Ask Tenants blog
Renting, rather than buying a property, has grown in popularity. Figures from Statista show that rental has more than doubled since 2000 to around 4.55 million households in 2019.
Since the pandemic hit, numbers have increased again. In a time of economic uncertainty, renting requires less of a commitment than buying a house. But, if you plan to rent, make sure you understand your obligations and your rights as a tenant.
In this guide on behalf of our team at Ask Tenants, you can find out what you need to know when renting from a private landlord. Before you start the search for a property, you’ll find it’s worth reading a handy guide available from the government – ‘How to rent’.
Finding the right property
You’ll find property listings in a variety of places. It could be as simple as a notice in a local newsagent, an ad in the property pages of a local paper, or a listing on the website of an online letting agent or a High Street estate agent.
Although the property listings give some details, it’s essential to see the property for yourself. During the lockdown, it was only possible to see virtual viewings, but you can now arrange a viewing in person.
Seeing the property first hand gives you the chance to check all the details and the condition of the property. And, it gives you the opportunity to meet the landlord — not just to ask questions about rent and the property, but to get a feel for the sort of relationship to expect.
Completing the paperwork
When you’ve found your next home, the landlord will ask you to complete a number of documents. You will need to provide proof of your identity, your right to rent and your income. If you have references from your employer or from previous rentals, they will be useful in proving that you will be a reliable tenant. The landlord may also want to carry out a tenant credit check, but only with your agreement.
When the background checks are complete, you need to complete a tenancy agreement. This is a formal contract that sets out the rent, amount of deposit, payment dates, and your obligations to keep the property in good condition. You should also ask for a property inventory so that you are aware of everything that you are responsible for in the property.
Before moving in you will have to pay a deposit, which the landlord can use to pay for any damages. The deposit is protected by a government scheme and your landlord must provide you with a copy confirming that it has been registered with an appropriate scheme.
You may also have to pay some rent in advance, but you will not have to pay any fees for items such as administration or background checks.
Information from the landlord
The landlord must provide you with a number of legally required documents as well as important contact information. Check that I have received copies of the documents described earlier – the tenancy agreement, property inventory, confirmation of deposit and the government’s ‘How to rent’ guide.
The landlord must also provide a rent book, which will list all your future payments, an Energy Performance Certificate, a gas safety certificate, electrical inspection certificate, smoke alarm certificate and carbon monoxide alarm certificate. You will need the landlord’s full contact details in case of problems or emergencies.
The landlord’s rights and obligations
Your landlord is responsible for carrying out essential repairs in a reasonable time to keep the property safe – for example, plumbing, electrical or boiler repairs. They also have to ensure that all the relevant safety checks are carried out on time. Depending on your tenancy agreement, the landlord may have the right to inspect the property at any time to check that you are keeping it in good order.
The landlord has the right to raise the rent during your tenancy, but they have to follow rules that cover the amount of increase and the type of tenancy you have. The landlord has the right to expect rental payment on time. If you find that you cannot meet payments, landlords have the right to end the agreement and seek an eviction from the court. They also have the right to take action if you damage the property or are found to be causing anti-social behavior.
However, when the coronavirus lockdown began in March, the government introduced a ban on evicting tenants for an initial period of three months. As the pandemic continued to bite, the ban on evictions was extended to August 23rd. It has now been extended by a further four weeks to September 20th. If the landlord wins the case in court, they cannot force you to leave home for six months, although the timescales are different for cases of deliberate damage or anti-social behavior.
Read More: Challenging Tenancy Deposit Deductions
Your rights and obligations
Your main obligations are to keep the property in good repair and pay the rent on time.
If there is damage, the landlord can deduct the costs from your initial deposit. If you want to carry out any improvements to the property, decorating for example, make sure you have the landlord’s agreement. If you think you will have problems paying rent on time, speak to the landlord. You may be able to reach an informal agreement that suits both parties before a case for eviction becomes necessary.
If you want to move or end the tenancy agreement, check your contract. You may have to give the landlord an agreed period of notice. When you leave, ask for your deposit to be returned and check that any amounts the landlord wants to deduct for damages are genuine.
If you are uncertain about your rights and obligations or feel the landlord is acting unfairly, a good source of help and advice is your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau.