From finding a property to dealing with unexpected costs, renting your first home can be a complicated. Here’s our guide to help you on your way.
Renting your first home can be an exciting time, but there are several hurdles to jump before you can settle in.
You’ll need to do the legwork to find a property, and then there’s the contract and any additional fees, among other things, to consider.
Here’s what you need to know...
- Finding a property
- Rental contracts
- Rental fees
- Your deposit
- Document check
- Preparing for the move
- Moving in – and the inventory
- If things go wrong
Once you've worked out your budget, picked a location, and decided on the type of home you want to rent, you can start your property search.
It’s worth drawing up a checklist of things you definitely want, and those you’d like to have but aren’t deal breakers, to help narrow your search.
Also consider whether you’d like a furnished or unfurnished property – bearing in mind that it’s likely to add additional expense if you have to buy large items of furniture, if you don’t already have these. You’ll also need to move these into and out of the property when your contract ends.
You can start your property hunt online, all in one place, through Zoopla, refining your search by location, property type, number of rooms, and your budget, along with other criteria.
You don’t have to spend hours searching. Simply sign up for an account, and create property alerts that go direct to your inbox to find out about any properties that match your criteria as soon as they hit the market.
Be patient while you search. New properties to rent frequently come on to the market and you’ll find the right home eventually.
The more you hunt and view properties, the greater understanding you’ll have of what you can get for your money and the more you can refine your search.
Both you and your landlord will need to sign a contract before renting a property.
It details what you can and can’t do while you live there, and the basics, such as how much rent you’ll pay, and when.
It’ll also cover whether you’re paying for council tax, utility bills or any other charges on top of the rent.
The contract should also cover things such as whether you can redecorate the property, and who is responsible for repairs.
Think carefully about what you want to do to the property, if anything, and check that this will be allowed before signing.
Make sure to read the contract thoroughly, as it’s legally binding. You should also clarify any points that you’re unclear on, such as particular rules, before signing and moving in to avoid disputes down the line.
You won’t just be paying for rent when you move into a rental property, there are other costs to factor into your sums, such as tenant credit checks and letting agent fees. It’s important to check for any extra fees, and that these are reasonable.
Bear in mind that lettings agents in England are legally obliged to detail their fees on their website and in their offices, without you having to ask for this.
There are particular fees that are allowed, and others that definitely aren’t, and it differs from agent to agent.
You can’t simply be charged for registering with an agent, for example. But you may be charged for contract and administration fees, although this is being challenged in UK courts and could change in 2019.
You’ll also pay a deposit to rent, to cover any damage to the property during your tenancy, or if you fail to pay the rent. This should be detailed in your rental contract.
Your landlord or estate agent has 30 days from when you move in to place your deposit in an accredited deposit schemes for the duration of your tenancy.
Landlords in England and Wales are required by law to place tenants’ deposits in one of three government-approved deposit protection schemes: the Deposit Protection Service, My Deposits or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
Check that you have a certificate of validation that your deposit has been placed in one of these schemes. This should help protect you from particular problems getting it back after you move out – as it cannot be unreasonably withheld.
The deposit will be returned to you at the end of the tenancy provided you’ve left the property in the same condition as when you moved in, allowing for fair wear and tear.
If you and the landlord or letting agent cannot agree on how much of the deposit is withheld, there is a free disputes service available.
There are different deposit protection schemes for tenants in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Before preparing to move in, check that your landlord has supplied the necessary paperwork.
If you’re renting through an agent, they should get the paperwork together for you, but it’s worth knowing what to expect.
The documents to check for include:
- A gas safety certificate
- Paperwork protecting your deposit
- An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- Relevant contact details for your landlord, or letting agent
Placing all these in a folder, along with your contract, will ensure you can easily access them if needed.
You’ve paid the deposit, signed the contract, and got the necessary documents – and you’re keen to move in. But there are still a few steps to go before you’ve done all the necessary groundwork.
This is the time to start collecting boxes and packing up your stuff. Check out parking and loading restrictions for the property to avoid any surprises on moving day.
Unless you’re able to shift your stuff yourself, or have a friend or relative who can help, you’ll probably need to hire a van. Ensure you hire one from a reputable company, such Zoopla partners AnyVan.
Also check out things like setting up broadband at your rental property, as you can set this in motion when planning the move.
You’ll also want to ensure your belongings are fully insured at your rental property from the day you move in, and while moving these from your old home to your new one.
When you first enter the property, it’s wise to check for any faults, and take dated photograph evidence of the property’s condition – and any faults.
Don’t be scared of taking plenty of your own pictures of rooms, carpets, and so on, for your record – and email these to the agent to be kept on file.
This could help if there’s a dispute when you eventually move out, as proof, for example, that a particular stain was already there.
Make sure that the landlord or letting agent also draws up a detailed itinerary of the contents and condition of the property and double check that this is all correct.
The inventory should be signed and dated by you and the landlord or letting agent when you move in.
It will also act as evidence if there is a dispute over the deposit at the end of the tenancy. For example, if an item is missing, or broken that’s detailed in the inventory.
Also, any changes to contents and furniture in the property should be agreed in writing, signed and dated by the landlord or letting agent, to avoid any disputes.
With any luck your time in the property will be a happy and stress-free experience, but sometimes, things can go wrong.
You may find yourself in dispute with your landlord, for example, over a broken fridge – or find that appliances aren’t being kept to a safe standard. Or perhaps the water or heating aren’t working, or there’s a vermin problem.
You may complain to your landlord or agent, and find they don’t respond quickly, or fail to fix the issue. Complain to them first in writing, and keep copies of any letters or photos of any complaints you make, as evidence of your efforts to resolve the problem.
If you don’t get a response to your initial complaint in a satisfactory and timely fashion, make another complaint – this time by certified mail.
At this stage, if you fail to get a timely or satisfactory response, you can go to various official bodies. If you’re a council or housing association tenant, you may complain to the Housing Ombudsman.
You may also complain to whichever independent body your agent is a member of – as it has to be a member of one of three redress schemes. These are the Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services, and the Property Redress Scheme.
However, while these organisations can look into disputes and perhaps add some weight and stress your rights, they cannot force landlords or letting agents into a resolution. If you’re keen to know exactly where you stand and need further assistance, speak to Shelter or Citizens Advice.
Alternatively, perhaps your particular complaint is considered a health and safety issue. In this case, if you’re dealing with exposed wiring, say, or mould, you can speak to your council’s environment health department.
It should arrange for an inspector to come to the property, and they may also get in touch with your landlord to tackle the issue, enforcing any work that’s needed to resolve it.