We've put together a useful guide for tenants to answer all the common questions that we're asked about renting a property.
Does it matter which letting agent I rent through?
Yes. You’re guaranteed a professional service which works for tenants and landlords through an ARLA member agent (Association of Residential Letting Agents).
I know how much the rent is. Do I need to budget for anything else?
One week’s rent will be taken to secure a property and will be held for 15 calendar days (unless otherwise expressly agreed) in order to complete all tenancy documents. This amount will be attributed to the first month’s rent following execution of all tenancy documents within the 15 calendar days of receipt of the holding deposit. This will be withheld if any relevant person(s) (including any guarantor(s)) withdraw from the tenancy, fail a Right-to-Rent check, provide materially significant false or misleading information, or fail to sign their tenancy agreement (and/or Deed of Guarantee) within 15 calendar days.
Equal to five weeks rent – this covers damages or defaults on the part of the tenant(s) during the tenancy.
Do I pay bills like water and Council Tax on top of the rent?
Yes, you as a tenant, are usually responsible for paying all utility bills, including council tax and water.
What does a letting agent do for me as a tenant?
The landlord hires an agent to act in their interest. However as Sarah Mains Residential are a registered professional ARLA letting agent and follows best practice rules, you benefit as well as the landlord.
Using Sarah Mains Residential, means that you sign an agreement (an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, usually called an AST) which clearly sets out your responsibilities as well as the landlord’s. So you both know exactly where you stand.
Who do I deal with?
We arrange viewings, vet references, draw up agreements before you move into the property. If the landlord has employed us to manage the property, we’ll be the people you talk to after moving in, should you have any problems or concerns. You will be allocated your own personal property manager to contact throughout your tenancy. If the landlord manages their own properties, any queries or notice of repairs etc should be made direct to them.
How long will my tenancy last?
Six or twelve months are the usual lengths of tenancies; this is agreed between you and the landlord before we draw up the lease agreements.
How often does the landlord or agent come around?
Normally, landlords and letting agents make at least two visits to you during your tenancy – this is not only to check that the property is being maintained to a good standard, it also is a chance for you to point out anything that you wish to bring to their attention. To respect your privacy, they should always give you notice before they visit. This is usually dealt with in the tenancy agreement.
This tenancy agreement. What kind will it be?
Most residential tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs). It’s a standard landlord-tenant contract.
Can I rent out rooms or share the property?
As long as all of the other tenants’ names are on the Assured Shorthold Agreement (AST), they have passed referencing and the landlord has agreed. If you don’t, you’ll be breaking the terms of the agreement. With a flatshare, you will all be responsible ‘jointly and severally’. Sometimes tenants can be added to an agreement at a later date if necessary – again, subject to our checks and the landlords consent. In these circumstances the landlord may require a higher level of rent, as there will be more wear and tear in the property with more people living there.
If the landlord or agent is slow to make repairs, can I withhold the rent?
It’s a difficult situation to be in and we hope it never happens to you. However if you do withhold the rent you will be in breach of the tenancy agreement and the landlord can take you to court. If you have a letting agent managing the property, you should contact them directly about any repairs. You may be asked to do this in writing to avoid confusion. A letting agent may well have a deposit from the landlord for minor repairs. However, they will still need permission from the landlord to draw from it.
If the landlord is managing the property and the repair is major, it could be worth getting some legal advice from a solicitor.
How much notice do I have to give if I want to leave before the tenancy’s over?
By law, you will be liable for the rent until the agreed end of the tenancy. However in extreme circumstances, the landlord may be reasonable about this and agree to release you from your agreement when they have found a new tenant.
When do I get my deposit back?
Your deposit can be returned to you after an inspection of the property as early as the final day of your tenancy. Deductions may be made for damages. Legally you’re entitled to the deposit no later than ten days after that date providing nothing is in dispute.
The landlord won’t return my deposit. What do I do?
It is now a legal requirement that all deposits are protected by a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. You are given the information on the relevant scheme when you sign your lease.
The schemes vary, however they all protect your deposit. If there is a dispute over part of your deposit, the remainder is required to be returned to you no later than ten days after the end of the tenancy.
You or the landlord can apply (either together or separately) to the Deposit Scheme to have your case referred if there is a dispute. Once a resolution has been reached, the deposit must be returned within ten days if applicable.