If you’re a tenant, don’t sign up for more than you bargained for!

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By Daniel Russell

With rising house prices steadily widening the gap between first-time-buyers and a foot on the housing ladder, more and more people find themselves spending the first years of their independent lives in rented accommodation.

Most people’s journey as a tenant starts at university, but it’s now estimated that somewhere in the region of 5.4 million people will be in privately rented homes within the next three years – and in most cases these will be on lets of at least 12 months.

The days of Britain’s 2 million plus landlords routinely renting out their properties for six months or less are over. Such are the costs associated with new legislation regulating the rental market that landlords are understandably keen to shave their overheads – and one of the ways of doing that is by reducing the number of times they let the same property in each year.

Letting agents will soon be banned from charging potential tenants a fee in relation to a tenancy, yet finding and vetting new occupants for a rental property is not without costs – and so, unsurprisingly, some agents have already begun to simply pass those on to the landlords.

The end and subsequent beginning of every tenancy brings with it bills – for an end-of-tenancy clean, for reference checks, for repairs – and the possibility of having an unlet property exposes landlords to the risk of losing critical income, or yield.

The answer? Landlords will always tend to try to secure the right tenants on a long-term let to minimise their financial liabilities. The risk for the tenant? A long term let may well be the accommodation equivalent of a pair of golden handcuffs, but they’re handcuffs nonetheless. Making sure you have the right tenancy agreement in place is vital.

We would always recommend you get professional legal advice when entering into a long-term contract of this kind. Routine hire purchase agreements are one thing (though they’re not without potential issues), liability for a property is another entirely.

So, what do you need to consider when you agree in principle to move into a rental property?

1. Take time to read and understand the small print

From making sure the names of each tenant and the landlord are on the agreement, to the rental amount and who’s legally responsible for paying it, your obligations in terms of what you are and are not permitted to do and any agreement over wear and tear or repairs needed prior to the tenancy starting, being completely satisfied your tenancy agreement accurately reflects the agreement you’ve made with the landlord is vital.

At Carlsons, we have specialist solicitors who can help with this and we would strongly recommend that any tenancy agreement you are asked to sign is checked by a qualified, independent solicitor of your choosing.

2. Is your landlord a member of a Government-approved Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS)?

 Usually you will be asked to pay a deposit in advance of your tenancy. This is normally the equivalent of one month’s rent and is designed to protect the landlord in the event of damage or non-payment of rent in the future.

However, private landlords are now required to be a member of a formal DPS. This means that you are guaranteed to have your deposit returned to you, provided the terms of your lease have been met.

3. Don’t be scared to haggle over rent

Before you agree to the monthly rent figure, consider whether it’s worth negotiating. In most cases, landlords would rather have the peace of mind of knowing they have the right tenant paying a little less in rent than they would ideally want than the wrong tenant paying the going rate.

If you’re considering signing up to a long-term agreement, your negotiating position is even stronger – and in the end, the worst that is likely to happen is your potential landlord refuses to budge on his figure.

4. Check the inventory

Prior to moving in to a rental property, you’ll be presented with an inventory. This is a list of everything that comes with the property, down to detailed lists of glassware, cutlery and crockery (if your property is being let furnished).

Common practice is that the inventory is checked with the landlord present and it’s important that you check the list together to ensure it’s accurate. This makes it easier to resolve a future dispute fairly.

Make sure any missing or damaged items are noted on the inventory before you sign it off. It’s also worth taking photos of each room, paying particular attention to any imperfections in carpets, soft furnishings and décor. 

If you’re considering moving into rented accommodation, get in touch with us and find out how we can help to make sure the start and end of your tenancy is as smooth as possible.

Our tips for landlords when renting a property is coming soon!