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Top 10 tips for renting a property

Posted on by Karl

Renting a property can often seem like a particularly daunting experience; simply moving house in the first place can be stressful enough as it is, without all the additional considerations that come with renting.
Unlike with purchasing a property, you are far more at the mercy of third parties when you choose to rent a property; in particular, letting agents and landlords. This makes it even more important to be focussed and prepared when looking for rental properties, as any problems or issues that you fail to notice before you move in are far more likely to haunt you for the duration of your contract!
We’ve assembled this guide to help you navigate this potentially difficult time; if you follow these 10 top property renting tips, the process should be much less stressful, with fewer potential pitfalls waiting to trip you up at a later date.

Deposit Protection

We’ve all heard horror stories about people having their deposit denied to them at the end of tenancy due to a petty or obnoxious landlord. The justification in these cases is often the presence of minor or pre-existing damage, or even just the amount of wear and tear that a reasonable person would expect to find in a post-tenancy property.
In any case, you’ll want to be sure that your deposit is protected, and fortunately, schemes designed for this precise purpose are already widely available. Indeed, after April 6th 2007, it became compulsory for landlords in an assured short hold tenancy agreement to place deposits from tenants into a government-backed scheme. This means that you are guaranteed to receive your full deposit if you stay within the terms of your tenancy agreement, pay all required rent and bills, and don’t damage the property. A tenancy deposit scheme also provides you, and any other tenants with a means to legally fight your landlord if you are treated unfairly, as the deposit is now being held by an impartial third-party!

Get a good deal on energy

It’s extremely important when taking up residency in a new rental property to make sure that you’re not paying anymore than you should be for energy bills; the last thing you want after the expense and stress of moving house it to be paying off the outstanding bills of the previous tenants!
An often forgotten task to perform directly after moving in is to take a meter reading, allowing you to inform your gas and electricity company exactly how much the previous tenants have yet to pay, and therefore allowing for an accurate measure of exactly what you should be paying when your first bill comes through the letter box. Besides, if you get the reading on the day you move in, you won’t have a chance to bury your meter under your possessions!
If your bills are paid separately from rent, you also have the legal right to switch to a cheaper energy provider than the one the previous of the tenants were using, even if your new landlord has an agreement with the energy firms involved. It pays to shop around!

… And water

You can switch to a water meter if you decide it can save you and any other tenants in your property money; provided that you’re not tied into a fixed term tenancy agreement of less than six months. While the law is on your side if you decide to go ahead and have a water meter installed, it may be worth staying on your new landlord’s good side, and at the very least having a conversation with him/her about it!
Bear in mind that getting a water meter fitted to your rental property is not necessarily going to save you money, generally speaking, the higher the people to room ration in your house, the more benefit you’ll get from a water meter. Do the research, and see what you could save!

Ensure that you’re not moving into bad situation

As with any property that you’re considering moving into, it’s important that you do your research, whether you’re looking for property to rent, or looking to buy. You want to enjoy the time that you spend in a property and its surrounding neighbourhood, even if you aren’t intending to stay there forever.
All this ultimately comes down to is preparation and diligence. Take careful observation of your potential new neighbourhood, and if you can, take a look during both the day and night. Observe your prospective new next door neighbours even closer; if the disco lights and speakers come out every night, and you intend to sleep at all in your new property, it’s probably worth looking elsewhere!
Here on Mouseprice, we offer a comprehensive area guide, allowing you to look up some both useful and interesting statistics on the areas surrounding properties that you’re interested in moving to.

Don’t sign yourself away

This seems like a particularly obvious point, but just like all of those times that you’ve quickly scrolled through an online contract as quickly as you can to click ‘I accept’, it’s frankly staggering how many people don’t read the details of their tenancy contracts. If you don’t know what you’re saying yes to, don’t say yes!
Make sure you have a thorough read of what you’re letting yourself in for, and be sure to have discuss or negotiate with the landlord or letting agent, if there are any details that you or other tenants find to be contentious.
Finally, don’t be afraid to walk away. As disheartening as it may be to walk away from an otherwise agreeable property, it’s better in the long term to reject unfair or excessive terms. By and large, most landlords are fairly reasonable, so if you have to turn down one, you’re likely to find a superior choice soon.

Don’t be afraid, always ask!

Perhaps less essential than some of the other tips, but following this particular piece of advice could still save you a lot of time and potential irritation. In brief, ask lots of questions!
If you don’t know where the gas meter, water meter or any other important fixtures and fittings are located ask the letting agent or landlord. You don’t want to realise that you don’t know where the stopcock is located as the leaking water reaches knee height.
It’s a good idea to ask about the parking situation for your property; it’s good to know if someone is stealing your space, or if you’re stealing theirs! You may need to apply for a permit, or negotiate with other neighbours or tenants; if you don’t ask you won’t know!
Make sure that you also have easy access to instruction manuals for the appliances that come with your rental property. It can be a real pain to fix or identify any problems or malfunctions that may occur otherwise; you could save a lot of money by knowing what to do yourself.

Look in the right places

When searching for property to rent, it’s worth utilising the full gamut of options available to you, to make sure you can find a rental property as close to, or hopefully in, the area in which you want to be living.
Estate agents are never a bad place to start; let them know the kind of your property you’re searching for, and the ideal area for it to be located, and they may well be able to help. The central weakness of this option is that Estate agents, by their very nature, are not impartial. You’ll only hear about the properties that they benefit from renting, and only hear nice things about areas that they operate within.
By using an impartial service like Mouseprice, you get objective facts, and a far wider view of the housing market. On one hand, Mouseprice acts as an aggregator of available property to rent, allowing you to view available rental properties from a wide range of estate agents. But Mouseprice also offer plenty of other useful services, such as the ability to monitor specific properties that you have taken an interest in, providing you with alerts every time it’s status or price changes. You can also monitor entire areas, putting your finger firmly on the pulse of property value and activity in the area!

Joint Tenancies: Know your rights

At the risk of sounding antisocial, the number one piece of advice in a joint tenancy is to always lock your room; and request for a lock to be installed if one isn’t already. If you’re room doesn’t have a lock installed, insurance companies may think twice before providing you with cover. If you do have a lock, yet you don’t use it very often, this could also be a problem. There generally has to be signs of a break in if you are to make a successful insurance claim, so if a less than savoury housemate just wanders in through the unlocked door and leaves with your most expensive possessions, you may be left hanging in the breeze by insurers!
Be wary of joint liability clauses in your tenancy contract; if you accept this, you become responsible for the actions of the other tenants, and they for yours. This can lead to obvious issues down the line, especially if you don’t know your co-tenants very well. If you fear that the clause could be a problem, discuss it with you landlord or letting agent; or look for property to rent elsewhere.
If you and the tenants you’re sharing the property with are also sharing a joint account, with which to pay bills and rent, there is also a danger that, if you default on your bill as a household/flat-sharers, whether it was your personal fault or not, your personal credit score can still take a knock. So once again, make sure you find alternative arrangements if you don’t know your tenants very well.

Take careful note of the inventory

If you and any other tenants have no idea what state the property, and the fittings and fixtures it came with, were in when you first moved in, your making it extremely easy for your landlord or letting agent to withhold your deposit when you eventually leave the property.
It’s not worth the risk taking the chance, so make a careful note of any existing damage or wear to the property, and its contents, before you move in. This way you have evidence with which to argue your case, should your landlord or letting agent claim that you have damaged the property during your tenancy.

Do insurance right

Insurance is always a good idea, so don’t delay covering your rented property! As a renting tenant, you should only need contents insurance; though some landlords or letting agents will try to sneak building cover in as a clause in your tenancy contract. Don’t hesitate to question this should you spot it; while it isn’t a legal requirement for a landlord to be the provider of building insurance, it’s the most common arrangement, so you owe it to yourself to negotiate.
Also, don’t give into temptation and under-insure yourself; you may save money in the short-term, but when your house has burned down, expect any generosity from your chosen insurance company. You’re better off ensuring that you have absolutely everything covered, and footing the bill for the premium, knowing that the peace of mind it buys you is priceless.