We often find that agents give their Landlords the world of advice when it comes to letting their property, but never enough advice to the tenants and how they should look after their new property.
Here at Bellevue Lettings, we want to make sure our tenants are 100% comfortable with their agent, and the process of letting. Here is our simple top 10 tips for Tenants.
- Your property search
Always make sure you research the area and are familiar with where you are going to be renting. There is nothing worse than moving into a property and discovering the area is not quite what it seems. For the moment, once you have signed a lease agreeing to rent the property, it is not so easy to change your mind.
- Letting with an agent/private landlord
This is something that has never been clear to tenants; should we go with an agent or go with a private landlord? The main thing to consider is whether or not your agent/landlord is registered. You can find this out at https://www.landlordregistrationscotland.gov.uk/Pages/Process.aspx?Command=ShowHomePage . If you rent a property with through an unregistered landlord, this puts you in an extremely vulnerable position if and when the landlord is found out meaning you will be removed from the property with little/no notice through no fault of your own.
- Safety Certifications
There are very few tenants that are aware of the current legislation to which your landlord/agent must comply with. Before agreeing to let a property, you must ask if the property has the following:
- Gas Safety Certificate -If the property has Gas Central Heating it is essential you are provided with proof of the certificate to ensure the property is Gas safe and the boiler has been checked
- Electrical Installation Condition Report- This is a check to insure that the electrics and fuse board in the property are safe. The inspection will detect any wear and tear of wiring that may be deemed unsafe.
- Portable Appliance Test – More so for furnished properties. If you have any portable electrics in the property such as kettle, microwave etc, you must check that they have been PAT tested and are safe to use. You will find PAT stickers on the items that have been checked and deemed safe.
- Legionella – This is new legislation that was only introduced in November 2015. This inspection detects if the water in the property is at risk for Legionnaires disease by checking the water tank and connecting pipes.
- Smoke/Heat/Co2 detectors – The number of detectors will be dependent on the type of property, however properties are commonly required to have 1 smoke alarm in the hallway, 1 smoke alarm in the commonly most used room (livingroom), a heat detector in the kitchen and if the property has Gas Central Heating- there must be a Carbon Monoxide detector located near the boiler.
These inspections are required at least annually and you should contact your agent/landlord if you feel you are at risk from any of the above.
Whether you let with an Agent or a private landlord, they will require references. Commonly these are your previous Landlord, your employer and/or a character reference. It is essential you ask for these yourself and request them in writing. You will need to consult with your employer and previous landlord before putting them down on your application form for permission to do so. If you are asked to provide a character reference, this should be someone unrelated to you- ideally a professional such as doctor, dentist etc. The quicker your references are in the more likely you are to secure the property. Something else to consider is that some agents are charging tenants to provide a reference. Strictly speaking this is not really common practice. Make sure to ask your agent if they would charge for this in advance.
All agents/Landlords will ask you for a deposit to secure the property and for protection to their property. You will be advised on how much to transfer as a deposit and once you have done so make sure you print your statement showing the transfer and keep for your records. It is illegal for your agent/landlord to hold the deposit. They must transfer the deposit to one of the deposit schemes within 30 days of you moving into the property. You will know this has been done as you will receive confirmation from the deposit scheme direct. Common deposit schemes are Safe Deposit Scotland, My Deposit Scotland and Landlord Protection Scotland. To protect your Deposit you must ensure you look after the property and prevent any damages to the property. On your deposit return stage, the agent/landlord will advise of any charges due to be deducted such as damages or cleaning. To avoid the cleaning charge coming off your deposit, it is best advised that you appoint a professional cleaner at the end of tenancy and provide the agent with the receipt as proof (keeping a copy for yourself). If there are any discrepancies, be aware that the deposit return process could take up to 6 months to resolve.
- Signing the lease
Prior to moving into the property, you are required to sign a Short Assured Tenancy agreement (The Lease). If you are not confident on reading contracts, ensure you have someone with you who is. Make sure you read through everything thoroughly to avoid any surprises through-out tenancy. The Agent/Landlord will guide you through which parts to sign and when. It is best to have a witness with you to counter-sign the lease agreement. Make sure you are given a copy of all the lease documents and keep safe.
- Moving In
You’re finally getting the keys to your property, surely that’s everything done that you need to do, right? Wrong. Firstly, it is likely the agent will ask for 1 full month rent in advance. Make sure you have these funds available to avoid delay. If you move in around 15th of the month or later, it is common that you will be asked to pay a Pro-rata amount to the end of the month plus another full month. Getting the keys is the fun part, however you still need to protect yourself. Take your own pictures of the keys you have been given. The agent will walk you around the property showing you how things work and what to do in an emergency. It is best you ask all your questions here.
At the time of move in, you will be given an inventory of all the furnishings and things included in the property. You must read and go through the inventory and initial the pages as you go taking note of anything that has been missed. It is also recommended you take your own pictures of any damages to the property for your own records. The inventory is designed to protect the Landlord in the first instance, but it’s also to protect you as a Tenant and any unfair deductions at deposit.
- Grace/Settling In
Once you’re in the property and have settled, keep an eye out for any mail from utilities and council tax. These should have been changed over by the Agent/Landlord, however sometimes it doesn’t go as smoothly as we would like it to, therefore you must notify the agent if you have not received a welcome back within 7-10 working days. This period is also a great opportunity for you to note any problems/damages with the property for e.g. the washing machine won’t work. Sometimes you don’t notice these things until you are in the property and living in it. This also prevents you from incurring any unnecessary charges.
- Maintaining the property.
This property is your home for the next 6 months at least, and as much as we want you to feel at home and make it your own you need to remember that the property is rented. Maintaining a property is important if you want a good reference from your Agent/Landlord and it also helps you when handing over the property from a deposit point of view.
House of Multiple Occupancy
When it comes to HMO properties, there is much more to consider. To find out more about renting a property with an HMO license, please visit our blog section at www.bellevuelettings.co.uk
With the above in mind, here are some useful links that will help you along the way whilst renting a property. There is also new legislation due to come into play to support Tenants and the way they rent. Remember, if you feel an Agent/Landlord is not compliant or is treating you unfairly, you can always write to the Private Rented Housing Panel for advice at https://www.prhpscotland.gov.uk/
Some useful links
Tenant Information Pack – http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0049/00493393.pdf
Contents Insurance – http://www.arla.co.uk/info-guides/tenant-guides/tenant-insurance-guide/#q1
Is your landlord registered? – https://www.landlordregistrationscotland.gov.uk/Pages/Process.aspx?Command=ShowHomePage
Deposit Information – www.safedepositsscotland.com