A tenant’s guide to renting
If you're new to renting property, you may be starting to make a list of what you need to rent a house or flat? Well, unfortunately the answer isn't quite so clear cut. Fortunately, our tenant guide covers exactly what you need to know about tenancy agreements, break clauses and the things you’ll need to help you with renting your next home.
Getting started: How to rent a house or flat
Before you begin, it’s a good idea to put pen to paper and settle on some absolutes which will guide your search, such as where you want to rent and how much you need to budget. Here are some things to consider:
Think about where you want to live. Is it close to work or transport links? Does it have amenities like local shops or schools? Decide what’s important to you and narrow down a few ‘dream’ locations in your chosen search area.
How much are you prepared to spend? On average, Gov.uk say that about 35% of your take-home wage is what most people can afford on rent. Before paying rent though, you’ll need up to six weeks’ rent and a deposit, plus potential inventory fees, references, and any reasonable admin fees.
Also, think about…
Fixtures, fittings and furnished or unfurnished
Unfurnished properties tend to be cheaper and most will still include some white goods, like washing machines, dishwashers and ovens. Fridges and freezers tend to be the exception in some cases, but if you’re going unfurnished you’re faced with buying everything else, like sofas, beds, curtains and a whole lot more. The alternative is choosing furnished and having to potentially put up with stuff that isn’t to your taste.
You’ll want to clarify your responsibilities and know what the landlord must look after. And speaking of landlord’s responsibilities, Douglas Allen handle maintenance issues quickly and efficiently thanks to their roster of professional contractors, on-hand 24/7.
There’s no need to worry about buildings insurance since that’s covered by your landlord but don’t forget to arrange contents insurance – fortunately, Douglas Allen can also do this on your behalf if you need it.
How long should you rent for?
How long are you prepared to commit to a property? Time is a big factor when it comes to finding a place to live. The length of your tenancy needs to be agreed with your landlord.
Private landlord vs letting agent
Whichever you choose, your letting agent or landlord will need to put your deposit in a protection scheme. This is a legal obligation that your letting agent will certainly be aware of – among other things – to protect you throughout your tenancy.
Of course, there are always benefits of choosing either a letting agent or a private landlord and it’s up to you to decide which is your best option. Just remember that where you might bypass admin fees with your landlord, your letting agent is certainly going to do everything by the book, be legally compliant and act on your behalf during any potential disputes.
Are some bills included in your rent? Are you allowed to have pets and is smoking permitted in the building? These are all things you’ll want to check beforehand.
Found your dream home? Now you’re ready to sign the tenancy agreement.
What do you need to rent a house?
In your quest to learn how to rent a house, you’ll face a few procedures before moving into your dream home. Your letting agent or landlord will want to confirm who you are and things like whether you can afford your rent and if you’ll need a guarantor. Here’s what you’ll need to consider…
What’s this? Your passport or driving licence will do.
Is this essential? Yes, especially if you’re going through a letting agency. They may also want to see proof of your previous residency, such as a recent utility bill.
Proof of employment status
What’s this? Some agents or landlords might want a reference from your employer.
Is this essential? While you don’t legally have to provide a reference, it assures your landlord that you have a job and can afford to pay the rent on time. Normally, a payslip or letter from your boss will do and if you’re self-employed you can provide a tax return with a bank statement. If you’re not working and on universal credit, that’s not a problem either – go to Gov.uk for full details.
What’s this? If you’re from overseas, you’ll likely need a right to rent immigration check.
Is this essential? Yes, but it’s really just a formality. If you have any doubts or queries, Shelter.org.uk explain everything you need to know about right to rent.
Credit history check
What’s this? A credit check is an official look at your credit file to give an indication of how you manage your money.
Is this essential? Not always, depending on who you go through. Private landlords likely won’t check, and will accept proof of employment. Letting agents will most likely perform a credit check, but will need your permission to do so. The good thing is that paying rent can help improve credit rating, so if your credit is a little to be desired then...
What’s this? Someone who promises to pay the rent on your behalf if you’re unable to.
Is it essential? Only in circumstances where you might have a poor credit rating, receive universal credit or are unable to provide any of the above. It’s also common practice to provide a larger deposit in this instance too.
What is a tenancy agreement?
A tenancy agreement is a written or verbal contract between you and your landlord that outlines everything you can expect from each other the whole time you’re living there. Moving into your landlord’s flat and agreeing to pay rent to them on the 1st of every month is a basic example of a tenancy agreement.
Sure, a tenancy agreement is a formality, but they’re put in place to protect both your rights and your landlord’s. It will detail the rules and duties right from the start, which both parties agree to uphold, and promises that the tenancy should be a smooth occupation.
Do I need a tenancy agreement?
In England and Wales, tenancy agreements aren’t actually a legal requirement – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get one. Luckily, even a basic verbal agreement is considered a tenancy agreement, providing it doesn’t involve breaking the law.
You and your landlord have responsibilities to each other throughout the time you occupy their home. Not only that, but you both have legal rights, which are enforced and protected by the contract.
Remember, tenancy agreements can offer more than your statutory rights, but must never give you less. If this is the case, then it is void. You’re entitled to your legal rights regardless of written or verbal contracts – if you move in and pay rent, you’re a tenant and should be treated properly.
Different types of tenancy agreement
The default type of tenancy agreement in England and Wales is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy or AST. The default type of tenancy agreement in England and Wales is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy – or AST for short. ASTs usually have an initial fixed term of six months and don’t apply to lodgers who live with their landlord, neither do they apply to holiday lets.
Verbal tenancy agreements are largely considered to be more straightforward – however, for something this important, it’s probably a good idea to insist on a written tenancy agreement. Choosing to rent through a letting agent will ensure that your contract is legally above board.
Terms of any tenancy agreement include express and implied terms. Express terms are explicitly stipulated whereas implied terms are upheld by the law or are considered common practice. Implied terms might not appear in the tenancy agreement but your landlord or letting agent should be aware of them, as should you if you value your rights. A common example of an implied term is that your landlord will keep your home’s installations in working order – another example would be that you have the obligation to allow access to the property for repairs and maintenance.
A solid tenancy agreement will detail key information about your agreement, such as the names of the parties involved, the agreed rent and details of the deposit. You can find out more about what should be included in a tenancy agreement on our website..
What happens when a tenancy agreement expires?
When your tenancy agreement expires, you or your landlord are legally and contractually able to serve your respective notices. A fixed term tenancy will end on a specific date, meaning that notice is already agreed between the tenant and landlord. If you want to stay put and the landlord is in agreeance, your agreement will automatically run on a periodic tenancy notice. In everyday language – this means that you now have a rolling contract and can serve notice depending on the frequency of your rent payment. So, if you pay weekly, you can give a week’s notice.
Your tenancy agreement might even have a break clause, which is great. However, there’s often some confusion around this. So, what is a break clause?
What is a break clause tenancy?
The break clause is the section of the contract, which outlines what should happen when ending a tenancy agreement early. Whether you want or need it, a break clause tenancy depends entirely on your circumstances and should be negotiated before signing your contract.
A break clause in your contract means that you can end your contract early and serve notice at any time, providing you’re not in arrears with your rent and have lived in the property for at least three months.
Ending a tenancy agreement early
We get it – circumstances change and you might have to consider ending a tenancy agreement early. Whether you’re relocating, have a growing family or may have lost your job – landlords never want to lose good tenants.
We recommend discussing any potential problems or doubts you might have with your landlord as early as possible before ending your tenancy agreement.
At a glance, here’s how the law currently stands:
If you’ve got a fixed term contract with a break clause… you must serve the notice it says.
If you’ve got a fixed term contract without a break clause… you can’t serve notice and can only leave when the term is up.
If you’ve got a periodic tenancy and live with the landlord… you can agree when you’ll leave with your landlord and are not expected to give a set notice unless otherwise agreed in your tenancy.
If you’ve got a periodic tenancy and don’t live with your landlord… you are expected to serve one calendar month’s notice if you pay your rent monthly and four weeks’ notice if you pay rent weekly.
The law and tenancy agreements protect both you and your landlord. They should never discriminate you, your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion. If you have any concerns or questions about what you need to do to rent a house, bodies like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Gov.uk can help you out if you have any concerns, or go to our website for more information about renting.