By Jacqui Courtier, Plymouth Homes Lettings Director, Propertymark ARLA Agent
Renting a home for the first time can be a daunting and complicated process. At Plymouth Homes Lettings we feel that renting your home should be an enjoyable and stress-free process. Which is why we have written this handy guide for first-time renters as a guide through those early stages.
The very first thing you should do is work out how much you can afford to pay in rent. Don’t forget to factor in money for bills, which will mostly consist of gas, electricity, council tax, water, telephone, broadband and any other loans you may have. If you like to eat out or enjoy purchasing the latest fashion or gadget must-haves, remember to include these in your budget. You may feel it is important to be able to save for that rainy day, holiday or to buy your own home. To help you work this out, here is a link to our Rent Affordability Calculator
Once you have set a comfortable and affordable budget, you then need to think about the costs involved in finding your new home.
How Much Deposit and Rent in Advance Do I Need?
Generally, landlords and agents request a deposit that equals the value of the monthly rent (which must be legally protected) plus a month’s rent in advance.
Rent in Advance
So, for example, if your moving in date is the 1st of June, this is also the start date of your tenancy agreement. You have paid rent on the first and that pays the rent for the whole of that month. The rent is then due again on the first of the next month, so you are paying rent in advance for that month.
If you are going to rent through an agent, the chances are that you are going to be charged fees. This can be very complicated and currently, different agents charge different levels of fees, which can be very confusing. All letting agents are now legally required to be clear on their fees and must prove that they have provided you with their fee structure. In addition, all agents are required to have their agency fees displayed on their website and within their offices. Be sure you are clear on all of the administration fees.
Check How Expensive the Fees Are
Watch out for resigning fees, moving in fees, check out fees, inventory fees and any other fee that they must tell you about so you can budget accordingly. Some agents charge every 6 months to re-sign a new tenancy agreement. This can be expensive if you are looking for a long-term tenancy.
Plymouth Homes only charge one fair fee, that covers the cost of the administration of the referencing and credit reference, the right to rent check that we are legally required to do, the creation of the tenancy agreement, taking time to sit with you to discuss the tenancy agreement so we are satisfied that you understand your obligations and rights, the check in and for all of our fully managed properties a professional schedule of condition of the property. Here is a link to our fee structure. https://www.plymouthhomes.co.uk/tenant-fees.html
Things to Consider When Looking for Your New Home
What do you need to consider when looking for your new home? Have you heard about the EPC certificate? It is a really useful piece of information and it is also a legal requirement that you have sight of it prior to signing your tenancy agreement.
What is an EPC?
EPC stands for Energy Performance Certificate. This will give you a good idea of how expensive your bills are. The ratings run from A to E. It is now illegal to let a property out with a rating that is below E.
A is fantastic, this means that your new home is not expensive to run; however, it is very rare to find an EPC with an A Rating. The most common is B, generally found in new-build properties. So, B is also fantastic, C is good and D and E means that it will be costlier to heat in the winter months. So, looking at the rating is, in my opinion, a really important factor when considering your new home.
Choosing an Agent or Landlord
When looking for your home it will also be worth asking your landlord or agent questions on how good they are when dealing with maintenance issues. Does the agent have a positive reputation? Is your landlord Accredited? Does the Agent belong to a professional body, such as Propertymark ARLA to keep your money safe?
Using a Propertymark ARLA Agent provides the assurance that the agent will act in a professional and knowledgeable manner. This should give you peace of mind that your money is safe, because we as Propertymark ARLA agents must belong to a client money protection scheme.
Sadly, it is not yet a legal requirement for agents to belong to such a scheme. Plymouth Homes do this voluntarily as part of our commitment to professional conduct.
Unfortunately, there are some rogue agents out there, so be careful and ask lots of questions. The same can be said of landlords, of course. The good news is that there are many more great landlords and agents than there are bad ones. Many landlords choose to be Accredited voluntarily so I encourage you to ask them and ask them for a copy of their certificate.
When you start looking at properties, you should look out for things like smoke alarms. Are they fitted? Is the property in good condition? Are there any signs of damp or mould around the property? Is the fuse box up to date? Is there heating at the property?
Heating is something that is surprisingly easy for people to forget about, particularly if you are moving in during the summer months. Under the housing health and safety rating system, not having adequate heating can mean that the property would be classed as a Category One hazard.
Is the landlord or agent approachable, friendly and knowledgeable about the property you are looking at? If something is not quite right at the property, will they put it right before you move in? Make sure you have any promises in writing. Remember when renting you will have a professional relationship with your landlord or agent. Do you think you can get on with them during the term of the tenancy? In my experience this is extremely important, because it can make the difference between a happy tenancy and the opposite if things were to go wrong.
The tenancy agreement is sometimes referred to as an AST, which stands for Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement. This is the main type of tenancy agreement that you will be asked to sign.
Believe it or not, having a tenancy agreement is not a legal requirement. However, it is wise for any tenant to insist upon one. A tenancy agreement should be clear and easy to read and should not contain any unfair clauses. For example, the landlord cannot pass the cost of a gas safety check to you.
The tenancy agreement should be sent to you by email or in hard copy format, ideally 48 hours prior to signing. It is important that you read the tenancy agreement and feel confident to ask any questions about the tenancy agreement that you do not understand. Personally, I would want all of my questions raised to be in writing so that you have a written response, that you can refer to later should you need it. It's easy to forget exactly what you asked 4 months ago. Having it in writing means both parties can refresh their memories accurately. Keep all these records safely during your tenancy in a place where you can find them again.
What is a Tenancy Agreement?
The most important thing that you must know, is that the tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract. The tenancy agreement outlines terms and conditions that the landlord and tenant must adhere to. Landlords are required to maintain the building to ensure that it is fit for purpose and tenants must act in a tenant-like manner and do the odd jobs around the house. For example, changing the light bulbs when they need replacing, and making sure that drains do not block, or keeping the property well ventilated. These are just three examples, but that is the kind of thing you are expected to look after as the tenant.
When Do I Get my Deposit Back?
The deposit is returned at the end of the tenancy. The property should be returned in the same condition as when you took occupation, wear and tear accepted.
Where to Now?
Being a first-time tenant can feel daunting at first but rest assured. There are many professional landlords and agents who are happy to look after you and want you to enjoy living in your new home. At Plymouth Homes Lettings we strongly believe in the value of maintaining and caring for our tenants and our landlords. If you have any questions about renting a home, please contact us via our website where we maintain an active presence.
This information is provided by Plymouth Homes Lettings to give you useful information and guidance on what to expect as a first-time tenant. It is not meant to cover everything and if you are unsure of anything, we encourage you to discuss it with your landlord or agent in the first instance.
Plymouth Homes Lettings provide various services for tenants and landlords. For more information feel free to pop into the office or give us a call where you will receive a friendly and professional discussion.