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Tips for First Time Renters

Taking those tentative first steps into the rental market doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if alongside your ideal future home, you know the shortcomings and benefits to keep an eye out for in every tenancy. 

Can You Negotiate Rent?

It goes without saying that one of the largest indicators of which property you are likely to choose as your future home will be the amount you have to pay each month in rent. However, this is not to say that is cannot be flexible, allowing you to potentially rent properties you initially deemed to be out of reach.  A landlord will appreciate a tenant that will offer them a reliable, predictable income, that will not cause damage to the property or be the root of anti-social behaviour and noise complaints.

With this in mind a tenant that is able to provide a compelling character reference from previous landlords to offer the owner of the new rental property, offering them a longer tenancy in return for a reduced rental charge.  Not only will this make the more properties available to the idyllic tenant, but ensure that landlords are able to maintain a stable rental income. Aside from providing the landlords with an increased fixed term, prospective tenants could also offer to pay a number of months’ worth of rent before they move into the property, naturally providing landlords with somewhat of an insurance against the initial accumulation of rent arrears.

Further to this, a landlord may be compelled to take a reduced rent from the occupants of the property if they have offered to hand them an increased tenancy deposit. Aspiring renters should keep in mind that the amounts tank should still not exceed the limits established by the tenant fees act; however, if it is below this mark, offering a larger security deposit could make all the difference. With this being said, given that the tenancy deposit will only allow for landlords to gain back a maximum of five weeks rent in the majority of cases, rental property owners will treat taking the maximum amount they can for the tenancy deposit as a necessity. 

Understanding the Tenancy Agreement

This nicely leads us onto our next point. Signing a tenant agreement is not something that should be taken lightly, this is a legally binding document that simultaneously empowers the tenant, whilst holding them accountable for various responsibilities. Perhaps the most crucial of these obligations is to ensure that the specified amount of rent is paid on the agreed upon intervals. This may sound obvious but renters should take additional steps to ensure that they are not found In breach of their tenancy agreement for neglecting to pay their landlord rent.

Tenants are also expected to conduct themselves in a tenant like manner. Of course we appreciate this is rather vague, but this has come to mean carrying out the general upkeep and cleaning of the property during the tenancy. This s not to say the occupants of the property are expected to carry out the more substantial aspects of repairing and maintaining a property, but should keep the rental clean, allowing the landlord, letting agency or those essential to repairs access to the property when requested. With this being said the tenant does have a right to quiet enjoyment of the rental property and can therefore dictate when relevant parties are able to enter it. However, if they continually deny the landlord access to the property and prevent them from carrying out repairs, the landlord is absolved of their duty of upkeep.

If a tenant is found to be in breach of the tenancy agreement it is likely that the landlord will seek to regain possession of their buy to let through eviction proceedings. This will lead to the tenant needing to go to court in order to retain the property; however if the owner of the rental has served the occupants with a section 8 notice of eviction they are likely have sufficient evidence to support their claims, resulting in the tenants vacating the property.

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Document Your Property

It is understandable to assume that after attending property viewings, perhaps multiple times, taking time out of your nights to pour through the online images of your new home, you would have a respectable understanding of your rental property’s condition. Even still it is always best to go through each area of the property and take pictures of any areas that are already damaged, show signs of wear, appliances and furnishings that need repairing or replacing. Typically, a new occupant’s opportunity to do this would come during the initial property inspection alongside the landlord, commonly referred to as the property inventory.  Generally speaking a property inventory, if done poorly, can weigh heavily on the amount of their tenancy deposit a renter can expect to be repaid to them at the close of the fixed term.  This is because a property inventory is intended to be referred to during the final inspection of the rental property to see if any additional damage or wear has been caused in the duration of the tenancy.  Providing that this damage does not constitute fair wear and tear, the landlord is able to recoup the associated costs of repair through making a deduction from the tenant’s security deposit.

Will You Have to Pay Bills?

It is all well and good judging your financial suitability for a rental property by exclusively accounting for the amount the landlord is requesting each month for you to reside in the accommodation. However, in the majority of cases tenants will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets to settle any payments due to utility providers and other household costs. With this being said, it is always worth evaluating the specific terms of your tenancy agreement, or communicating with the landlord as in some cases any household bills that the occupants of the rental property would typically be expected to pay throughout the duration of their residency in the rental property could be included within the amount they pay each month in rent. However, whilst this will make it far easier for the occupants of the property to budget and account for their monthly outgoings as they are working with a consistent figure, if these additional charges are not included within their rental fee then the occupants will be expected to manage these utility costs independently.

To this end once the tenants move into the rental property they will be expected to document the appropriate meter readings, and consistently and periodically update their utility providers with these figures in order to accurately determine their usage and therefore the amount they should be charged.  As mentioned above, if the terms of the tenancy agreement clearly place the responsibility of handling such costs with the occupants of the property then they will be expected to further contact the existing utility providers to inform them of any change in occupancy to ensure they are not being charged for any periods where they are no longer residing within the rental. Once this has been completed at the end of the tenancy period, the tenants will be issued with a final statement based of the most recent meter readings provided to the providers by the residents.

It is also worth noting that when assessing a rental opportunity the aspiring tenants may be able to enquire what the potential costs of these utilities may amount to, granting them a clearer understanding of the properties running costs, empowering them to make a more informed and transparent decision as to their suitability for the rental.

Account for Deposits When Choosing Accommodation

Those that are seeking to move into their first rental opportunity must also consider the upfront costs involved when doing so. Prior to taking their first steps into a rental property the aspiring tenants will be required to pay a series of deposits.

Initially the prospective residents will be obliged to provide the landlord or letting agents with a holding deposit. Whilst the holding deposit certainly contributes to the financial barrier renter’s face before moving into a property, some relief can be found amongst aspiring tenants in the knowledge that that the owner of the rental property is unable to request more than the equivalent costs of one week’s rent for the holding deposit.  Further to this in most cases this amount will be returned to the tenants through the form of a discount off their initial rental payment once they have settled into their new home.

Prospective tenants are required to pay a holding deposit to the landlord or letting agency in order to take the rental opportunity off the market, making the accommodation unavailable to other renters and in essence reserving the property. Due to the nature of the holding deposit the landlords is prevented from taking multiple holding fees for the same property, and must have settled on a tenancy agreement with the aspiring renters within 15 days of the holding deposit being paid. Once a tenancy agreement has been signed by all concerned parties any amounts taken for the holding deposit must be returned to the appropriate parties within 7 days, or as is more commonly practiced, have the amounts paid as a contribution towards the first rental payment, or tenancy deposit.

With this being said, if a tenancy agreement is not agreed upon within the given time frame, the tenancy may not see the amounts handed over for the tenancy deposit returned.  In the instance that the landlord decided that they did not wish to let out the rental property to the tenants, or an agreement was not reached despite the tenants best efforts, and they are able to demonstrate that they took “all reasonable steps” to do so, the full amount taken for the holding deposit should be returned within one week. However, it is found that the tenant provided false information to the landlord or letting agent, failed their right to rent checks, or simply changes their mind about renting the property, the landlord is entitled to keep the taken amounts.

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Tenancy Deposit

As opposed to the holding deposit, the amount the tenant’s pay to the landlord for the tenancy deposit is far greater, with these amounts being safeguarded for the whole duration of the tenancies fixed term. This is because the full amount taken may not be returned to the tenants as the landlord is empowered to deduct any costs they incur through repairing or replacing any aspects of the property damaged by the tenants, or recuperating any missing rent payments from the amount they repay.  However, there is a limit on the amount landlords and letting agents are able to request for their tenancy deposit.  Thanks to the implementation of the Tenant Fees Act 2019, if the amount a tenant pays in rent each year is on, or below £50,000, then the maximum tenancy deposit they can be compelled to pay is the cost of five weeks rent. However, if the annual rental charge for the property exceeds this amount, the residents can be asked to pay up to six weeks rent for the tenancy deposit.

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