Ultimate Guide for First-time Renters
If you’re moving into a property or renting a flat for the first time it can be a little daunting. Moving out of your parents’ home is exciting but it's a new experience. There's a lot to remember. And some legal requirements you're probably not aware of. To help you out we've put together these tips first-time renters to help you prepare for the big move.
Don't just sign anything
When you're moving into your first home, you're bound to be impatient. You can't wait to move in and you don't want to risk losing the property because you've delayed. But do pause before you sign the tenancy agreement to officially seal the deal. Make sure you read and understand the contract you're signing. This is especially important if you're sharing the property with others.
Joint tenancies are different to solo tenancies (where you're the only renter on the lease). In joint tenancies, each tenant is responsible for the other. This means if another tenant causes damage you may have to cover the cost. Joint tenancies can also complicate the rent payments. You’ll probably split the rent equally between you. But ultimately, you're responsible for the whole of the rent. In other words, you may have to pay if one of your housemates can’t.
Finally, if one of the joint tenants serves a notice to quit that notice applies to all the tenants. You may have to leave the property even if you wish to remain.
But whether you're on your own or are sharing with friends make sure you understand the tenancy agreement. You must know your responsibilities as a tenant and whether the agreement has any special clauses you need to abide by. Don't be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification from your landlord or online lettings agent.
Make sure you have all the paperwork
When you move into a property your landlord has a legal duty to provide you with some important paperwork. This includes:
The landlord must give you all of this paperwork. If not, they lose some of their eviction rights. They can’t serve a valid Section 21 notice for example. This means your landlord can’t end the tenancy early. In the case of deposit protection, you can even claim compensation. We discuss this in detail below.
This is very important. The landlord must, by law, use a deposit protection scheme. They must then give you all the details about the scheme within 30 days. If the landlord doesn't do this you can claim compensation of up to three times the amount of the original deposit. The landlord also loses the right to serve a Section 21 notice.
Assuming your deposit is protected it will be returned to you in full at the end of the tenancy. However, if there’s any damage the landlord will want to retain some of the deposit to pay for repairs. But you must agree to those deductions. If you dispute them an independent arbitrator will decide if the costs are fair. The arbitrator’s decision is final.
You need insurance
This is something which can surprise first time renters. But you do need your own contents insurance. Your landlord will have insurance of course but that policy only covers the building itself and any fixtures and fittings which belong to the landlord.
You’re unable to claim on your landlord's insurance if your belongings are damaged or stolen. This is why you must take out your own content’s insurance. Especially if you have valuable personal possessions such as a laptop, phone or jewellery. You can get a quote for this from any of the comparison websites or a local insurance broker.
Be careful how you decorate
It's only natural when you move into a new home you want to make it your own. The place you move into will (or should be) clean and nicely decorated. But you'll want to surround yourself with your own things. But be careful here. Especially if you're thinking about hanging pictures or putting up shelves.
Before you bang in a nail consult your tenancy agreement. Many landlords won’t allow you to decorate or to do any DIY which can damage walls. If you're in any doubt ask the landlord directly. If you do any DIY without permission or hammer nails into the plaster your landlord may deduct the cost of repairs from your deposit.
Keep in touch with your landlord
Make sure you have up to date contact details for your landlord or letting agent. Familiarise yourself with how to report any issues you may have and ensure you have an emergency contact number. If you discover any repairs which need doing or have any concerns contact your landlord immediately.
Get in touch with Citizens Advice or your local council if your landlord fails to carry out repairs. They will be able to provide advice and let you know your rights. But, whatever you do, don't withhold the rent. You have no legal right to do this and by doing so you will be risking eviction.
Private landlords can find tenants fast by listing their property with MakeUrMove the online letting platform bringing landlords and tenants together.