10 Ultimate Tips For Renters

Post by : Elliot Preece on 16.09.2020

Are you about to become a renter for the first time or maybe you’ve had negative rental experiences in the past and need advice? Renting an apartment or house can be a pleasant, stress-free process when you’re armed with the right information. 

Understanding the cost of rent, letting agent fees, and who’s responsible for the necessary paperwork all put you in the position to make the best financial decision possible. 

Keep reading to learn more helpful tips for renting your next property.

1. Get Your Own Insurance

The landlord isn’t the only one who should obtain insurance and protection. Renter’s insurance covers things like your belongings, living arrangements, and associated costs. If you’re renting a fully-furnished property, the landlord often carries content insurance to protect their furniture and appliances. 

When you bring your own items in, it’s in your best interest to obtain insurance. As far as the building and structure itself, this is protected by the landlord’s homeowner’s insurance policy.

2. Make Sure Your Deposit is Protected

Landlords renting out a property often require a security deposit. While this is common, it’s also your right to have it protected. Not only that, but they need to protect your deposit in a government-approved scheme within 30 days of receiving it. 

This protection guarantees that you get your full deposit back at the end of the tenancy (as long as you meet all of the tenancy agreement terms). 

Once you and the landlord agree on the returned amount, you must receive it within 10 days of the tenancy ending. In the event that you and your landlord can’t agree on a return amount, deposit protection guarantees that a dispute resolution service will investigate the case and decide how much of the deposit you receive. 

Don’t take the landlord’s word for it. Instead, double-check that your deposit is protected by asking them which scheme it’s protected under before signing a final contract. 

Other tips to ensure you receive your deposit include:

  • Fixing any damage prior to the end of the tenancy agreement
  • Pay for a deep cleaning
  • Make sure no items are missing or broken
  • Check the contract for all stipulations surrounding the return of your deposit
  • Avoid making late payments

If you’re paying letting agent fees, your agent can help guarantee your deposit is protected and you get it back.

3. Always Pay Your Rent on Time

This seems like an obvious piece of advice but sometimes, even tenants with the best intentions fall behind on their rental payments. Not only could this cost you your deposit, but it could mess up your credit and credibility in the future. 

In the same turn, paying your rent on time, consistently, can actually give your credit score a much-needed boost. This is extremely beneficial if you plan to purchase a home after the end of your tenancy agreement. A good credit score makes you a much more desirable candidate for a mortgage. 

If you’re a social housing tenant or private renter you can opt into a free scheme known as a Rental Exchange Initiative. 

This scheme records all of your rental payments, automatically sending them to a credit reference agency. Don’t join this type of scheme unless you know you can make your payments on time.

4. Download Rental Apps

There’s an app for that. It’s never been easier to find available rental properties. 

Using mobile apps, lets you search and view rental properties on the go. Most letting agents, including online letting agents, use two of the most popular sites/apps – Zoopla and Rightmove. Zoopla and Rightmove both provide real-time information about nearby rentals. 

You can receive an alert when you’re strolling past a pad or flat that was recently placed on the market. 

There are also apps available for keeping your bills organized and paid on time. This is especially important if you’re in a room share arrangement with multiple tenants sharing the financial responsibilities. 

Anyone with access to the app can update recent bill payments or upcoming expenses. You can add due dates and reminders. You can also add recurring payments, one-time-only payments, and notes for your flatmates. 

Leave detailed notes for your roommates, request money, and use this information later on as a record of payments and expenses. 

Make sure you choose flatmates you can trust since their payments (or lack of payments) can negatively impact your credit score and the ability to borrow money in the future.

5. Know Your Rights for Privacy

When you’re renting someone else’s property, they technically own it. But once you sign a contract and are a paying tenant, you have rights too! 

Depending on what’s stated in your tenancy agreement, the landlord may need to gain access to the property for a variety of reasons. 

Property checks and repairs are the two most common. If your agreement says no pets, they have the right to perform a check to ensure you didn’t sneak a dog, cat, or another furry friend into the house. They’ll also need to get inside to perform any repairs or maintenance in the event the property is damaged or broken.

While landlords can perform these checks, they can’t bust down your door without warning at all hours of the day and night. Reputable landlords will give you notice before entering and schedule a convenient time for you both. 

Some regulations state that landlords must provide private renters with at least 24 hours notice before entering and schedule it during a reasonable time of day (unless there’s some sort of emergency). letting agents and landlords can’t show up without asking first and if they do, you are within your rights to ask them to leave. If they don’t respect your privacy and wishes, they may be charged with harassment.

6. Vet Your Landlord

Tenants aren’t the only ones in need of vetting. One way to prevent a bad rental experience is by vetting your landlord the same way they vet and research tenants like you. 

Not all landlords are responsible or provide the services you’re entitled to. As much as you may love the rental property, it’s easier to find a new one (maybe using the apps we mentioned), than it is being stuck in a tenancy agreement with a landlord you can’t trust or makes your life a nightmare!

There are a few ways to do this. Start by making sure you get the landlord’s full name and contact information before you hand over a deposit, first month’s rent, or sign a contract. Have your letting agent confirm the landlord really owns the property. This brings us to the next tip which is to pay letting agent fees to get an expert on your side. Firms that rent out a property on behalf of the landlord do all the legwork for you and guarantee they’re reputable and reliable.

7. Hold Your Landlord Accountable

Tenants have lots of responsibilities from paying their rent on time to returning the property and its contents (if you’re renting a furnished space) how you found them. 

But the landlord has their own set of responsibilities when renting out a property and knowing what they are means you can hold them accountable. 

Most contracts detail exactly what the landlord is responsible for. At a minimum, they need to obtain and pay for building insurance, make sure the property is safe (including electrical wiring and fire alarms), and making sure the property is in liveable condition.

Another major responsibility is organizing all necessary paperwork. This includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Security Deposit Protection Scheme (mentioned earlier)
  • Emergency Performance Certificate
  • Fire safety label for any furniture provided by the landlord
  • Gas Safety Certificate
  • Copy of the local governments How to Rent Guide (this is a new regulation as of 1 October 2019)

Some landlords rely on naive tenants who don’t know their rights or what services the landlord is required to provide. Do your homework before signing a contract and make sure the landlord is upholding their end of the agreement.

8. Understand letting agent Fees

A recent law that was passed on 1 June 2019 that bans landlord and letting agent fees in England. Another law passed on 1 September 2019 banned them in Scotland and Wales. 

All too often letting agents and landlords tack on added fees and expenses after you enter the tenancy agreement. Things like administrative and processing fees are some of the most prevalent. Uninformed and unaware renters often paid these fees without realizing their error. It’s important to understand your rights as a tenant.

Here is a list of the only fees that landlords and letting agents can legally pass onto the tenant.

  • An agreed-upon rental amount
  • Council tax and utilities (if listed in the tenancy agreement)
  • A refundable security deposit. This deposit cannot exceed 5 weeks rent if the annual rent is less than £50,000 or 6 weeks if it exceeds this amount.
  • Any changes to the agreement at the request of the tenant. This is capped at £50 or whatever both parties agree are reasonable costs.
  • Early termination of the tenancy by the tenant’s request
  • Fines for lost keys or late payments 

You’re also entitled to evidence for any of the above-listed expenses. Make sure you read the contract carefully and keep your eyes open for any suspicious and illegal charges.

9. Get Permission to Renovate and Redecorate

We get it. You want to make the rental space your own. But before you start painting walls or changing the structure of the property, you need to check with your landlord. After all, they own it! In most cases, it’s your obligation to return the property in the same condition you received it (minus basic wear and tear). 

Any redecorating changes you make will need to be returned to their previous state, which is why it’s recommended you don’t make any permanent changes. In rare cases, the landlord may actually like your suggested changes (a new wall color, shelves, or outdoor landscaping). 

If so, get it in writing that these are approved upgrades that you don’t need to put back or change at the end of your tenancy agreement. 

Another tip when hanging pictures or photos on the wall is to use picture strips instead of nails. Nails leave unsightly holes that will need repairing before you move out. 

Picture strips are just as strong and effective and don’t damage the walls or leave behind permanent holes.

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle

The rental price isn’t written in stone. Just because the original rent was listed as a certain number doesn’t mean the landlord may not be open to negotiations. Maybe they’ve had a vacancy for months or they’re desperate for the money. 

Or the opposite – maybe they don’t need the income and are feeling generous enough to give you a break. Either way, it can’t hurt to ask! Plus, every little bit helps. Even if you negotiate for £10 less a month, that adds up over time and could mean big savings for you.

One way to haggle is to pay close attention to any flaws with the property or areas that don’t quite fit the description or your expectations. Make a list of any imperfections to use in your favor. 

Things like worn carpets, peeling or marked-up paint, or outdated appliances. If there’s nothing unsightly, ask about whether the monthly rent covers any repairs. 

Although it might not, if you negotiate it into your agreement then any damages or repairs that come up during your tenancy will be covered by your rent.

There you have it. Ten tips from experienced renters who know their way around a tenancy agreement. 

With a little insight and the right tools, you can enter into a solid contract that protects both yours’ and the landlord’s rights. You can also choose to make your life easier by paying letting agent fees and having someone else handle the headaches for you!

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