I thought I’d offer a little insight into the world of renting from a different perspective. I don’t rent myself but I work within the industry so I see a different circumstance pretty much every day and it really can be a minefield out there for you. Here’s a few topics I know come up frequently so I’ve popped a little layman’s explanation for you!
It’s one of the most annoying things to pay for but we’ve all had to do it. When moving house, you have to save up your pennies for the deposit. Often a pretty weighty amount to be paid and one that just flies off into the eitha which you forget you ever paid in the first place. There’s several things to look out for and the deposit is more than just a lot of money your landlord may want to take off you at the end. The landlord has a legal duty to obtain the deposit and to secure it properly. Laws came into place to ensure these deposits weren’t pocketed by landlords, or agents, and they have to be protected by a government scheme to ensure that no matter what happens to the landlord, or agent, your money is safe. The government schemes either protect the funds in a ring fenced account or they insure the funds of their value. Either way, if your landlord has not protected it accordingly and your money is not safe, you’re entitiled to three times the deposit as compensation. Recently, a new law has passed which states that landlords cannot obtain more than the equivalent of five weeks so this is now capped, no matter whether you have a pet or your referencing isn’t up to scratch. If you paid more than five weeks rent previously, upon renewal of your tenancy, it is your landlords, or agents, responsibility to now refund you the difference – get in!
We’ve all heard horror stories where rented properties are cold, damp or just below par. In one way or another, the government are making amendments to alter this and to ensure that landlords provide the public with good, well operating, properties. The EPC or Energy Performance Certificate is something which rates the efficiency of the building. It’ll be looking at things like are the windows double glazed, is there loft insulation and of course, is there heating in the first place? Previously, a rental property had to have a certificate which rates the efficiency but now, they have to have a certificate and it has to show that the rating is of an E or above. Properties rating G or F, unless exempt due to being listed for instance, cannot be let or tenancies cannot be renewed. EPC’s aren’t the best judge of a property but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Worth asking for one next time you view a property as the landlord, or agent, are legally obliged to provide it to you.
A massive misconception that I come across in this industry is tenants withholding rent. Yes, it does feel very unfair that you still have to pay your rent if a Landlord is not doing their obligated repairs but you can not withhold rent. Remember it’s a contract and not paying the rent means you are breaching that therefore a Landlord, regardless of whether they’re doing what they should or not, can then claim you are not upholding your side of the bargain and essentially, kick you out. If a Landlord is not doing repairs which are impacting your enjoyment of the property or your essential utilities, you can get the works done yourself and then claim this from the rent, get the local Council involved or speak to Citizens Advice.
Notice, giving and receiving
Giving or receiving notice and the process which is involved is governed by statute and the rules cannot be tampered with. Your landlord may write into your tenancy agreement that they can give less than the two months but no fear, this cannot override statute and you have your rights. A tenant must give a minimum of 21 days notice but is standardly one month if you pay your rent monthly. This can roll in line with your rent date so do bare this in mind. For instance, if you pay your rent on the 15th of the month and give notice on the 14th, the notice is actioned on the 15th and you vacate on the 14th of the next month. If you give it on the 16th, you’ve missed your rent date and the notice is not actioned until your next rent date and you will be vacating on the 14th of the month after the next month. A landlord must give two months notice, unless you have breached your contract. If you moved in since September 2015, take note of whether you received a How To Rent Guide, a copy of your EPC and a copy of your Gas Certificate – if not, they can’t serve notice.
We’ve all been there, paying out hundreds of pounds for agents fees which we reluctantly with absolutely no choice. However, the government listened and agents are now no longer allowed to charge fees. When moving in to a new property, you cannot be charged for referencing, for administration or for needing a guarantor and if you are being charged, your agent is breaking the law. Now, as I’m in the industry, I am biased on this and must say, there are still some fees agents are allowed to charge and personally, I think this is fair enough. There’s always admin involved and someone is working at a desk every day doing this work for what could be minimum wage, so remember it’s not their fault! If you need to change the names on your tenancy agreement once you’ve moved in or if you wish to vacate earlier, the agent can and will charge for this.
Tax – something most of us have no idea about but pretend and wish we did. The rent you pay is an income to your landlord and therefore they must pay tax on it. Not normally something you need to worry about however if your landlord lives overseas and you pay them directly, it is your responsibility as a tenant to ensure HMRC are aware and tax is deducted. If you’re unsure what to do, contact HMRC and they’ll run you through it. If they can ensure the landlord is paying tax, they’ll write to you to confirm you can freely continue to pay the rent without having to deduct the tax.
I hope you find this helpful and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask or of course, go to citizens advice!