Renting a property
Renting a property is a big commitment so it’s always worth making sure you understand all the in’s and out’s of what you are taking on. This is especially important if you are a student and maybe it’s the your first time in the rental market. Contracts might seem daunting at first, but once you are familiar with the terms it all starts to look a little simpler.
Beginning at the beginning - tenancy agreements
When a tenant moves into a property, the tenancy agreement is the contract which states the landlord is happy for the tenant to live there, so long as they pay their rent and stick to the rules that have been set out.
Whilst every landlord can tailor their tenancy agreement to suit their specific circumstances, there are certain basic rights that both the tenant and the landlord have once a tenancy has been agreed.
As a tenant, you have the following rights under any tenancy agreement:
- Freedom to live in the property undisturbed – this means the landlord can’t be turning up on your doorstep every day unannounced for example!
- The right to live in a property in a good state of repair – so any maintenance and repairs are the landlord’s responsibility. However, this is within reason – changing lightbulbs and weeding the garden will be your responsibility unless it is a managed property.
- The right to access information about your tenancy at any time – is the landlord in the process of selling up? Do they want the property back in 6 months?
- Protection from unfair eviction – you must be given adequate notice of eviction and the reasons must be legally acceptable.
Your landlord also has certain rights, under every tenancy agreement:
- The right to repossess the property at the end of the tenancy – you have to leave when you agreed to!
- The right to take back the property if it is damaged.
- The right to access the property after 24 hours notice.
- The right to take legal action to evict the tenant if they don’t fulfil their side of the contract – for example, not paying the rent or breaking some of the basic rules that were laid out in the tenancy agreement.
Most landlords will ask you to give them a ‘deposit’ before the start of a tenancy. This is to protect the landlord in case the tenant doesn’t pay their rent or their bills, or is they cause any damage to the property.
The landlord must put this deposit into a government-approved deposit protection scheme. This is to protect the tenant in case the landlord has financial difficulties for example, and may be unable to return a deposit at the end of the tenancy.
Ending the tenancy
If you decide you’d like to move out, you have to make sure you go about this in the correct way – you can’t just give your keys back and pack your bags!
How much notice the landlord requires before you move out will be stated in the tenancy agreement. If you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement, say for 6 months, then you can send written notice to your landlord 2 months before that date. You will be free to leave at the end of the 6 months.
If you’d like to end the tenancy early, maybe after 4 months, then you’ll need to check exactly what it says in your contract. Sometimes you can pay a sum to the landlord and you will be released from the agreement – although this amount could be all of the remaining rent. In some circumstances this amount might be reduced if the landlord can replace you with a new tenant during the time remaining on your contract.
This is a basic guide to tenancies – in all situations it is really important to make sure you read and understand your contract properly before you sign it – it is a legally binding document and this is the first step to a happy relationship with your landlord.