Who is responsible for payment of the Utilities?
The tenant takes over the utilities on moving into the property, this would include Water, Gas, Electricity, Council Tax, telephone and TV licence.
What other costs can I expect to incur whilst renting?
You will need a deposit of approximately equal to one months rent or more in some cases. You will also be asked to give a holding deposit once you confirm your wish to rent a certain property. This would be deducted from the first rental payment when you take occupation of the property. You may also have to pay some administration/referencing charges.
Who is responsible for repair/maintenance problems?
The landlord should fix any appliances that need repairing and fulfil their maintenance obligations. However tenants are responsible for breakages. A tenant should report repairs as soon as they become aware.
Will my privacy be respected?
Yes. Your privacy is respected. If you rent through an agent it is not usual that either the landlord or letting agent will try to gain access to the property outside pre agreed times. For example, the agent will want to inspect the property at least twice during the tenancy. They should give you reasonable notice of this. This area is normally covered in the tenancy agreement signed by you and the Landlord.
Does the Letting Agent I choose matter?
Yes. To ensure you receive a professional service its best to choose an agent who is a member of NALS( National approved lettings scheme). Nals members ensure that the transaction is handled properly. An NALS agent works to professional standards that work well for both landlord and tenant. For example, the tenant renting through an NALS agent can expect that the landlord will carry out safety checks e.g. gas, electrics, furntiture etc. The correct tenancy agreement will be used, ensuring that responsibilities are clearly set down and privacy of the tenant is adequate. An NALS agent will also have proper procedures for reporting and dealing with repairs and furthermore provide a bonding scheme, which will protect your deposit (details available). You may be advised to check if the agent is part of The Ombudsman scheme for Estate Agents (part of the OFT)
How long do I have to rent for?
Most tenancy agreements are for a twelve month period. However some landlords may consider shorter terms of say six months, with some Landlords considering a break clause (two months notice after four months) with a years agreement.
What happens if I want to leave early?
If you give notice earlier than permitted within the terms of your contract breach), you'll be liable to pay the rent until the end of the tenancy unless the property is re-let and you pay the Landlord's out of pocket expenses. However, when drawing up agreements you could negotiate a break clause entitling you to give notice after four months. This would mean you'd be liable for the rent for the notice period of two months - releasing you from the remaining six months on a twelve month tenancy. This scenario rolls on month to month. EG give notice at five months move after seven and so on.
Where the Landlord does not carry out repair works, can I stop paying the rent?
This is a dangerous tactic because you would be in breach of the tenancy agreement and the landlord could take you to court. However, it would be worth taking advice if an important repair is needed such as the boiler not operating or a leak petruding through the roof. A tenant should not stop paying the rent until they are satisfied that the delay is due to the landlord and not on the part of the agent or contractors. Some agents ask for repairs to be reported in writing - this avoids ambiguity.
What is the most common type of agreement used and can I add things that concern me?
An Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement is used for a six to twelve month rental. This is normally a standard contract between landlord and tenant.
Will I have any contact with the Landlord or will the Agent handle all matters?
The letting agent will deal with the property viewings, references, agreements and assisting you through the moving process. The contact then depends on which service the agent is acting on behalf of the landlord for. There are three services, Let Only, Rent Processing, Management. If the landlord takes the Let Only option all correspondence with the agent after "move in " is ended apart from any advice needed. Rent Processing is the same but the agent will collect the rent from the tenant and pass on to the landlord. With the management service the tenant will deal on all matters via the agent who will have a dedicated"management department" to deal with all relevant issues and queries.
What does the Letting Agent do?
The agents Client is the landlord. Therefore their powers are limited in helping you. However the accepted guidelines in the letting industry mean that you should be able to rely on a professional letting agent taking any of your concerns seriously during the tenancy and advising the landlord if they are being unreasonable. The agent has a professional obligation and duty of care to the tenant. A professional agent should not undertake to let any property that is unsafe (doesn't conform to safety regulations) or over priced and would also support the Tenants viewpoint if they believe them to be valid and lawful.