10 Important Things you Should Know Before you Rent a Home
Home is where the heart is - or so the saying goes. And your heart is pretty special, right? So if you’re planning on putting it into a rental property you want to know exactly what you’re getting into. Here are 10 important questions you should be asking before signing that tenancy agreement …
1: How much is my deposit, who holds it, and when do I get it back?
A deposit is usually required by a landlord - it’s intended to offer them some protection in the event that the property becomes damaged, or if you don’t pay your bills.
Landlords or lettings agent providing assured shorthold tenancies (the most common type of rental agreement) are required by law to hold your deposit in a protected account of some form under a government-backed Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme (TDP).
The TDP scheme ensures your money is protected, and will be returned to you at the end of the tenancy provided you’ve met the terms of the tenancy agreement, haven’t damaged the property, and have paid your bills and rent.
If you are in dispute with your landlord over the return of your deposit money, the TDP scheme will protect your funds until you’ve sorted things out. Once you’ve agreed how much is to be returned to you (whether you’ve been in dispute or not) the money should be returned to you within 10 days.
2: When is my rent due, and how to do I pay?
Late payment of rent can result in financial penalties, and it’s easy to get caught out, especially in those early months of a tenancy when you’re still settling in.
It’s usual for your first month’s rent to be required in advance, so you can relax a little and know you’re covered at the beginning. But don’t lose sight of your obligations for subsequent months in the bustle and challenge of moving, both in terms of timing, and the amount you are required to pay.
The safest thing to do is set up a direct debit for your monthly rental wedge, as this ensures you’ll never miss a payment, and some landlords and agents actively require it as a condition of rental.
If your finances are a little up and down, however, you may prefer not to do this. Find out what your options are for payment before you set your heart on a property, and be clear on the dates that payment is required and how that fits with your personal cash flow situation.
3: Which bills am I responsible for?
Not all tenancies are created equal, so be sure to understand which bills you’re going to have to pay, and when. Information like this has a direct impact on your monthly outgoings, so do your sums before you sign to avoid getting into debt.
It’s generally the case that you will have to pay the utility bills (gas, electricity, water) but it’s always best to check. Find out, too, what kind of meter the property is on, and who is responsible for taking readings and when.
Prepayment meters for gas and electricity are a popular choice for landlords, but can result in higher bills. Make sure you budget accordingly, and know how and where to purchase top-ups so your first few days in your new home are warm and bright.
Council tax is the other potential unknown - whatever your personal financial circumstances it pays to be clear about who is responsible for this, and if it’s you, find out how much it is.
4: When does my tenancy start and finish?
It may sound obvious, but do ask to know the precise dates of your contract. When can you move in?And when must you leave?
Furthermore, make it your business to check the length of your tenancy (3, 6, 12 months …?) and what rights and obligations you and your landlord have around giving notice. If you don’t abide by the dates laid out in your agreement you could end up paying more rent than you need to.
5: Can I keep pets in the property?
Finding a rental property that will accept pets is not always as easy as you think. Don’t be tempted to make assumptions about whether your furry, feathered or scaly friends are allowed in your rental property - always check. The last thing you need is to be evicted for breaking the terms of your rental agreement.
Happily, there are landlords out there who are content for their properties to accommodate pets, provided they are well behaved and non-disruptive. Ensure any tenancy agreement you sign specifies what pets you are permitted to keep - this information will usually have to be added, so do check that this has been done.
If your household includes pets, you know that accidents can sometimes happen. For your own protection, and clarity and transparency between you and your landlord, make sure you also understand what your responsibilities are if your pet damages your rental home in some way. Consider insurance if necessary to ensure you are financial protected.
6: Am I allowed to redecorate and put things on the walls?
There is nothing like adding a personal touch to your surroundings to make yourself feel at home, but many rental agreements prohibit this. And if you actively defy the terms of your tenancy you could face losing your deposit, or worse.
Ask if you are able to change the paint colour, wallpaper or flooring. If you are, be happy but cautious - don’t forget to ask if you’ll be obliged to reinstate the original décor when you leave at your own cost.
Of course, your plans may not involve a long-term stay in your rental home so decorating may be off your radar, but keep your wits about you anyway.
You may want to put up shelves, curtain rails or blinds. Perhaps you have pictures or posters you’d like to hang with pins, tape or blu tack. Or maybe you have a network, TV or speaker system that requires the routing of cables all over your home.
It’s vital you ask if these things are okay - often you will find clauses hidden deep in your tenancy agreement that explicitly forbid you from doing them. It’s easy to get caught out.
7: Am I responsible for maintenance, cleaning and gardening?
Most tenancy agreements place the onus on the tenant to keep the property clean and tidy, and to tend any garden or outdoor space that is available to you as part of the rental.
And your landlord will typically be responsible for general maintenance of the overall property, including ensuring that any white goods that have been furnished with the rental are in good working order.
But there can be grey areas, so do take care to check whether you are responsible for things such as exterior window cleaning, blocked gutters and drains, changing outside light bulbs, loose hinges, leaky taps … etc.
8: What are the neighbours like?
Most folks are pretty decent, and will not be your ‘Nightmare Neighbour Next Door’. But different people have different sensitivities, so if something is important for your personal quality of life, be sure to ask about it and how it may fit into your proposed neighbourhood before committing to a tenancy.
For example, if you have a young family it may be unwise to take a rental property close to a pub or bar that offers regular late-night entertainment. Noise travels.
Equally, if your own household is a busy one - perhaps you have a lot of noisy pets, vehicles, or tools that you use, for example - it would be considerate to seek a rental property that isn’t too close to other homes, or to select an area where your lifestyle complements those of your prospective new neighbours, rather than clashing with it.
9: What’s the area like at different times of day?
If you’re unfamiliar with the area that your moving into it’s always a good idea to check it out at different times of the day, and weigh up what you find against what’s important to you and your family:
Is the area well lit? Is it safe to walk around alone?
Or perhaps it’s too bright - will you need blackout curtains?
Who lives in the neighbourhood? What seems to be a peaceful residential street by day, for example, could transform into the local teenage meeting-ground by night. This may suit the needs of some … but not others.
Are you close to leisure facilities or schools that may create noise, traffic and pollution?
Checking out the crime statistics for a given area can also give a good general idea of how your selected area fits into the rest of the town, and what kind of neighbourhood it is. StreetCheck is a really useful website that offers a mine of information about an area by postcode.
10: What are my TV and internet options?
TV and internet are generally services that you as the tenant will be expected to pay for, but little things like the presence of a satellite dish or roof ariel, or existing telephone line or broadband connectivity, can save you money.
Ask your landlord or letting agent about the services present at any property you are considering. It can also be worth checking out what kind of mobile phone signal is available at the property, and from which network providers.
At Penrose we always have a range of rental properties available to suit every lifestyle and budget. We know that a home is a home whether you rent or buy, and make it our business to help you select the property that is right for all your needs. Contact us today to discuss your rental requirements, and we’ll be happy to help you with your search.