If you’ve been well-behaved towards your BREF (Best Real Estate Friend), here’s where the relationship really pays off. Whether you found your new home on Craigslist, the local paper, in a newsagent’s window or through a professional listing service, you will need advice and guidance before you sign anything or pay any money.
- Do a price comparison for similar properties, and negotiate rent if necessary.
- Do a thorough inspection, preferably with a real estate professional, and identify maintenance/safety/wear and tear issues for discussion with landlord. Use the pre-rental inspection form here
- If possible, check that the finances on the property are in good standing.
- Check the rental agreement thoroughly before signing – get professional advice if possible.
Most rental tenancies run for a minimum of six months, so if you get this bit wrong, you are stuck with shelling out for an entire six months worth of rent before you can do anything – whether you live in the house or not. Prior to signing is also the point where you have the strongest bargaining position, so it’s well worth inspecting the property thoroughly for any failings and negotiating for them to be fixed before your tenancy commences… It’s pretty miserable paying full rent and having to share your space with endless repair people, no matter how clean and quiet they might be. More difficult, but invaluable, is the ability to check whether mortgages, loans etc are up-to-date on the property, but it’s worth asking the property manager or landlord for verification. Should the property be repossessed by the lender during your tenancy, you will be made homeless and you will almost certainly lose both any rent paid in advance and your deposit.
The following information should be included in your tenancy agreement. If you can’t find them, make sure you have the agreement checked by a home rental legal advisor.
- Details of the parties involved. Includes the contact details of the landlord/tenant and anyone else involved in the let, such as a letting agent and/or guarantor.
- Date of the contract. This is normally the start date of the tenancy.
- Data protection. Ensures a tenant’s details can be shared only with parties relevant to the let, for example an inventory clerk or utility company.
- The property. Refers to the fixtures and fittings within the property (such as kitchen or a fireplace) and the outside space, and should include items recorded in the inventory.
- The deposit. This is an essential clause which should detail how much deposit the landlord/agent will take and which tenancy deposit protection scheme is used to protect your deposit should there be a dispute.
- The rent. This records how much the rent will be, when it’s due and how it is to be paid, for example by direct debit. It should also state what happens if you default on the rent and how the rent can be increased during your stay.
- Possession and notices. These clauses set out the notice you have to give the landlord/agent if you want to leave the property and how the landlord can regain possession of their property.
- Tenant’s obligations. This sets out everything a tenant should – or shouldn’t – do while renting the property. This would include such things as keeping it in good order, notifying the landlord/agent if there is a problem such as a leak. They can be quite extensive so make sure you read them very carefully and understand each one.
- Fair wear and tear. This explains that some parts of the property may naturally deteriorate with age, such as carpets fraying, and that the tenant should not be liable for this.
- Signatures. This is where you and the landlord (or letting agent) sign the agreement, which makes it binding.
In addition, you should make sure that you and either the landlord or property agent do a thorough ‘walk through’ inspection before moving in, complete and sign (both of you) a pre-move inventory which details (in detail!!) the condition of the property, and take plenty of photographs. This ensures a fair evaluation of wear and tear/damage to the property in the event the landlord refuses to return your deposit.