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The latest figures from letting agents suggest that the UK still has a healthy appetite for rental properties. According to The Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) over half (54.8 per cent) its members reported that they had more tenants on their books than available properties to rent. With demand so high, those seeking rental properties for the first time may feel rushed into a decision without fully understanding the legal obligations or what to expect from the landlord so ARLA has today issued advice on what you need to do or know beforehand embarking on a tenancy.
Ian Potter, Managing Director, ARLA said: “Many people find the prospect of renting a home daunting, whatever their age or experience. Particularly in today’s competitive market prospective tenants may rush into making a decision about a property for fear of losing out.
“But tenants should remember that rules and procedures vary depending on the type of tenancy. Researching their obligations and fully understanding the legal aspects of being a tenant, even before they start searching for a property to rent, is vital.”
ARLA has the following advice to help those unfamiliar with renting make their experience as smooth and trouble-free as possible:
1. Lettings is an unregulated industry: The rental industry is not subject to any central Government legislation, meaning that anyone can set up as a letting agent or landlord. For peace of mind, do your research and seek advice from a letting agent affiliated to a professional organisation like ARLA. All ARLA agents must adhere to a strict code of conduct, as well as offering client money protection and redress schemes, which help protect consumers if things go wrong.
2. Your deposit should be secure: Typical deposits required can range from anywhere between four to six weeks’ rent. This deposit should be paid by your landlord or agent into one of three government-approved tenancy deposit schemes. It is a legal requirement that the landlord or lettings agent protects the deposit in this way. Tenants can find out more at: www.direct.gov.uk.
3. A professional inventory can help protect you: A detailed inventory compiled at the start of the tenancy assists in assessing any costs that may be deducted from your deposit at the end of your contract. Be present when the inventory is being done; if that’s not possible, insist on seeing a copy to ensure you agree with what has been noted. If there are photographs make sure they are good quality and reflect accurately any items captured. All documents should be signed and agreed by both landlord and tenant.
4. There are different kinds of tenancy agreement: Many shared tenancies contain a joint liability clause and this means you are responsible for the actions of your co-tenants for the duration of the tenancy. This includes covering their share of the rent if they were to unexpectedly move out. Before you enter such an agreement consider how well you know your sharers. And if you are asked for a guarantor when sharing, then make sure that they understand that they are guaranteeing all your responsibilities contained in the tenancy agreement.
5. Meeting safety standards: Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure gas safety is checked annually. Make sure you have seen the gas safety certificate and instructions for all electrical items. Also check to see if all soft furnishings comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) Safety Regulations 1988 and are fire safety compliant. Look for the fire safety label on all furnishings.
6. Energy performance certificates: Energy Performance Certificates should be given to you by your landlord or agent before you move into a new property. This will show you how energy efficient a property is.
7. Carrying out repairs: Advise your landlord or managing agent when things need fixing to avoid bigger problems in the future. Landlords are responsible for most repairs to the exterior or structure of a property including problems with the roof, chimney, walls, guttering and drains, as well as electrical, heating, hot water and sanitary installations. For minor repairs and maintenance the tenant is usually responsible, but any changes – like re-decorating – should be pre-approved by your landlord.
8. Pay bills: Other than paying the rent on time, tenants need to ensure they are paying bills which are not included in the tenancy agreement. In most cases these include bills for council tax, utilities, TV licence, Internet and telephone charges. Tenants must also remember to check their tenancy agreement as some landlords will forbid any change to utilities supplier.
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