9 tips for first-time tenants

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Nothing beats the feeling of moving in to your new home, whether you’ve bought or are the new tenant of a rental property.

As a tenant, there’s a lot to understand; so if you’re becoming a tenant for the first time, this article is for you. Here’s our 9 tips for first-time tenants:

1.Prepare your budget

Much like buying a home, it’s important that you budget for all of the costs involved. This starts way before signing your contract and isn’t just about your monthly rent payments & utility bills – although some rental properties can be offered with bills included.

Other costs you should budget for include:

  • Your tenancy deposit (this will total no more than six weeks’ worth of the agreed rent, but in most cases is five weeks’ rent)
  • Holding fee (no more than one week’s rent and will be returned to you within 7 days of a decision, unless your application failed*)
  • Removals costs
  • Furnishings
  • Contents insurance

*If your application fails due to one of these reasons, you may not be entitled to a refund of your holding fee:

– you provide false or misleading information
– you fail a right to rent check
– you withdraw from the proposed tenancy agreement
– you fail to take all reasonable steps to enter in to a tenancy agreement

2.Be sure the property is right for you

With rental properties, landlords reserve the right to withhold permissions like keeping pets or smoking within the property. Be sure that you’ve checked what you’re permitted to.

Rental properties may also come furnished or unfurnished. Furnished homes tend to come with at least the main items of furniture you’d expect, such as beds, sofas/chairs, tables and storage units; whereas with unfurnished homes the tenant is to have their own furniture. Unfurnished lets may come with white goods, curtains or blinds, for example, but you will need to check exactly what is provided with the property and that it suits your needs.

With many more people working from home, a broadband check is almost necessary to be sure of service providers and signal strengths for where the property is located. Checking before you sign the contract is advised so that no limitations are discovered after you move in!

3.Understand your rights as a tenant

Both you and your landlord have certain rights and responsibilities when you move into a rental home, and it’s important that you know what these are.

Before you get the keys to your rental property, you should sign a tenancy agreement. This document sets out the expectations of both you and your landlord.

One right you have is to see the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This tells you how energy efficient the home is on a scale from A to G and lets you know how costly it will be to heat and light. Seeing this certificate can help you to budget more accurately. Legally, all rental properties must achieve a rating of at least E before a new tenancy is granted.

You also have the right to:

  • be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rental increases
  • have your deposit protected in an approved tenancy deposit protection scheme
  • get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy, as long as you meet your responsibilities as a tenant
  • live in a property that’s in a good state of repair and is safe
  • quiet enjoyment, unless the landlord requests to do an inspection – for which you should receive sufficient notice ahead of the appointment (24 hours except in emergency)

4.Understanding your responsibilities as a tenant

Your responsibilities as a tenant include:

  • taking care to avoid damaging the property
  • paying the agreed rent on time
  • paying all other bills and charges as specified in your tenancy agreement
  • paying for any damage caused by you or your guests
  • providing they give you sufficient notice, allow your landlord access to conduct inspections and to do any necessary maintenance work
  • not sub-letting the property unless your tenancy agreement says you can
  • reporting any problems with the property (for example mould or broken windows) to your landlord in good time so that they can arrange for these problems to be fixed

5.Check the inventory

An inventory is a listing of all the contents of a property and a record of the condition of each item as well as the condition of the property itself; and can help you to avoid disputes with your landlord over your deposit when you move out.

It’s essential that you check this document carefully as soon as you move in. If you spot anything that’s incorrect, make sure you record this. As a rule, it’s wise to take plenty of pictures to support the information you give.

Only sign the inventory when you’re completely happy with it.

6.Read the meters

On the day you move in, take gas, electricity and water meter readings and give these to the existing utility suppliers. Doing so will help ensure you get accurate first bills and save overpaying! Take photos of your meters showing these readings too.

As a tenant, there’s nothing stopping you shopping around for a better deal on your utilities.

7.Register for council tax

Unless it’s included in your rent, you’re in full-time education or you’re covered by another exemption, you’ll need to pay council tax. To register to do this, contact your local authority.

8.Get a TV licence

If you plan to watch TV live or through the BBC iPlayer, even if you’re only going to do this on your tablet or laptop, you’ll require a TV licence. You can register to pay online, by phone or by post. If you’re paying by direct debit, you can choose whether to pay for a full year up front or make smaller payments each month or quarter.

9.Change your address

Don’t forget to change your address with work, medical bodies, schools, utilities, banks & building societies etc…particularly your driving licence. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you fail to inform the DVLA of your move.

If you’re looking for a rental property, contact our lettings teams for help and advice.

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