Essential Questions Every Renter Should Ask Before Entering into a Residential Tenancy

Essential Questions Every Renter Should Ask Before Entering into a Residential Tenancy

Entering into a new residential tenancy is a significant step in anyone's life. Whether you're a first-time renter or someone who has experienced multiple rentals, it's crucial to ask the right questions to ensure a smooth and comfortable living experience. As an experienced property professional, I understand the importance of gathering information and making informed decisions. In this blog post, I will highlight some essential questions that every renter should ask before entering into a residential tenancy, including information on deposit regulations, tenant and landlord responsibilities, licensing requirements, and planning considerations.

  1. What are the deposit regulations?

In the UK, deposits are an integral part of the tenancy process. It's important to ask about the amount of the deposit required and how it will be protected. In England, landlords are legally required to protect your deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receiving it. Ensure that the landlord provides you with the necessary information about the scheme and how to access it. Additionally, inquire about the conditions under which the deposit may be withheld at the end of the tenancy and any dispute resolution procedures in place.

  1. What is a holding deposit, and how does it work?

A holding deposit is a sum of money paid by a tenant to reserve a rental property before signing the tenancy agreement. It's important to understand the rules around holding deposits. In England, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 limits the amount a landlord or letting agent can charge for a holding deposit to no more than one week's rent. Additionally, they must provide you with written terms explaining how the holding deposit will be used, returned, or forfeited. Clarify the specific details surrounding the holding deposit to avoid any misunderstandings.

  1. What are the tenant's responsibilities?

Understanding your responsibilities as a tenant is crucial for a harmonious tenancy. Inquire about your obligations regarding rent payments, property maintenance, and cleanliness. Ask about any restrictions on activities such as subletting or running a home-based business. Understanding your responsibilities upfront will help you establish a good relationship with your landlord and maintain a well-kept living space.

  1. What are the landlord's responsibilities?

Landlords have certain obligations towards their tenants, and it's important to be aware of them. Ask about their responsibilities for property maintenance, repairs, and ensuring the property meets necessary safety standards. Inquire about procedures for reporting maintenance issues and the expected response time. Understanding the landlord's responsibilities will help you gauge their level of commitment to the property and your well-being as a tenant. Ask about their gas safety latest certificate (if gas at the property), Electrical condition report - EICR, and Energy performance - EPC. All tenancies require these. 

  1. Are there any licensing requirements, such as HMO licensing?

In some cases, certain properties may require additional licensing, such as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing. HMO licensing is required when multiple unrelated individuals or households share common facilities in a property. There must be a licence in place if there are 5 occupiers or more, this is called mandatory licensing, and in areas covered by Article 4, any property with 3 or more tenants requires an additional licence. Both require planning (broadly speaking).  If you're considering renting a property that falls under HMO licensing, inquire whether the landlord has obtained the necessary license and planning permission. Understanding the licensing requirements ensures compliance with regulations and can indicate whether the property has been properly inspected for safety and suitability. If you are renting a room in a shared house/flat or sharing communal facilities with people you are not related to, this is likely to be an HMO.

  1. What planning considerations should be taken into account?

Certain properties, especially those converted into multiple flats or houses, may require planning permission. Inquire whether the property you're considering has the necessary planning permissions in place. This ensures that the property has been assessed and approved for its current use, providing you with peace of mind and reducing the risk of future disruptions.

      7. Are there any licensing requirements specific to Nottingham?

In Nottingham, certain properties require licensing under the Selective Licensing scheme. This scheme aims to improve housing standards in the city and ensure that landlords meet specific criteria. It's important to ask whether the property you're considering falls under the licensing scheme and whether the landlord has obtained the necessary licence. Familiarise yourself with the regulations to ensure compliance and a safe living environment. 

Essential documentation you must be given by your landlord

There are certain documents that your landlord must give you in order to make your tenancy valid. 

In the UK, residential landlords are required to provide certain essential documentation at the start of a tenancy. This documentation ensures transparency and clarity between the landlord and the tenant. Here is a list of the essential documentation that landlords must issue at the beginning of a tenancy in the UK:

  1. Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST): This is a legally binding contract between the landlord and the tenant, outlining the terms and conditions of the tenancy. It includes details such as the duration of the tenancy, rent amount and payment terms, deposit information, and responsibilities of both parties.

  2. Gas Safety Certificate: If the rental property has gas appliances, the landlord must provide a valid Gas Safety Certificate. This document confirms that all gas appliances and flues in the property have been inspected and are safe to use. It should be issued by a Gas Safe registered engineer and renewed annually.

  3. Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): An EPC provides information about the energy efficiency of the property. It rates the property on a scale from A to G, with A being the most efficient. Landlords are required to provide an EPC to potential tenants, allowing them to understand the energy efficiency of the property before renting.

  4. How to Rent Guide: The "How to Rent" guide is a government-approved informational document that provides guidance for both tenants and landlords. It explains the rights and responsibilities of each party and outlines important steps to follow throughout the tenancy. Landlords must provide the most recent version of this guide to new tenants. How to Rent Guide

  5. Deposit Protection Scheme Information: If the landlord collects a deposit, they must provide the tenant with information regarding the deposit protection scheme used to protect their deposit. This information should include details about the scheme, how the deposit is protected, and the procedure for resolving any disputes at the end of the tenancy.

  6. Fire Safety Information: Landlords are required to provide fire safety information to their tenants. This may include details on the location of fire exits, fire extinguishers, and fire alarms, as well as instructions on what to do in case of a fire emergency.

  7. Licenses and Permits: If the property requires any specific licenses or permits, such as an HMO license or selective licensing, the landlord must provide documentation to prove compliance with the relevant regulations.

It's important for tenants to thoroughly review and understand these documents before signing the tenancy agreement. If there are any questions or concerns, seeking legal advice or clarification from the landlord or letting agent is advisable.

Getting your ducks in a row

Whenever you are considering entering into a new residential tenancy is a significant step in anyone's life, both yours and the landlord's.  I will emphasise the key factors that landlords consider when choosing tenants, giving you an edge in securing a rental property.

Essential Documentation for Tenants:

When considering a rental property, it's important to understand that landlords are primarily looking for tenants who can meet certain criteria. By demonstrating the following qualities and having the necessary documentation at the point of application, you increase your chances of being considered favorably:

  1. Affordability: Landlords want to ensure that you can afford the rent without financial hardship. Prepare to provide evidence of your income, employment status, benefits, and any additional sources of income or savings that contribute to your financial stability.

  2. Timely Rent Payments: Landlords appreciate tenants who consistently pay their rent on time. Providing references from previous landlords or documentation of your history of prompt rental payments can strengthen your application.

  3. Property Care: Show that you will take care of the rental property by presenting a respectful and responsible attitude. Having references from previous landlords that highlight your responsible maintenance of the property can make a positive impression.

  4. Considerate Neighbour: Landlords value tenants who are considerate of their neighbours and do not engage in disruptive or antisocial behavior. Providing character references or demonstrating good relations with previous neighbours can reinforce your suitability as a tenant.

  5. Financial Backup Plan: It's beneficial to have a backup plan in case you encounter unforeseen circumstances that impact your ability to pay rent. A guarantor, such as a family member or trusted friend who agrees to cover the rent if you are unable to, can provide landlords with reassurance.

  6. Right to Rent: Landlords in the UK are legally required to ensure that tenants have the right to rent. You will need to provide appropriate documentation to prove your legal status, such as a passport or residence permit.

Asking the right questions and being prepared with the necessary documentation are key steps for a successful residential tenancy. In addition to understanding deposit regulations, tenant and landlord responsibilities, licensing requirements, and planning considerations, it's important to recognise what landlords are looking for in tenants. By showcasing your ability to afford rent, pay on time, maintain the property, be a considerate neighbour, have a backup plan, and legally rent in the UK, you set yourself apart as a desirable tenant. With this knowledge and preparedness, you can approach the rental process with confidence and increase your chances of finding a comfortable and suitable home.

Renter's Checklist:

Before entering into any tenancy agreement, consider asking the following questions:

  1. What are the deposit regulations, and how will my deposit be protected?
  2. How does the holding deposit work, and what are the terms for its return or forfeiture?
  3. What are my tenant responsibilities regarding rent payments, property maintenance, and cleanliness?
  4. What are the landlord's responsibilities for property maintenance, repairs, and ensuring safety standards?
  5. Are there any additional licensing requirements, such as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing, for the property/Selective licensing?
  6. Has the landlord obtained the necessary licenses and permissions, including HMO licensing and planning permissions?
  7. What is the duration of the tenancy agreement, and are there any renewal options?
  8. Are there any restrictions on decorating, making modifications, or having pets?
  9. What utilities are included in the rent, and which ones am I responsible for?
  10. Are there any rent increase policies or potential allowed fees associated with the rental property?
  11. What is the process for reporting maintenance issues, and how quickly can I expect them to be addressed?
  12. Is renter's insurance required, and what is the minimum coverage needed?
  13. What is the neighborhood like in terms of safety, proximity to amenities, and public transport?
  14. Are there any specific rules or policies regarding noise, parking, or use of common areas?
  15. What is the procedure for ending the tenancy agreement and retrieving the deposit at the end of the tenancy?

By asking these questions and obtaining clear answers, you can make an informed decision and ensure a positive and secure tenancy experience. Remember, it's essential to read and understand the terms of the tenancy agreement thoroughly before signing and to seek legal advice if necessary. Happy renting!

Diane Bialek Managing Director, Norman Galloway Sales & Lettings,  Author, Diane's Nottinghamshire Property Blog

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