Being a first time tenant

Whether you’ve just finished University and are looking to move into private rented accommodation, or like many young buyers, you’re frozen off the property ladder, renting for the first time can be stressful. Be it renting a house or a flat, below is some useful information that can help make life easier for you.


Housemates: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

More often than not, having a joint tenancy can be great. There’s someone you know who can help share the rent and bills (and washing up). But what happens if problems arise?

With a joint tenancy, every tenant is responsible for paying the whole rent, not just their share. This means if one housemate falls behind and is unable to pay up, the others have to take up the slack. The same can occur with utility bills. If your name is the only one on the bill and the others refuse to pay, you will have to pay the full amount solo and pursue your housemates for the money.

Problems with joint tenancy can also occur when providing ‘guarantor’ forms. Normally for students, a parent or guardian can sign for these, assuming that it’ll only be enforced if their son/daughter falls behind on rent or accidentally damages something. But with joint tenancies, with a single agreement, any guarantor will also be jointly liable for missing rent or damage caused by other tenants. One way for guarantors to try and limit their liability is by writing it into their guarantor contract.

If, unfortunately, your housemate(s) becomes truly unbearable, is there anything you can do? Everyone within a joint tenancy has equal rights, meaning that you can’t force anyone to leave. However, if you manage to come to an agreement with the difficult tenant for them to leave, there’s several things you can do. You can either find a replacement tenant who everyone is happy with, including the landlord. Or, if you can’t find a replacement, either the outgoing tenant has to continue to pay the rent or the remaining tenants must agree to make up the shortfall. Whatever you decide to do, you must let your landlord know.

Remember, if you have a periodic tenancy (one that runs out from one rent period to another), a joint tenant can give notice to leave. This would cause the end of all tenancies for all tenants. Tenants can do this without the other tenants’ knowledge or consent. Alternatively, with fixed term tenancies, such as tenancies for 12 months, notice by one tenant will not end the tenancy.

The best way to avoid tenancy, bills, and rent grief with other tenants is to speak with your letting agency or landlord before signing an agreement. Find out which tenancy is best for you and your friends, since each tenancy has different tenant rights and avoid nasty surprises in the future. Your letting agency should be happy to help with any queries you have regarding contracts.


Rental deposits: making sure yours is safe

After you’ve paid your deposit, be it directly to the landlord or to a letting agent acting on their behalf, certain things need to happen to ensure that it’s kept safe. Within 30 days of you paying your deposit and your landlord receiving it, they must protect it in a government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme. This is only if you’re an assured short hold tenant. If you’re not an assured short hold tenant, for example if you are a lodger, then there are no special rules regarding the protection of your deposit.

If your landlord doesn’t protect your deposit at all, protects it after 30 days, or doesn’t give you details of the scheme they used within 30 days, you may take court action against them and receive compensation. Before you take court action against your landlord, it’s best to seek out some advice and you should write to your landlord to give them the chance to protect the deposit and provide you with all the required details.

Remember, it’s your landlord that is responsible regarding your deposit, even if you originally paid the letting agent acting on their behalf. If you are experiencing difficulties with your deposit, you can talk to your letting agency for advice.


Inventory: arriving and leaving

The inventory is a full list, usually written by the landlord or letting agent, of everything within the accommodation. This includes furnishings, carpets, curtains, appliances etc. The list should also include a description of the items, as well as their age and condition. If the landlord does not provide you with an inventory, write one yourself to the best of your ability, get it signed by an independent witness and send a copy to your landlord. Having an accurate inventory can save you a lot of trouble in the long term, especially when your tenancy comes to an end.

A great way to make inventories easier is to take pictures of the property before you move in. If you then post those pictures up on Facebook, or a similar social network site, the pictures will have a timestamp, proving what conditions the items were in when you moved in. Keeping good records helps to take a load off your back and saves you from trouble in the future.

So, your tenancy has ended and the time has come for you to leave. Once you and your landlord agree to the amount of your deposit you can receive back, you should get it within 10 days. There are certain things a landlord cannot deduct from the deposit. A landlord cannot withhold your deposit because of ‘general wear and tear’. Wear and tear includes things like carpets becoming thin in a certain area where people constantly walk or sun-damage. Some tenancy agreements often state things like carpets and curtains must be cleaned to a professional standard before you go. Note, this does not mean that they have to be as clean, or cleaner than when you moved in. If you’re required to replace something within the accommodation, remember it’s like-for-like. This means you don’t need to buy a brand new sofa if the one that needed replacing was second hand. You can ask your landlord to show you receipts, or estimates of any or everything they want to deduct from your deposit.

Remember, if you’re overwhelmed with being a first time tenant, or a clause in your tenancy agreement is confusing you, you can always ask for advice from us here at Classic Lettings or talk to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Ashford.