You never know what to expect when renting your first property. As a first time tenant, you’ll be asking yourself “how much rent can I afford with bills on top?”.
It can be a stressful without the right guidance, so we’ve put together a detailed step-by-step guide to help you along every step of the way.
From finding properties to rent, all the way through to claiming your deposit back at the end of the Tenancy.
How to Find Rental Properties
Looking for a property to rent has never been easier with the help of the Internet, there are plenty of websites that Letting Agents and landlords advertise on.
The most popular property market is most definitely Rightmove. However, it is best to utilise all property search engines, including; On the Market, Zoopla and Prime Location .
However, these property markets tend to be unpopular with private Landlords who aren’t looking to pay their membership fees. It’s always worth checking Gumtree for local properties to rent, as you’ll also save some money on Letting Agency fees.
It is also becoming increasingly popular for social media marketing to be used. From experience, Facebook can be a great way of finding a rental property.
Simply find Local Letting Agent pages and even property groups and stay up-to-date with their postings.
But you’ll always be able to find a range of available properties in your local Letting Agent’s window.
Booking Property Viewings
Once you’ve started your search for a rental property, it’s definitely best to view a couple of different properties to get an idea of what’s best for you.
Don’t enquire about properties that are above your budget and try not to look at furnished properties if you’re not in need of furniture. It is very unlikely that the furniture will be removed for you, it is already there for a reason.
When calling to book a viewing, please remember that saying “I’d like to book an appointment to see your property to rent” doesn’t mean too much to Letting Agents. They have multiple listings running at once, most likely on more than one property market.
Have the information in front of you; there will be a description header at the top of the page, such as; ‘2 Bedroom Apartment to Rent’, the property address will be located just underneath the property description and the price will be to the right of these.
One thing that renters tend to forget is that the property they are enquiring about most likely has current tenants living in it. So asking for a viewing on the same day is very unlikely.
If you’re flexible during the day, ask the Agent whats best for them, otherwise specify your available days and time frames.
I would recommend calling the agent on the day of your viewing to confirm your appointment. This will confirm that the property is still available and you are able to gain access of the day. Some Letting Agents won’t attend if they try contacting you and don’t hear from you on the day.
Once you’ve found a property you like, its best to make your mind up straight away because properties don’t stay on the market for very long.
There are fees associated with doing this and most agent have different names and prices for them, such as, holding deposits, administration fees and referencing fees.
This is how letting agents make their money other than commission.
Letting Agency Fees
Letting Agency fees very much depends in the Agent, they will all have different prices.
Agents are required to display all fees within their offices and on their websites, they are also required to provide you with the fees on your viewings.
Scotland have banned lettings fees and the Autumn Statement 2016 for England and Wales brought in the idea of a ban for ours too. They plan to spread the cost across landlords instead but it is very unlikely for this to come into effect anytime soon.
Letting agents will need to reference you and any other prospective tenant (aged 18+) in order to move you in to a property. Some agents may choose to carry out the referencing process themselves, others may outsource this service from a 3rd party company.
I’ve personally used Rent4Sure and I think it’s great, even from the applicants point of view, by far the easiest. I’ll use their process as an example.
When applying for your tenancy, your agent will ask you for the full name, telephone number and email address for all tenants who are moving in.
They will then enter these details online to create an application form that Rent4Sure will email you and ask you to fill out. There are 3 types of referencing we can choose from, a Credit Check, a Full Reference and a Company Reference.
Their Credit Checks come back almost instantly to tell us whether you’ve passed or not. All they do is email you a form and as soon as you’ve submitted it, we receive an email within minutes.
The referencing company will send us a report that shows results from their checks. They search your credit history which has a score, this is affected by things like County Court Judgments, bankruptcies and insolvencies.
They have a certain score threshold that you must be at or above to pass, if you don’t then they decline your application.
The Full Referencing process includes a Credit Check, a full income check and current landlord/agent references.
The income check shows multiple sources of income, bonuses (guaranteed or non), savings, employment contract dates, and a personal declaration as to whether or not their employer finds the applicant honest, reliable, and trustworthy.
The Previous Tenancy report provides confirmation of the rent they paid, the condition they left the property in, any rent arrears and whether or not they would let to you again.
With a company reference, the Agent will receive a report with a credit score, an explanation that your company’s financial position, and whether or not you will be able to pay the rent.
They show details from Companies House, including incorporation dates, classification, accounting details, credit limits, and company share capital. They also list the names, addresses, and dates of birth of all the company’s Directors.
I wish that I could say that failing this wouldn’t be the end of the world with any agents but some won’t accept you any further if you fail and I don’t personally think that’s fair.
There are 2 possible ways around this situation, you could get a guarantor (they will have to be referenced too) or you could pay 3 or 6 months’ rent in advance. You will also be asked to do this if you get Housing Benefit, which a lot of agents won’t accept.
I’m happy to say I work for a company whose landlords do accept DSS tenants!!
Before moving into the property, you will also be required to pay further monies, such as, Security Deposit and first months rent. Don’t get this mixed up with your holding deposit.
Your security deposit is usually held with a 3rd party company throughout the period of your tenancy.It became necessary to protect deposits in April 2007 when it became introduced as part of the Housing Act for all assured short hold tenancies in England and Wales.
This was a way to raise standards within Lettings and ensure that tenants are treated fairly at the end of the tenancy.
Your deposit paperwork will be dependant on who your landlord or letting agent choose to lodge their deposits with. The most common companies are The Deposit Protection Service (DPS) and My Deposits and Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
Each deposit protection scheme offers two different types of services; Insured Protection and Custodial Protection. If your deposit is insured, a fee will be paid to the chosen deposit protection scheme to protect it, whilst your Landlord or Letting Agent holds the money.
There are documents that Letting Agents are legally required to provide you with, these detail the terms and conditions of the deposit scheme and answer any questions you may have. You will be required to sign a Prescribed Information Form or a certificate to confirm you’re happy with the deposit details.
On the date of move in, agents will provide you with a move in pack.
This will contain your…
- Deposit paperwork
- An inventory
- How to Rent check list
- Introduction to Condensation and Mould Growth booklet
- Energy Performance Certificate
- Gas Safety Certificate
- Standing Order form
- Key release form
Your contracts will most likely be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement, the minimum term for these being 6 months.
Should you only want to be in the property for a short period of time, you may be placed on a holiday contract which is a 30 day term.
Gas Safety Certificate’s & Energy Performance Certificate’s
Gas Safety Certificates have to be renewed every 12 months if not then the landlord is fulfilling their duties.
This is a safety test that is carried out on the boiler and any other gas appliance in the property to ensure that they are okay to use. Letting Agents are legally required to provide this to tenants at the beginning of their tenancy and at any stage that it is renewed throughout their contract.
Should your agent not do this, I would suggest asking for a copy to ensure there are no problems.
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) shows the current performance of the property in comparison to what it has the capability of being. It offers suggestions as to how it can be improved and is renewed every 10 years. If you want to check the EPC for your property you can here.
You will be provided with an Inventory and Schedule of Plight and Condition which is a complete list of goods within the property and also describes their condition.
Some agents do their own and others use a 3rd party company which people believe is fairer. You will be required to sign this and make any amendments if anything has been missed, I would be very careful and make sure you note everything.
Look for everything from small marks on the wall to cracks in furniture, you do not want to be hit at the end of the tenancy for things that could be down to wear and tear.
You could also provide pictures along with your comments, email these over to your agent when you take the inventory in. You’re required to return these within a set period of time, otherwise they will not accept your annotations. Below is an example of an inventory photo.
Management of Tenancy
It is important to check your contracts and statement of payment to see whether your dealing with the agent or landlord throughout the tenancy.
Some landlord choose to only use agents to market their properties and will fully manage all repairs and renewals themselves.
Knowing this will be important when you have an emergency or a repair to report.
When moving in to your rental property, your landlord/agent will notify the utility providers that currently supply the property.
Don’t panic if you don’t take down their details on move in as they will send you a welcome pack and ask your to pick your tariff. You then have the opportunity to either switch to a preferred supplier or stay with them.
Should you change your supplier, please let your Letting Agent or Landlord know!
Don’t forget about your utility bills when vacating your property. A lot of agents will de-register you when they register the next tenant. Its best to give the companies a call yourself as well, this way you can confirm the correct meter reading has been given (as you don’t want to pay for something you’ve not used) and you can provide your forwarding address.
It can be a common issue that this is not done and should you be left responsible for the property’s bills, you will most likely receive demands and this will have a negative effect on your credit score.
During Your Tenancy
Throughout your tenancy you’re unlikely to encounter many problems but there are certain things that you should be aware of.
Depending on your property, Letting Agent and Landlord you could never experience any of these… or you could experience them all!
It is your responsibility, as the tenant, to report any damage that has been made to the property or its contents to either your Landlord or Letting Agent.
If you don’t then at the end of your tenancy the damage could be held against you meaning you lose some or all of your deposit money.
Your contract will state what contents within the property you have the responsibility to maintain. This will be items such as general cleaning and maintenance like replacing smoke alarm batteries, light bulbs and the seal around the bath etc.
Should you have difficulty with any tasks, a lot of Agents/Landlords will have a general handyman who would be happy to help you out, but you would have to foot the bill of course.
Your landlord will be responsible for any building works and replacement of furniture that is advertised with the apartment. Should your boiler go down, this will also be their responsibility, whether it be just your hot water, heating or both!
Notify them straight away as contractors are very busy people and unless you have children or it is an emergency, they may not get to you for a couple of hours.
If you manage to lose your keys you may be locked out of your property, in this scenario it would be best to contact your agent straight away as they should have a spare set. Agents will usually charge for this as they will have to get another set cut and they will incur costs.
If you lose your keys after office hours, check your Agents website, some agents have an after hours number that you could reach.
If you agent doesn’t have an after office hours number then the only other option would be to get a lock smith, please understand this will be at your own cost and you should always inform your agent and provide them with a new key if necessary.
Ending Your Tenancy
When your contract is coming to an end, your agent will ask you if you plan on renewing you contract. If you plan on singing a Tenancy renewal then you may have to pay a small renewal fee in order to draw up your contracts.
Should you not wish to new your Tenancy, you would have to provide a set termed written notice. This will be outlined within your tenancy agreement.
The Landlords acting Letting Agent will then re-market the property and will soon be getting enquiries for viewings.
Try to be fair and let these viewings happen within reason. The Agent must give you 24 hours notice for a viewing, you can either be in for these or go out it depends on your preference.
If you are in for the viewings please go about your usual activity at the end of the day, it’s still your property until you move out day. The viewers or Letting Agent may even have a couple of questions so you can help rent the property again.
On your vacation date, your agent will have an appointment booked with you in order to inspect the condition of the apartment and take meter reads. It is important that you attend these appointments due to the fact this will be what your deposit deductions are based on.
Your Letting Agent will check the condition against the inventory in order to see what damage (if any) has been made to the property since you have been living there. The property also may require further cleaning, carpets if necessary, in order for the next tenant to move in.
If you are at the appointment, you will be able to argue any points and settle on the deductions whilst there, this way your deposit can be released quicker. They will release it as soon as they have had any necessary invoices in, in order to make the decisions.
Tenancy don’t always end as easy as above, there could be multiple things like the landlord sells the property or you could be served notice.
Everybody has had their circumstances change drastically, Landlords are the same. Sometimes they have to sell their properties which usually have tenants in. This process would be exactly the same as the Lettings viewings, except the people coming round will be buying the property.
If an investor is buying the property you may be able to stay in the property and swap landlords. They cannot sell the property until you have left so don’t think you have to leave first thing in the morning.
Notice of Required Possession
Section 21 notices are only valid after a fixed term Tenancy Agreement expires. This means that you may receive one at any point during your Tenancy but it must be for a date in which the tenancy has expired. You may also be served a Section 21 during a Statutory Periodic Tenancy as it has no fixed end date.
You will be required to vacate your rental property on this date, but you may still be able to provide notice and vacate during this time.
However, Landlord may also serve a section 8 notice at any time during your Tenancy. It depends on your Landlord’s requirements for possession of the property, The section 8 notice served will only be valid if your Tenancy is an Assured Tenancy Agreement or Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement.
Your landlord must provide valid reasoning for serving you with a Section 8 notice. Grounds on which your LAndlord can serve you with notice, some examples being;
- Large rent arrears
- Anti-social behavior towards neighbours
- Excessive damage to the rental property
Should you decide to not vacate the property on the date stated on the notice served, there is a very likely chance your Landlord or Letting Agent will take you to court to obtain possession. This can be a long process, and very much a waste of money, unless you have valid reason to believe you can continue to rent the property.
How to get your deposit back at the end of a tenancy very much depends on who your deposit is protected. Earlier on we spoke about the different schemes; The Deposit Protection Service (DPS) and My Deposits and Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Whether your deposit has been insured or
The documents provided to you at the beginning of your Tenancy will detail this process for you to easily understand. Otherwise you can find detailed guides on their websites.
Renting should be a smooth and simple process, and with the right guidance, that’s a great possibility.
We hope that this guide has been helpful for you, and should you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Otherwise head over to Property Drive where you can find details on how to contact us.