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Renting your first home

Thu 2 April 2020

Renting your first property can be an exciting step. Whether you are moving out of your family home or renting having previously been a homeowner, it can also be a daunting prospect and you should make sure you familiarise yourself with your obligations before you enter into a tenancy.

1. Your tenancy agreement                                                           

You should ensure that you read your tenancy agreement carefully before signing it. If you are unsure of anything discuss it with the landlord or the letting agent.

Whilst most landlords and agents use a similar tenancy agreement, there are often specific clauses relating to the property you will be renting. This may include you being made responsible for looking after the garden or to only park your vehicle in a designated place at the property.

If you do not adhere to the terms outlined in your tenancy agreement, the landlord may get in touch to remind you of your obligations and request that you comply going forward.  Consistent breaches may result in the landlord requesting that you vacate the property and/or making a deduction from your tenancy deposit at the end of the tenancy.

2. Rent

It is your responsibility to ensure that your rent is paid in full and on the date it becomes due, whether it is formally demanded or not.

Your tenancy agreement will outline the frequency of your rent payments and the date you are required to pay. Some tenancy agreements include the bank account details for your landlord or their appointed agent who is collecting the rent.

If you are struggling to pay your rent at any time during the tenancy, it is important that you contact your landlord or agent as soon as possible. Communication is key to resolving any issues.

3. Deposit

You will be asked to pay a tenancy deposit (otherwise known as a security deposit) at the beginning of your tenancy. A deposit will be taken by the landlord or letting agent as security against any potential damages or breaches of the tenancy agreement. 

The deposit will be refunded at the end of your tenancy provided the property has been returned in line with the ingoing inventory report and that no rent (or other sums) remain outstanding.

Any deductions from the deposit will need to be agreed by both parties in writing within a set timeframe. If an agreement cannot be reached between the landlord and tenant, there is an adjudication procedure available within the deposit protection schemes which will independently assess the claim and the evidence. The deposit will then be allocated based on their decision.

4. Inventory and check-in

Before you move into the property, the landlord or letting agent will likely appoint an inventory clerk to prepare an inventory report detailing the fixtures and fittings and condition of the property. The clerk (or letting agent) would then meet with you at the property with the report which you will be asked to review and sign confirming your agreement to the condition of the property. It is essential that you read this thoroughly and raise anything you are unsure about or do not agree with immediately so the report can be changed or amended. You will then be supplied with a copy of the report by the clerk, landlord or the letting agent for your records.

5. Utilities

The majority of tenants are responsible for council tax, electricity, gas, water and drainage charges associated with their property, together with any television or broadband packages.

You should ensure that you read the meters on the start date of the tenancy. Often, meter readings will be included in the inventory clerks report.

The property may have existing suppliers that need to be notified of any change of occupier. The landlord should ensure that they look to close and settle any accounts for the period prior to your tenancy. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are correctly registered for any utilities served by the property going forward.

Your tenancy agreement may suggest that you need to seek consent from the landlord before switching suppliers. In practice consent is not withheld unless the letting is a very short-term arrangement, but written consent should be requested to be sure.

6. Contents Insurance

It is your landlord’s responsibility to insure the property you rent with an adequate buildings insurance policy. However, you should look to insure your own contents as soon as possible, ideally by the time your tenancy has started.

7. Pets

If you have a pet, you should ensure that you have raised this prior to viewing the property and at the very latest before you pay your holding deposit.

Whether or not to accept a tenant with a pet can be a difficult decision for a landlord to make, there are a variety of reasons why they may not want dogs, cats, birds etc kept at their rental property. There is a greater potential for damage, noise complaints, odours and concerns future tenants may have certain allergies.

If you are looking to get a pet, you should discuss this with your landlord before bringing one home. The landlord is under no obligation to allow a tenant to keep a pet however if they are agreeable, you should look to obtain consent in writing.

8. Internal decorations and gardens

You will be responsible for ensuring that your property is kept to the same standard as at the beginning of the tenancy throughout your tenancy. This may include touching up any scuffed paintwork, tightening any loose door handles and generally ensuring that the property is kept clean and tidy. If you are interested in decorating the inside of your property you should always seek your landlord’s written consent before doing so. Your landlord will need to approve any paint colours or paint type in advance, but may insist that the property is returned to its original colour scheme at the end of your tenancy.

It is important that you determine who is responsible for maintaining the garden. You may be responsible for ensuring that the grass and hedges are kept tidy and that any borders are kept free from weeds. It is also important to consult your landlord if you are wishing to make any alterations to the garden and obtain their written agreement. The landlord may also request that you reinstate the garden at the end of your tenancy.

9. Neighbours

Your tenancy may be on a short-term basis however you should still behave in a neighbourly fashion towards any nearby residents. Playing loud music late at night or otherwise disturbing your neighbours may be a breach of your tenancy agreement and may result in your landlord asking to terminate your tenancy.

10. Maintenance

Landlords must ensure that they are providing you with a safe and habitable rental property. In order for them to comply with their obligations, you must notify them or the letting agent of any repairs or maintenance required to the property. This includes attending to leaks, boiler problems, and electrical issues.

The tenancy agreement will have provision for a landlord (or letting agent or contractor) to enter the property having given you prior written notice to carry out an inspection or essential repairs to the property.

If an issue or problem has been caused by the tenant or their guests, the landlord will have the right to  request that the tenant covers the cost.

It is important that you consult your landlord or letting agent if you are unsure of how to use or look after any supplied fixtures and fittings.

11. Ending your tenancy

It is important that you read through your tenancy agreement to ensure that you know how to bring your tenancy to an end. Most tenancy agreements are for a fixed period of six or twelve months which means that you are responsible for covering the rent, utilities and fulfilling the contract for the duration.

If you are wishing to end your tenancy, you should write to your landlord to provide them with the notice period outlined in your tenancy agreement. If you unsure of your notice period you should speak to your landlord or letting agent.

If the landlord is wishing to end your tenancy, they will provide you with written notice requesting that the property is vacated by a certain date. Usually this notice period will be no less than two months.

Once notice has been served, you should look to ensure that the property is returned to the same order as outlined in your ingoing inventory. This includes removing your possessions, making sure that the property is cleaned to the same standard and that the garden is tidy. The landlord or letting agent will likely appoint an independent inventory clerk to prepare a check-out report based on the condition of the property upon your vacation and comparing it to that at the beginning of the tenancy.

If you are within your fixed term and your circumstances have changed and therefore you are no longer able to continue with your tenancy, you should speak with your landlord or letting agent immediately. You should not vacate the property or stop paying the rent and utilities. You have signed a contract and this cannot be terminated without  the consent of both parties (tenant and landlord). Whilst under no obligation to do so, a landlord may allow you to leave once a replacement tenant has been found. This could include paying a landlord’s reletting fees and covering the rent up until a replacement tenant has been installed into the property.

12. Continuing your tenancy

If your fixed term is nearing an end and you are wishing to continue renting your property, you should contact your landlord to discuss potentially renewing the tenancy or allowing it to continue on a monthly rolling basis (also known as a periodic tenancy).

Sometimes a landlord may not be able to renew a tenancy as they may need to return to live in the property themselves or be looking to appoint an estate agent to sell the property. They will provide you with written notice if they are wishing to bring the tenancy to an end.

From our offices in East Grinstead, Petworth and Guildford, RH & RW Clutton lets and manages a wide range of properties from apartments to country houses across Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

Please visit our website to see a list of our available instructions or contact our offices to discuss your requirements.






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