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Option Homes Ltd - News- The top 12 tips for tenants to get a tip-top deal

The top 12 tips for tenants to get a tip-top deal

Date Added 06/11/2015

It`s a seller`s market out there at the moment when it comes to renting property – with sensibly priced houses and apartments being snapped up very quickly. So how do you make sure you get the pick of the bunch and avoid the rogue landlords? And, just as importantly, protect your rights and your deposit should problems arise?

1 Do you rent through a landlord…?
Some properties are let and managed directly by the owner. While most landlords will be bona fide, some don`t give the rented sector a good name. Don`t hand over any cash until you have their full name and address and you are confident that they do actually own the property – which you can verify via the Land Registry website for a small fee. And don`t be rushed into parting with your cash in any unusual way – such as through an overseas bank transfer. Always get a receipt specifying the amount of the deposit, terms of its return, name and address of landlord and of yourself as tenant – signed and dated by both parties.

2 … or through an agency?
A letting agency will charge you a fee for processing your application, and fees will vary considerably. The plus side is that you can usually get hold of an agency quickly if things go wrong. You might also consider registering with more than one agency and ask them to alert you to any likely looking properties before they advertise them. Do ensure they are a member of a recognised professional body which guarantees you right of redress should things go wrong. Check what their fees are ahead of signing anything – and watch out for `extras`.

3 Location x 3
The rent you pay will reflect location, and some popular areas have seen big rises in recent years. How big? Rightmove and Zoopla will give you going rents in any given street – and even allow you to set up an alert to flag up new vacancies there. Of course, you might find your perfect spot beyond your pocket. If that`s the case, weigh up the pros and cons of living a few streets further away from the High Street or tube station you`re keen to be close to, or perhaps moving near to a station further out.

4 How long a lease?
Conventionally, lets are available on short term (six month) assured tenancies – meaning you have a right to be there for that time, unless you breach the terms of your tenancy (through failing to pay rent or causing a nuisance for instance). After the six months you can renegotiate or continue to live there on a month-to-month basis. That said, many landlords and agencies are happy to discuss a longer lease as it saves hassle and costs. A longer lease might suit you too if you`re concerned, for instance, about getting your children into local schools. If you do take a longer lease, check what the landlord`s expectations are in terms of any future rent hikes.

5 Don`t overstretch yourself
The worst scenario is struggling to find the rent each month; or, even worse, getting an unexpected bill. Remember that you will need a deposit to put down, plus any fees. Factor in Council Tax, TV licence and utility bills such as broadband, water, electricity and gas not covered under the tenancy. Will you need any additional furniture or appliances?

6 Be prepared
The best properties go quickly, so prepare to move quickly on something that ticks your boxes: have your deposit ready, photographic ID, proof of address and potential referees (including your current employer and – if possible and relevant - your previous landlord). Pre-qualify with an agency or two if that is possible.

7 … but don`t rush in just because you are desperate
If the property has problems, such as damp or leaking taps, and the landlord or agents haven`t fixed them ready for a new tenant, you aren`t likely to get them sorted afterwards without a tussle. Ask to see vital documents such as gas safety checks and fire/smoke/CO monitors and alarms: they could be a life saver. Check your deposit is protected through a tenancy deposit scheme.

8 Make sure the inventory you sign is correct
And, if you feel it`s needed, take your own photographs or videos to act as evidence should you ever have to dispute a future bill for repairs, cleaning or damage. Ask the landlord or agency to sign any updated inventory.

9 Is your credit good?
Bear in mind that these will be carried out by any responsible agency or landlord. And if you don`t get through that stage, you might lose a deposit. If in doubt, get your credit worthiness checked out first. Experian is a good place to start.

10 Renting or your own or with others?
Taking a room in an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) will cost you less than having an apartment or house to yourself. But there are downsides: you`re sharing communal areas with people you may not know. Or if you do know them, you may not have lived together before. Their credit ratings might impact upon you in the future too. Setting up `ground rules` for cleaning and recycling rotas, bathroom and kitchen times, and how bills are shared BEFORE you move in together is far better than misunderstandings arising later. Check also who is responsible for choosing any replacement tenant should one of your number leave.

11 Remember the utilities!
While the agent or landlord will contact gas, electricity, water and council to tell them of the change of occupier, it`s your responsibility to set up the new accounts and let your agent or landlord know whom you`ve selected. If you`re on a pre-paid meter, remember this is a very expensive way to buy your energy. You should have the right to switch as long as you inform your landlord or agent.

12 Finally, cover yourself against contingencies
Do remember to take out Contents Insurance for your belongings, as well as for any other items in the accommodation not covered by the landlord`s insurance. And just in case something should ever go splash, bang or gurgle in the night, ensure you know precisely where the stopcock and fuse box are, and who to contact if more radical help is needed. Agents or landlords may well have contracts with suppliers, and if you call in a different contractor they may well ask you to foot the bill.

Not put off by all of that? Good! Then happy home hunting.
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