We want tenants to be fully informed when making the decision to sign up to one of our properties, so that you are confident that it is the best choice for you. This is especially important to us if you are new to renting, as we want you to have a positive experience.
When you enter in to a tenancy, you are entering in to a legally binding, contractual agreement. This not only gives you important rights as a Tenant, but also some responsibilities as well.
Within our Tenant’s pages we offer advice that is broken down in to different sections: before, during, and after the tenancy.
If you are a first time tenant and new to renting, or a dab hand, we offer practical advice to all on what you can expect whilst living at a rented property, what our legal obligations are to you, what your obligations are to us and what to do if and when, you should want to leave.
This will help you to take the stress out of finding your new rental home so all you have to do is worry about where to put your sofa and TV in the living room!
Things to consider before you start looking for a rental home:
· What can you afford? How much rent are you realistically able to afford to pay. Most people can afford approximately 35% of their take home pay/benefits, as the rest is used towards other living expenses. However, this all depends on what your individual outgoings are e.g. if you have children, pets, loans to repay etc.
· If you are on housing benefit, check the online calculator at lha-direct.voa.gov.uk to see what your entitlement is and if you can afford to live in the area that you want.
· Decide what area you want to live in and how you plan on finding a home e.g. looking on the internet, in local Letting Agents, in local Newspapers etc.
· Have your documents and information ready as most reputable Landlords and Agents will want to confirm your identity, credit history, your previous rental/accommodation history and possibly your employment or immigration status as well. At Etheridge Estates we carry out vetting checks on all potential tenants where we require two forms of I.D (one needs to be a photographic I.D) such as a: National Insurance Card, bank card, passport, driving licence, utility bill from the past 3 months, wage slip from the past 3 months, bank statement from the past 3 months, letter from the Local Authority or other official body in relation to benefit entitlement etc from the past 3 months, details of your past 5 years housing history and your current employment status/employer details if you are working.
· Will you need a rent guarantee or deposit? Some Landlords and Agents might ask for someone to stand as Guarantor for your tenancy to guarantee that your rent will be paid and/or for you to pay some money to them as a deposit. This is in case any damage is caused to the property or the rent isn’t paid. At Etheridge Estates we ask for either a Guarantor or a deposit (usually equivalent to one month’s rent). If you don’t have someone who can do this or you don’t have the money available for a deposit, Shelter may be able to offer help at england.shelter.org.uk.
Should I rent direct from a Landlord or a Letting Agent?
· If you want to rent direct from a Landlord, contact your Local Authority who can advise if there are any properties available to rent via their Landlord Accreditation Scheme. At Etheridge Estates, we are members of Gateshead Council’s Private Landlord’s Association (GPLA).
· The National Landlords Association and Residential Landlords Association also run national Landlord Schemes.
· Ask what independent complaints scheme the Letting Agent is a member of. At Etheridge Estates, we are a member of The Property Redress Scheme (Membership Number: PRS003541).
Things to consider when looking for your new home:
· Deposit Protection. If the Landlord asks for a deposit, check that it will be protected in a Government approved scheme. It needs to be protected within 30 days of you giving it to them. At Etheridge Estates, we protect our Tenant’s deposits in the Government Approved Deposit Protection Service custodial scheme & you will receive direct official notification from them that your deposit has been registered.
· How long is the tenancy for? This is usually for a fixed period of either 6 or 12 months. Some Landlords are happy to offer longer tenancies, so if you want a longer one, just ask.
· Children, smoking and pets. Check if there are any rules about them, as well as others things such as keeping a bike, car parking, refuse/recycling arrangements, gardens/yards etc.
· Check who is responsible for bills such as electricity, gas, water, council tax, you or the Landlord? Usually these are the Tenant’s responsibility.
· Fixtures and Fittings. Check you are happy with them as it is unlikely that the Landlord will allow these to be changed once you have signed the tenancy.
· Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Check if these are installed and regularly ensure that they are in working order. It is recommended that they be tested once monthly. Report it to your Landlord/Agent immediately if they are not working correctly.
· If the building becomes unfit to live in. Check that the tenancy agreement excuses you from paying rent should the building become unfit to live in because of fire or flood.
When you’ve found a place:
· Make sure that you have a written tenancy agreement and read it carefully to understand your rights and responsibilities before signing it. If you have any concerns or are unsure of anything before signing it ask the Landlord/Agent or seek independent advice from your Local Authority, Shelter or Citizens Advice.
· Agree an Inventory or Check-In Report with your Landlord as an extra safeguard and take photographs. This will make things easier if there is a dispute about the deposit at the end of the tenancy. If you are happy with the inventory/check-in report, sign it and request your own copy to keep.
· Remember to take meter readings when you move i, so that you are not paying for the previous tenant’s bills. Notify the gas, electric & water board of your move in date and also the Local Authority for Council Tax.
· Contact details. Make sure that you have the correct contact details for the Landlord/Agent including a number which you can use in case of an emergency. At Etheridge Estates, we have a fully staffed office and contact telephone number available during working hours Monday-Friday. We also have a 24 hour emergency out of office hours contact number.
At the end of the fixed term of the tenancy:
· You need to decide whether or not you are happy to continue living at the property. If so, you may wish to extend your tenancy after the initial fixed period but there are some issues to consider first.
· Do you want to sign up to a new fixed term?
· If you don’t sign up for a new fixed term after the initial period has ended then you will be on a ‘rolling periodic tenancy’. This means that you carry on as before but with no fixed term. You can therefore leave at any time by giving one month’s written notice to your Landlord/Agent. Or, your Landlord/Agent can end the contract by giving two months’ notice to you (unless you are in rent arrears).
· Your Landlord/Agent may want to increase the rent.
· Your Landlord/Agent can increase the rent by agreement or as set out in your tenancy agreement or by following a procedure as set out in Law. See Shelter’s website for advice england.shelter.org.uk
If you or the Landlord/Agent want to end the Tenancy:
There are things both the Landlord/Agent and Tenant must do at the end of a tenancy.
· Giving Notice. It is a legal requirement for Landlords/Agents to give a tenant(s) proper notice if they want you to leave. Normally, the Landlord/Agent must allow any fixed period of the tenancy to have expired and they must have given at least two month’s written notice.
· Your tenancy agreement will specify how much notice you need to give the Landlord/Agent if you want to leave the property. One month’s notice is typical.
Return of the deposit.
· Try to be present when the property is inspected to check whether any of the tenancy deposit should be deducted to cover damage or cleaning costs. If you do not agree with any proposed deductions, contact the relevant deposit protection scheme.
· Make sure that your rent payments are up to date. Do not hold back rent because you think that it will be taken out of the deposit. If you fail to make rent payments, this may also affect your Landlord/Agent’s ability to give you a good reference when you come to find another property.
· Do not leave bills unpaid as this may have a negative impact on your credit rating. If you fail to pay bills, this may also affect your Landlord/Agent’s ability to give you a good reference when you come to find another property.
· Clear up. Remove all your possessions, clean the house, take meter readings, advise Council Tax, Housing Benefits, return all keys and give a forwarding address. The Landlord/Agent is entitled to dispose of possessions left within the property typically after 14 days. The landlord/Agent can also deduct any cleaning or possession disposal costs from your deposit.
In the unlikely event that things go wrong there are often legal protections in place for the most common problems that you may experience during a tenancy. Here we explain what they are and where to look for help:
· If you are having financial problems or are falling in to rent arrears speak to your Landlord/Agent as soon as possible as they are likely to be more sympathetic to your situation if you talk to them early on and you are honest. At Etheridge Estates, if this happens, we always try our best to help our Tenant’s through such difficult times but we need to be kept fully informed in order to be able to help. There is also help available from your local Authority, Citizens Advice or Shelter.
· If the property is in an unsafe condition, you have reported the issue to your Landlord/Agent and they won’t repair it, contact your Local Authority. They have powers to make Landlords deal with serious health and safety hazards. Don’t withhold your rent, as this could put you at risk of eviction.
· Unannounced visits and harassment from your Landlord/Agent can be reported to your Local Authority or if it is more urgent dial 999.
· If you believe that you’re are being forced out of your property illegally then contact the Police. If your Landlord/Agent wants you to leave the property they must notify you in writing with the right amount of notice.
· If you are ever concerned about finding another place to live then contact the Housing Department at your Local Authority. Dependent upon your circumstances they may have a legal duty to help you find accommodation. If not then they can offer advice. They should not wait until you are evicted before taking action to help.
Above all, remember to enjoy your new rental property, the responsibility that having your own place brings and treat it as if it were your own home.