A Guide to Renting:
Renting a property for the very first time can be extremely daunting, in fact, it can be quite confusing at any time.
After speaking with numerous potential tenants over a period of say 35 years, I feel that I am well placed to give you a few tips. I'm not going to make this overcomplicated, and nor am I going to go into great detail here - if you are looking for that, maybe have a read through our frequently asked questions. If you still have a few questions, by all means, ping us an email - we're more than happy to help.
I for one like lists, with simple 'do's and don't' scenarios, so that's what I'm offering you here. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, more of a heads up than a prescription. My thoughts on what I would do if I were looking to rent a property in the Private Rented Sector. It should, however, give you food for thought when looking to rent from a Private Landlord.
- The Area: When looking for a property to rent, consider whether the area is going to work for you; are the transport links Ok? Would you feel safe? Can you get your children to school/yourself to work etc? Is the Council Tax Band affordable to you? Is it next to a busy road that will drive you to distraction? Are there parks/walks etc for children and dogs?
- Wanting More Information: Once you have seen an advert for a property and feel that you would like more information, resist the temptation to send the Agent/Landlord a message saying 'Interested'. If you are interested and have a specific question - ask it. "I would like to book a viewing," "does the Landlord consider sharers?" etc. This will reduce unnecessary time being wasted beating about the bush, which is exactly when a more astute applicant will jump in and secure the property before you've even had a chance to ask your questions.Can I have a Pet?
- Asking the Obvious - more specifically, do take time to read the advert, it is so frustrating for Agents and Landlords to have to answer 60 people asking the same question - when the answer is clearly written in the Ad. Do you think many Agents/ Landlords will bother? or are they more likely to go for the low hanging fruit, and head straight for the easy option? Be that easy option - every time. Agents and Landlords are busy people, they will naturally gravitate to the applicant that "looks easy" and they can then move on to filling the next property. Contrary to popular belief - they are only human.
- Use Your Full Name: Again this seems obvious, but it really isn't apparently. If you are sending a request through Rightmove/Facebook, etc and you are genuinely keen to be considered, make the Agency or Landlord's job easier in identifying you. Most Agents will add any inquiries for a property on to their CRM system - to do this they will need your full name and contact details. They might just not bother if you are going to be one of 70 'James' on their system.
- What Does Your Email Address Say About You? Email addresses are personal and it really should not matter what they are - but why take the risk? If you have an email address that is less than professional, I would suggest that you create a professional one for job/property applications. Example: Talia.Zingza@gmail.com. It clearly says who you are and will not offend anyone, nor will it give the wrong impression as say: firstname.lastname@example.org might.
- Sell Yourself - Day 1: Tell the Agent/Landlord at your earliest convenience why they should progress YOU as an applicant/interested party. Example Rightmove message: "Hi I'm Diane and I'm interested in XXXX, I'm a single mum of three, work full time, and have a UK homeowner guarantor. I can get a reference from my current Landlord and my employer. Could I book a viewing Please?" " Hi I'm Diane, I'm a single mum of 3 and in receipt of Housing Benefit, as the rent is just above the Local Housing Allowance Rate my top up for this property would be £65.00 PCM, I have a part-time job and can provide proof of income, employer and current Landlord references. I also have a UK homeowner guarantor. Could I book a viewing please?" Both of the examples above are giving the Agent/Landlord and easy life. Which is exactly what I would recommend you do. Personally, I do not feel it helpful to avoid giving details about how you will pay your rent - there is a school of thought, however, that suggests that you don't need to divulge that you are in recepts of benefits for example. I'm not convinced that this is a good approach, if you are going to pay your rent from benefits, the Agent/Landlord will find that out sooner or later, is it not more helpful to demonstrate how a property is affordable for you at the outset?
- Can you afford it? This seems obvious, sadly the easiest people to sell to, are those who are more likely to be in debt or are not great at budgeting - or worse - have no intention of paying. It really is not about whether you have a job, it is all about affordability. Good Agents and Landlords will want to be sure that you are not overstretching your finances and will care if you are putting yourself in a position where you will be at risk financially. As this does not make for a sustainable tenancy. The Landlord will need some kind of assurance that their investment is in safe hands - hence the need for referencing.
Do You Accept Housing Benefit/Universal Credit?
- Reference Checks: Be prepared to provide; employer, current/previous Landlord, proof of income, details of any CCJ, etc. I cannot comment for other Agents or Landlords, I can, however, confirm that Norman Galloway Lettings look at all of the information provided by a tenant and make a judgment at that point. Honesty is always the best policy in this situation. Lies or omissions get found out and no Agent or Landlord would want to enter into a tenancy with a tenant that they cannot trust. Everyone has a history, it's about your situation right now and can they work with you?
- Right To Rent Checks - All Agents/Landlords have to have evidence that you are legally permitted to rent in the UK, even if you were born in the UK. It is a requirement for all tenants to prove this so be ready to provide your passport etc and again, it's nothing personal - it applies to all.
Right To Rent Checks
- Guarantors: I prefer to call this 'Back-Up Plan', if for whatever reason, and it's not always the tenants' fault, a tenant can no longer pay their rent, it is only reasonable that the Landlord asks for a Plan B. Usually this is often in the form of a guarantor. A UK homeowner would be a great asset if you have one and would really strengthen your application.
- Holding Deposit: If you are genuinely interested and you are being realistic in your choice of property, offering a Holding Deposit is the way to go. You should not lose this, unless you have told untruths, pull out or take too long in getting the referencing information to the Agent/Landlord. At Norman Galloway Lettings, we use the holding deposit as part of your first month's rent if you are successful in your application. We would never encourage anyone to pay a holding deposit if we were in any doubt about their possible chance of obtaining that tenancy. Hence all of the questions up front.
- The Viewing/Interview: And 'Yes' the viewing is an interview. If you have just rushed from work/ dashed from the school run and look a tad worse for wear, explain that to the person conducting the viewing. It really should not matter of course, but why take the risk? Try and present your best self, I'm not talking about turning up in your best suit here, just be clean and as presentable as possible. The person conducting the viewing will be assessing you as a potential tenant and not just someone passing 15 minutes of their life wandering around a property for fun. First impressions, unfortunately, do count and I would recommend that you present yourself in a good light. Be polite and ask appropriate questions before, during, and after the viewing. Try and resist the urge to open wardrobes etc if the property currently has a tenant. Do you really need to go opening up those cupboards? I'm pretty sure that I could work out how much space they offer by looking at them - I wouldn't feel the need to go rooting through other people's personal storage. This goes for kitchen/bathroom cupboards too. I feel that this is actually verging on being nosey for the sake of it and has no practical benefit whatsoever. Try not to look at the way the property is currently, in terms of the existing tenant's belongings and furniture and how they live, you will not be living with them unless it is a shared accommodation. - They will be gone well before you move in and are not at all relevant to what you need to be assessing during the viewing. You need to look at the overall space it offers, the layout, the room sizes, etc, and imagine your own things and furniture in there. (Unless it is furnished of course).
- Viewings and Children: It is not always possible to attend viewings without your children and Agents/Landlords understand that. I would, however, recommend that if at all possible, you conduct your viewings without children. There are three reasons for this;1) It can be extremely distracting and stressful for parents if children are with them during a viewing. This could lead you to miss something important. 2) It is not always fair on existing tenants to have other people's children wandering around their homes and 3) Children can get quite upset if they think that this might be their home - I've even heard parents saying, "This will be your room won't it be nice." And then the tenancy is granted to someone else.
- Repairs and Maintenance: Ask who will be responsible for that and how any issues are to be reported. Norman Galloway Lettings have a 24/7 365 day a year reporting system in 42 languages, what is the situation for the property you are viewing?
Repairs & Maintenance
- Obvious Issues: Can you spot any glaring issues with the property itself in terms of hazards, repair and maintenance issues? maybe mention them in passing at this point - if you come across as overly picky (which incidentally you should be in my view) you will turn the Agent or Landlord off. Make a note of them and be sure to raise them before you sign on the dotted line. If you raise too many issues at this point, the Agent/Landlord may think that you are going to be a nightmare tenant and simply go with another applicant. Unfair I know - but I'm just trying to help you here.
- Process for Application: So you've viewed the property and you love it, it's definitely the one for you, ask the Agent/Landlord what you need to do now to progress your application and what is the process you need to follow? Don't fall into the trap of asking "How long will it take?" the simple answer is "It will be as quick as you can get us all of the information that we ask you for - drag your heels and it will take too long and you may well lose your Holding Deposit and the Agent/Landlord will move on to someone else." It's not actually that bad at Norman Galloway Lettings, we will assist you to process your application quickly, we want you to secure the tenancy and to keep our Landlords happy. You just need to respond to our requests as soon as possible. As for other Agents/Landlords, I can't answer for them.
- Deposit/Rent in Advance: Do make sure that you know what this will be and how and when you need to pay it. No one will be handing over any keys if these are outstanding. Deposits
- Tenancy Agreement: Read it very carefully and make sure that you are happy with it before you sign.
Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement
- How to Rent Guide: You should be issued the latest version of this.
- Gas Safe/EICR/PAT/EPC: If the property has gas you must be issued with a current gas safety record/certificate at the start of your tenancy. These need to be renewed every year. An EICR is an Electrical Installation Report and this becomes mandatory for new tenancies on 1st June 2020 (must be issued by 1st July 2020). All other tenancies will need to have an EICR issued by 1st April 2021. If your Landlord provides any electrical items (that have to be plugged in) they need to be PAT tested every year. In addition, check that there is a current Energy Performance Certificate - EPC, that it is in date and rated E or above. These need to be renewed every 10 years. If you are looking to rent in an HMO (House of Multiple Occupation) additional rules apply.
There's so much information out there, including on our website, regarding; tenancy agreements, deposits, etc which you can read and get acquainted with. This blog is more about tips and hints than legislation. I do hope that it has given you a heads up when trying to navigate the private rented market and that you will see the benefit of my experience when looking to rent a property yourself.
If you would like to know more - we'd love to hear from you