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Life Skills – Renting a Home

Life Skills – Renting a Home

When you’re flying the nest and finding your first home away from Mum and Dad, chances are you’ll be renting your new digs, whether that’s a house, duplex apartment, or studio.

Renting is an exciting opportunity to enjoy living independently without being tied down long-term, but there are a few essential things to consider. As part of our ‘Life Skills‘ series, we wanted to give you some pointers to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

We consulted the real estate experts at Rightmove to get the inside scoop on what to be aware of when you are looking to rent your first home.

What kind of deposit will I have to pay?

Renting anywhere, big or small, will require you to pay a deposit before moving in. This safeguards the property owner in the event of you leaving it in worse condition than when you moved in. In this instance, your deposit will not be refunded and will go towards repairs.

If you look after your home, chances are you’ll get your deposit back in full when you leave, but how much will it set you back initially?

A typical deposit consists of six weeks’ rent – coupled with the first month’s rental fee, this is normally the biggest upfront fee involved in the renting process. There is no legal cap on how much landlords can charge for a deposit in the UK, however in Scotland it is limited to two months’ rent.

If you are renting as part of an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord is legally obliged to place your deposit money into a protected scheme. If this has not happened within 30 days of your rental agreement beginning, then you are entitled to consult The Property Ombudsman for advice.

If you want more information about the cost of renting, check out Rightmove’s Rental Price Tracker to size up how much money you’ll need to rent in various UK regions.

What are letting agency fees?

If you rent a property through a letting agent, you can expect to pay additional fees to cover any work they have to do.

This will normally include the following:

  • Reference checks – this involves contacting your previous landlord to see if you can be relied upon to pay your rent, as well as your employer who can confirm you have a regular income that will cover the costs.
  • Credit checks – this is to get an idea of your financial behaviour and see if there is any indication that you might not pay rent on time.
  • Drawing up contracts – there is a lot of paperwork involved with signing a new tenancy agreement, so you pay an administration fee to cover this.
  • Professional property clean – between tenants, most letting agents arrange for a deep clean of the property so that you find it in perfect condition upon beginning your rental agreement. This allows for an easier analysis of any damage when you come to leave the property.

If you are allowed to bring pets to live in the property (and this is permitted in the terms of the agreement), then this may incur an extra fee.

One thing to watch out for is the letting agent charging you for viewing a property. This is, in fact, illegal – if unscrupulous agents spot that you are a first-time tenant, they may try to take advantage of you. Never agree to view a property for a fee.

How can I speed up the process?

Unfortunately, a lot of work goes into the creation of a new rental agreement, so there is little you can do to make it go faster.

However, it will help if you can reply to calls or emails as quickly as possible, and locate copies of a few key documents before the process begins: proof of current address, proof of employment (such as a payslip), and a bank statement.

These may not be required, but if they are, it will only cause delays if you have to search for them amongst piles of paperwork at home. Find them first and have them ready. Keep everything in a designated, easy-to-find folder, box, or file, and this will prevent a last-minute panic.

Can I make alterations to my home?

Whether or not you can engage in a spot of DIY in your rented home depends entirely on the landlord. Some will be happy for you to personalise the space with a coat of paint here, or an extra picture hook there. Others will want it left exactly the way you found it.

However, you enter into dangerous, potentially contract-breaching territory if you make any changes without first consulting the landlord. Any requests to make changes must be submitted in writing (often via the letting agent), and you must not begin any DIY work until you have had written consent. This protects you when it comes to getting your deposit back when you plan to leave.

If you are very lucky (and you’ve been a dependable tenant), the landlord may even agree to organise the changes themselves, meaning you won’t have to lift a finger!

What if something breaks and needs repairing?

Stuff breaks: it happens. However, when your shower/fridge/extractor fan/anything else breaks and you need it fixing, your first port of call is your landlord. It is up to them to authorise and organise a professional repair.

You, as the tenant, are expected to fix anything that doesn’t require a paid professional to carry out. However, for the maintenance of such things as pipes (gas or water), boilers, appliances (like dishwashers or washing machines), and radiators, the only thing you are expected to do is inform your landlord as soon as possible.

When the repairs have been authorised, your landlord should keep you completely informed of progress, letting you know whenever anyone is scheduled to come to your home and carry out work.

Renting your first property will teach you everything you need to know about managing finances, looking after the things you own, keeping yourself well fed, and most importantly: being house-proud.

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