You've found a property to rent and you are one step closer
to becoming a tenant. Here, Collas Crill property expert Michael
Morris provides advice on how to secure the right property, deal
with tenancy agreements and inventories and understand your rights
and duties as a tenant, whether you're looking at a studio, a
flat or a house.
The first thing that your landlord will want to do (after taking
a deposit) will be to make sure that you are going to be a good
tenant and that you will be able to pay the rent. If you are not
able to obtain all of the information they are looking for (for
example you may not have rented before) or if any of the references
suggests that you might be a risk to the landlord, you may be asked
to provide a guarantor (who will normally need to provide their own
references). The guarantor will be liable to the landlord should
you either fail to pay the rent or damage the property.
The next step is to pay the deposit. The deposit is normally one
to three month's rent and is held (usually by the landlord) for
the duration of the lease. The purpose of the deposit is to provide
the landlord with a safety net in the event that you cause damage
to the property or its contents. You are normally required to put
right any damage you have caused, or clean anything that is soiled
beyond normal wear and tear. If you have damaged any items, the
landlord can replace them from the deposit.
Some tenants take the law into their own hands at the end of the
lease and hold back the last month's rent, leaving the landlord
with the deposit. You have no legal right to do this, and the
landlord can easily take you to court to recover the missing
This is one of the most important documents in the renting
process. It often holds the key to how much of your deposit you
will get back at the end of the lease. You should therefore review
it extremely carefully. The inventory is a list detailing every
item contained in the property and its condition on the day that
you move in. The inventory is usually prepared by either the
landlord or the letting agent. You will visit the property with one
or the other of them and agree the state and condition of
everything listed on the inventory. It might be an idea to take a
camera and to take photos of the condition of the property. This
will give you added protection at the end of the lease and may help
to avoid an argument at a later stage. Once the inventory is
agreed, you should sign it and initial every page.
It is most common for the inventory to be checked and confirmed
on the day that you move out. You should pay as much attention to
agreeing the inventory when you are checking out as when you moved
in. If the landlord believes something has been damaged, this is
your opportunity to discuss it with them.
The state of the property
When you are viewing the property, try to look at it with a
calculating eye. Don't be rushed by the landlord or the letting
agent, and take particular care to look at every room in the
property thoroughly. Look for signs of problems, particularly where
the bathrooms or kitchen may have been recently redecorated. The
sparkling new coat of paint may be an attempt to cover up mould. If
you don't spot a problem, it may be down to you to roll up your
sleeves and get the sugar soap out!
The agreement itself can pose problems, so it is important to
read it very carefully. You need to check each clause in the
agreement, making sure that you understand them and understand what
your duties are. If in doubt, seek legal advice.
Look out for any unfair clauses or anything that seem to give
unreasonable power to your landlord. Check that there are no
clauses that allow the landlord or the letting agent to change the
terms of the lease whenever they like. Also make sure that your
landlord cannot come to the property without giving you prior
notice (usually 24 hours unless there is an emergency). Check that
it is not your responsibility to make structural repairs to the
The length of lease
Most leases run for 12 months. Once you have signed up, you will
be required to pay the rent for the whole period. If you think you
may want to leave before 12 months, ask for a break clause in the
lease. Some landlords will allow you to leave earlier, but this may
be subject to finding another tenant that they are happy with and
they may look to you to meet their costs of finding such a
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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