Survival guide for first-time renters

Getting your own place is an exciting step, but how do you avoid common pitfalls?  We consider some of the questions you need to ask your Letting Agent or Landlord before renting your first home.

Where does my deposit go?

For your protection, Letting Agents or Landlords should place the deposit in a special ‘deposit scheme’, “this ensures that if the Agent goes out of business or the Landlord becomes unavailable, your money remains safe,” explains Graham Norwood, Editor of ‘Letting Agent Today.’ “Make sure you check which scheme is being used if this isn’t made clear.”

How do I make sure I get it back?

Your deposit is usually refunded at the end of the tenancy, provided there is no damage to the property or its contents. “Make sure any existing defects are noted at the start of the tenancy,” advises Norwood. “Many tenants also now take photos before moving in.”

Some tenants choose to pay for a professional clean at the end of a tenancy, to ensure the property is handed over in good condition. “I’d be inclined to say ‘yes’ to booking a professional cleaner,” says Norwood, “but inform the Landlord or Letting Agent first. This will strengthen the case if there are any problems later.”

Who pays for repairs in the property?

Unless you’ve caused damage to the property, all standard repairs should be paid for by the Landlord.

Who pays the utility bills?

Tenants need to pay for services they use, meaning Council Tax, gas and electricity bills will all be your responsibility. Check out the approximate cost of utilities for your property before signing on the dotted line. “Your Landlord or Letting Agent will have been paying the bills while the property is empty,” explains Norwood, “so they should be able to give you an idea of these costs.”

What about my contract?

When the tenancy is agreed, you should be given a contract to sign.  “This usually covers the price per week or month, and the duration of the Let, as well as your rights as a tenant,” says Norwood.  Most contracts are fairly standard, and you can view sample ones online. For example:

What about fees?

As well as charging the Landlord for property management, Letting Agents charge tenants for their services – usually a one-off payment at the start of a tenancy. “Some Letting Agents’ fees are unduly high,” warns Norwood, “so shop around if you can.”