice and top tips for those starting to think about their living circumstances and renting a new home, especially for the first time.
Some of the top renting tips provided by ARLA Propertymark, which are designed to help the process run as smooth as possible, may prove useful to you as a landlord.
Phil Keddie, president, ARLA Propertymark, said: “Tenants who haven’t had to go through the lettings process at all, or at least haven’t since 2016, might be unaware of new legislation that has come into force since then.”
He added: “From making sure you choose the right property, to knowing and understanding the legal process and your rights as a tenant, as well as adhering to the new rules around social distancing when viewing a property, there’s certainly a lot to consider.”
Firstly, renters are encouraged to work out a budget that works and research the areas they can afford a property.
It is important to remind renters that on top of reoccurring rental costs, they will also need to budget for gas, electricity, water, phone, broadband, TV license and Council Tax.
As of 13th May, the government issued new guidance for England which allowed socially distanced viewings, that carefully adhere to public health guidance, to take place. While viewing potential homes might be quite different, it’s important to follow these guidelines for the safety of the current tenant and the letting agent.
It’s likely that before viewing the property in person, the letting agent or landlord will suggest a virtual viewing. Then, when viewing the property in person, applicants may be asked to wear a face covering. In addition, people visiting a property must keep their hands clean, while it will not be possible to view a property in a group.
Before signing a tenancy agreement, prospective renters will be asked to provide proof that they have the right to live in the UK so they should have a passport to hand.
After they sign the contract, they 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, the Prescribed Information (this may take a few days), any licence issued by the local authority (if the property is subject to any form of local authority landlord licensing scheme), and if they are a new tenant from the 1st July 2020, they must also be given an Electrical Safety certificate.
Tenants must ensure they are protected and that they are clear about what kind of tenancy agreement they are signing before putting pen to paper. Afterall, they are entering a legally binding agreement so they must take their time and read the contract thoroughly.
If they are using a letting agent, they should ask if the agent is a member of ARLA Propertymark and have Client Money Protection. Without this, their money is not protected.
Letting agents are required to display on their websites and prominently in their offices all fees they will charge tenants and the redress scheme to which they belong. Should they have an issue which they don’t feel has been satisfactorily dealt with, they can complain to the redress scheme and get up to £25,000 compensation.
Sort out the bills and insurances
If this hasn’t been done by the agent (or landlord), the tenant should notify the utility companies and give them meter readings, their move-in date and the names of all the tenants. Tenants are also encouraged to have contents insurance. The landlord is required to insure the building and their own contents, but tenants need to cover their own belongings.
If the tenant is sharing the property, it’s a good idea that they sit down with their housemates to work out a fair system for sharing the cost of your bills and ensuring that they’re always paid on time. They are jointly responsible for the property.
Setting ground rules among tenants can help but they must be careful with joint bank accounts. A housemate’s financial mismanagement can affect the credit score.
Lets with pets
If they move into a property that doesn’t allow pets, they should not get a pet without their landlord’s permission. There will likely be a clause in the tenancy agreement that says they cannot keep pets. If they break this, it can be used as grounds for eviction.
If they have a pet, the landlord may also put additional clauses into the tenancy agreement related to owning a pet, such as making sure it doesn’t foul in the garden or inside the property, not leaving it alone in the property for too long and cleaning the property thoroughly before the end of the tenancy. Any damage to the property or extra cleaning that needs to be undertaken by the landlord can be deducted from the deposit.
Smoke alarms are required on all floors of the property 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 when checking in, where the landlord or agent will probably also undertake an inventory and schedule of condition.
Check the inventory
The inventory is a list of everything that's provided with the property, including furniture, carpets, curtains, appliances, crockery and cutlery. It should also record the condition everything is in – for example, existing damage or wear, such as an old stain on the carpet. The tenants should notify the landlord or agent if they disagree with anything on the inventory as it will affect how much of the deposit they get back at the end of the tenancy.
Sort issues before they become problems
Tenants should have up to date contact details for their landlord or letting agent, and familiarise themselves with how to report any issues you may have and ensure you have an emergency contact number. If they discover any repairs which need doing or have any concerns, they should contact their landlord immediately.
Keep good records
This could be vital if there's a dispute when the tenant moves out. Useful items might include photos taken when they moved in (ideally, dated and labelled), receipts for any items they’ve replaced, correspondence about repairs and copies of their bills.
It’s also important to either get written consent from the agent or landlord or to keep accurate notes about any changes the landlord has allowed the tenant to make to the property such as putting up pictures or painting walls so that when they move out they have proof of this.
Return the property as it was found
Most deposits disputes are over the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy. Tenants must make sure they give the property a thorough clean before they move out and leave the property in the same condition as the day they arrived.