Five questions tenants should ask before renting

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Post by David Thorne of Brighton and Hove Estate Agents Association and Leaders

It is currently a great time to look for a home to rent, following an influx of properties to the rental market that has provided more choice for tenants.

However, finding the right home is just the start; there are a number of other factors to consider to ensure a successful tenancy. Here are five important questions that all tenants should ask before renting a home.

1) What will it cost?

The rent is an obvious starting point, but it is not the only cost. Remember to factor in the required deposit, council tax, utility bills, agent fees and moving costs in order to work out whether a property is affordable.

2) Will the deposit be held safely?

Your deposit should be registered with an approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme and held safely in a protected account covered by a Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme. Ask the agent if they belong to a CMP scheme or look out for the SAFEagent logo which symbolises your money will be protected.

3) Is the property safe to live in?

There are a number of safety regulations that apply to rented properties. If your home has any gas appliances you should be given a gas safety record at the start of your tenancy. In addition, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted as appropriate; electrical appliances must be adequately maintained; and furnishings should comply with fire safety rules. A good agent will also carry out additional health and safety checks.

4) What condition is the property in?

You should be given a detailed and accurate inventory and schedule of condition at the start of a tenancy which documents the precise condition of the property and its contents. This protects your interests as it means that if you leave the property in the same condition – with the exception of fair wear and tear – at the end of the tenancy your deposit must be returned to you in full. It is up to you to check the inventory is accurate and to alert the landlord or agent if any corrections are needed at the start of your tenancy.

5) What are your rights and responsibilities?

You should be aware of your rights as a tenant – such as the fact the landlord or agent cannot enter your home without prior notice and permission unless in an emergency. It is also important to be aware of how much notice you or your landlord must give to end the tenancy, who is responsible for repairs and whether or not you are allowed to decorate. All this and more should be clearly stated in the tenancy agreement which you should make sure you have read and understood before signing.

Although there are many rules and regulations governing lettings, letting agents themselves are not regulated, unless they are members of a governing body such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). This means tenants need to be aware of their rights and how to protect themselves.

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