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Guide to Renting For First Time Tenants

It can be intimidating for some to know exactly what to do when you first move into a rented house, with a host of documentation to obtain, regulations to abide by and fees to clear, your first time renting can quickly become overwhelming. Here we offer our guidance to new tenants through our first time renting tips!

What Bills Are You Responsible For as a Tenant?

Whilst it goes without saying that as a tenant once you have moved into the rental property you will be expected to pay rent to the landlord. However, there are many other expenditures that a tenant may have to consider throughout the duration of their rental period, something that is essential to take into account when assessing if a property is right for you.

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Similarly to if you were to live in a home that you outright owned the costs of gas and electric must be paid by the tenant. Whilst this may be included in the rent for some, making the amount a tenant must pay each month consistent, if a landlord leaves this to be handled by the occupants of the property then they will be expected to take a meter reading as they move in and periodically report their usage to the provider.  It is essential that before a tenancy agreement is signed by either party, the document clearly details who is responsible for the payment of gas and electric bills as if this responsibility falls on the tenants they will be expected to contact the providers themselves to confirm the change.  

Once the tenancy period comes to an end it is good practice for the tenants to take another meter reading for the providers, whilst explaining that you are no longer the occupants of the property. The providers should then issue the tenants with a final bill based on the provided meter reading; neglect to contact the utility providers and you could end up accruing a significant debt based on the new tenant’s usage!

Does the Tenant or Landlord Pay For the TV License?

Traditionally it is the tenant’s responsibility to pay for a TV license. An exception can be made if the landlord installed the device being used in the property, however the tenancy agreement will likely pass this duty onto the occupants. If the residents of the property intend to watch any live TV, record any stations or stream shows on a mobile device or pc, they will need a TV license.

With this being said it the occupant has entered into a joint tenancy in a shared house then a single TV licence will be sufficient for all residing tenants in the property.  If however, the property is regarded as a House in Multiple Occupancy the each resident that has an independent tenancy agreement with the landlord will also be required to obtain a TV license. Additionally, these licenses will also the tenants to watch shows in their communal areas too, and a separate licence will not be required for this area.

Who Is Liable For Council Tax, Landlord or Tenant?

Each property that comprises a local constituency is obligated to pay a determined amount of council tax. Whilst this charge does vary between councils, regardless of your properties whereabouts council tax must be paid. The accumulated sums contribute towards the finding of local services and authorities that serve the wider community.

As mentioned, whilst the exact amount you will be expected to pay in council tax will depend on your location, however regardless of this, the value of the tax is derived from the value of the property in question. Each council will establish bands for different property values which will dictate the amount paid each year by the properties residents.

Typically the occupants of the rental property will be responsible for settling any due council tax, as should be outline in the tenancy agreement. If however, there is more than one person residing in the rental property te government has established an order in which responsibility to pay the tax falls. Ultimately, the if the property owner is also an occupant of the property, they will be required to pay, however, if this is not the case it will be the duty of the individual tenants. After this, if there is a resident who is not a tenant but has permission to stay in the rental property. However, there is circumstance under which the landlord or property owner retains the obligation to pay any due council tax. If the rental property is considered a House in Multiple Occupation, or HMO, where the occupants pay for their own rooms but share communal commodities such as a bathroom and cooking facilities, then the responsibility of paying council tax will fall on the landlord. Similarly, if those residing in the rental property are found to be asylum seekers, or are under the age of 18 once again the tenants will not be expected to pay council tax. Additionally if the tenants are forced to relocate to temporary accommodation due to emergency repair work or damage to the property, leaving it in an uninhabitable state, they will not be required to pay council tax. In the eventuality that there are no tenants because the rental property is unoccupied, the landlord will once again be obligated to pay any council tax.

Contents Insurance for Tenants

Whilst tenants are of course not expected to contribute towards any building insurance policies the landlord may take out on the property, occupants may want to consider contents insurance. The landlord of the property is likely to have already taken out a similar policy, however, it is important to understand that the policy will exclusively apply to, and protect the landlord’s possessions, meaning if tenants want protection they will need to take out their own contents insurance.

Contents insurance for tenants will financially safeguard their belongings if they are damaged or stolen. The policies typically include cover for furnishings brought into the property by the tenant alongside other personal belongings.

Property Inventory

It is difficult to overstate the importance of an accurate inventory being taken at the start of a new tenancy.  A property inventory thoroughly details the condition of a property, its furnishings and appliances so this can be used as a reference at the close of the tenancy period. Once the tenancy comes to an end, if the landlord finds there to be new damage to items that was not there from the outset of the tenancy, or degrees of damage that are considered beyond fair wear and wear, the associates repair or replacement costs will be deducted from the tenancy deposit provided by the tenant. It is for this reason it is imperative that the inventory is agreed upon by both the landlord and tenant before the document is signed, as it will go a long way in avoiding disputes surrounding how much of the deposit should be returned.  If you feel that it is necessary it is possible to more meticulously document the properties condition with photographs of any concerning areas for complete clarity.

Holding and Tenancy Deposit

Before a tenant moves into a rental property they are often also required to provide the property owner with a holding and tenancy deposit. As the name suggests, the holding deposit is intended to reserve the rental property for the interested party, taking the rental opportunity off the market. Once a holding deposit has been received by a landlord, both parties than have a 15 day timeframe in which to reach an agreement regarding details of the tenancy. If the landlord is happy to proceed with the tenancy then the amount taken for the holding deposit is typically deducted from the first rental payment, or otherwise returned to the tenant.

A tenancy deposit on the other hand, may not be returned to the tenant in full, or in particularly exceptional circumstance, not at all. The tenancy deposit is an amount taken by the landlord in order to financially protect themselves in the event the tenant accumulates excessive rental arrears or at the end of the tenancy repair work needs to be conducted because of the tenants actions. In an effort to make entry into the rental market easier for tenants and prevent landlord charging tenants unwarranted fees before they have moved into the property, the UK government introduced the Tenant Fees Act 2019 which limits the amount landlords can take for a deposit.  If the amount a tenant pays in annual rent is under £50,000, then the regulations do not allow a landlord to take more than the equivalent of five weeks rent. If however the annual rental fee for the property exceeds this amount, then the landlords will be able to request a maximum of six weeks rent for the tenancy deposit.

What Do Landlords Legally Have to Provide?

Before a tenant moves into a property they should expect to receive a number of essential documents from the landlord, giving them a comprehensive understanding of their rights and responsibilities as a tenant, and the duties of the landlord over the tenancy period. Typically provided in the form of an information pack, if the landlord neglects to provide any of the following documents then they will be prevented from issuing a section 21 notice to gain possession of the property.

How to Rent Guide

Before you move into the rental property the landlord is also obliged to provide tenants with the most recent copy of the government issued “how to rent guide”.  For many people who are new to renting this document can be an essential piece of guidance, allowing them to fully understand the rental dynamic and what is expected of both parties throughout the tenancy period. The “how to rent guide” advises tenants on how assured Shorthold tenancies operate, what documentation they should be given, how to find a good rental opportunity, and where they can turn for help if the relationship with their landlord sours.  

Energy Performance Certificate

Detailing the energy efficiency of a property, an Energy performance Certificate must be issued to the tenants by the landlord with a 28 day window of the inspection, or when a new tenancy commences. The certificate, or EPC, is valid for 10 years after it has been given to the landlord, however, if the property is found to be in need of significant improvement and scores a rating of “E” or lower on a scale or “A” to “G”, the property should not be let out to tenants.

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Gas Safety Certificate

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, details that a rental property owner must provide the tenants with a valid Gas Safety certificate within 28 days of the gas appliances being inspected by an engineer. The assessment must be conducted by a Gas Safe registered engineer annually, with the landlord being required to document the results for two years following the test. If a landlord if found to be letting out a property without comply to gas safety regulations then they could face fines, legal action and time in prison.

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