Let down by letting agents? Duped by dodgy landlords? Resigned to renting forever? With more Brits living in rented homes than ever before, it’s time to take back control. And that starts with knowing your rights.
Letting agents low-down
Be prepared to be asked for a lot of cash up front, with letting agents at the front of the queue. They’re are allowed to charge for admin such as drawing up the contract and doing the inventory, but they must set out their fees on their website and office – and must not pull the wool over your eyes! Shop around to find an agent with fair fees and a good attitude, and make sure they belong to a recognised professional body.
Get the moving in memo
You’ll have barely moved your bags in before you have to think about moving out again – or at least about how you’ll get your deposit back when that day comes.
Most deposits are held back because the property isn’t left clean or something is missing. Make sure you’re not caught out by checking you agree with the inventory when you move in, and keep a copy of it. Ensure you’re happy with the fixtures and fittings, and take photos of any damage so it won’t be disputed at a later date.
Make sure your landlord gives you the gas safety certificate, the building’s energy performance certificate and a copy of the Government’s renting rights booklet – legally they have to. And remember to read the meter readings so you don’t end up paying the previous tenant’s bills.
Get yourself contents’ insurance, as your treasured things won’t be covered by the landlord’s policy.
What’s down to you?
As the tenant, it will usually be up to you to pay the rent, gas, electricity, water, TV licence, telephone and broadband.
You’ll also need to cover council tax but can apply for a reduction if you live alone, are a pensioner, claim benefits or have a low income. You won’t have to pay if everyone you’re renting with is a student.
You need to stick to the rules of your tenancy agreement, pay your rent on time and give the right notice period if you choose to move out. You’ll also have to look after the property, report any problems to your landlord, and repair or replace anything you break or damage.
Read all the small-print in your rental agreement carefully so you’re not caught out further down the line.
What’s down to your landlord?
It’s the landlord’s job to fix problems with the roof, chimney, walls, guttering and drains. They also need to make sure the electrics, plumbing and boiler are safe to use, and maintain the appliances and furniture that come with the property.
Crucially, they can’t just barge in to your home without telling your first. They usually have to give you at least 24 hours’ notice, but check your tenancy agreement to be sure.
It’s up to them to get a gas safety check done every year and to make sure the electrical equipment meets the right safety standards. Check they’ve put a smoke alarm on every floor and carbon monoxide detectors with a coal fire and wood burning stoves – and that these life-savers are in full working order.
When you want to move out
Your tenancy agreement will tell you how much notice your need to give. If the initial fixed period – usually six months or a year – has passed, you’ll usually have to give a month’s notice, while your landlord will have to give you two. Remember you’re probably paying your rent a month in advance so make sure you don’t end up over-paying.
Reclaim your cash
Landlords have an uncanny knack of not giving your all your deposit back, but make sure they only take your money if they’re really entitled to it.
They’re allowed to deduct from your deposit if there’s any rent unpaid, if you’ve damaged the property or not left it clean, and if any items are missing.
They can’t take it for normal wear and tear, like worn carpets or scuffs on the walls. But if there’s a burn hole in the curtains, holes in the plaster or even damaged paintwork caused by hanging picture on a wall, don’t expect to see your full deposit.
This is not a complete guide to your rental rights. Find out more at Gov.uk or Shelter.org.uk. Remember your rights may differ in Scotland.