Alastair Woodgate of leading St Albans and Watford based chartered surveyors, Rumball Sedgwick, offers a few pointers to would-be renters.
“Are you thinking about renting this year? If so you’ll be joining a growing sector of the population. Nearly 40% of households are now rented rather than owner-occupied and the trend towards renting, acknowledged in last month’s Housing White Paper, is predicted to continue, particularly in areas such ours where property prices remain out of the reach of many.
So, what should you bear in mind? Firstly, decide how much you can reasonably afford to pay in rent allowing for the usual outgoings including Council Tax, fuel, contents insurance, TV and broadband. Most landlords will also require you to put down at least six weeks’ rent as a security deposit. This provides the landlord with potential compensation if you cause any damage, (fair wear and tear excepted). Deposits must be registered with a government approved tenancy deposit scheme to ensure the money is protected. These schemes also provide a dispute resolution service if, at the end of the tenancy, there is disagreement over any amounts charged.
Agents must display a list of all the charges that apply to renting a property so check this at the outset. (In the Autumn Statement it was announced letting agents will be stopped from imposing upfront charges on tenants, but this has yet to be introduced).
Agents’ details provide a brief summary of the property only, so feel free to ask as many questions as you want. Smoking is generally prohibited. There will often be restrictions on pets. Is parking allocated or a free-for-all? If there is a garden, who is responsible for its upkeep?
Even if the property is being let unfurnished, make sure you have an inventory, with photographs, agreed between you and the landlord. This ensures that at the end of the tenancy you won’t be charged for defects that were in the property when you took it over. And don’t forget to agree the meter readings at the start of the tenancy.
Your tenancy will be in the form of a legal document known as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. Read this thoroughly and ask as many questions as you need to ensure you understand both your landlord’s and your obligations.
The monthly rent is likely to be paid by standing order. If there is any problem with the property, don’t withhold rent – it puts you in breach of the tenancy agreement and could show up in future referencing checks.
When searching for your ideal home bear in mind that the rental market locally is fast-moving and new instructions can be snapped up in a matter of hours. So register with letting agents and set up email alerts for properties coming to the market. For peace of mind look out for agents accredited with the Association of Residential Letting Agents, The National Approved Lettings Scheme, and/or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). And happy hunting!”