Getting started as a tenant
All the evidence and stats point to one thing – more of us in the UK are renting than at any time before. And, what’s more, this is only set to rise further in the coming years.
Recent research carried out by Knight Frank for their Multihousing Report found that the proportion of households living in the private rented sector will reach 24% (5.79 million) by 2021, up from 21% (or 5 million) as things stand. Some 68% of the renters who took part in the survey, which spoke to 10,000 people living in the PRS, said they fully expected to still be renting in three years’ time.
Other studies in recent times have pointed to the rising number of tenants in the UK, with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) revealing late last year that the number of UK households renting property increased from 2.3 million in 2001 to 5.4 million in 2014. The body also said that, by 2025, at least 1.8 million more households will be looking to rent rather than buy a home.
The rising influence of Build to Rent – where institutional investors plough money into the creation of new rental accommodation – is a further reflection of booming tenant demand. Investment in this sector is expected to rise from around £25 billion to £70 billion over the next five years.
Why is all of this important? Well, if you are a new tenant who is renting in the PRS for the first time, there are a few things you need to know to ensure your tenancy is a smooth, mutually beneficial one.
To help, we’ve come up with a starter pack for tenants on some of things you need to do – and think about – before you rent a property for the first time.
When it comes to renting a home, you won’t just face rental payments each month but bills for utilities (gas, electric, water) and phone and broadband as well. That is unless your tenancy is one which states that bills are inclusive. If bills are not included in your monthly rent, you will need to factor in these extra costs and make arrangements with your landlord, letting agent or utility providers to pay these fees in the appropriate way.
The bills you are responsible for and the rental payments you owe each month will be set out in your tenancy agreement, a document that it is vitally important you pay close attention to. Unless you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO), you will have to pay council tax too. The tenancy agreement will also outline how the rent will be paid, when it needs to be paid and how much needs to be paid, while the exact start and end date of the tenancy should also be made clear.
Rental homes generally come either furnished or unfurnished, although an increasingly popular choice in recent years is for part-furnished properties – which offers tenants the best of both worlds. Of course, if the home is furnished, you won’t need to worry about providing your own furniture, furnishings, beds, desks, side tables and bedside tables. If the home is unfurnished, you may need to provide your own bed, sofas, tables and furnishings, which may have appeal if you are looking to rent for the long-term and want to make your rental house feel more like a home. You may want to put your own stamp – rather than the landlord’s – on the property you’ll be living in.
Even the majority of unfurnished homes come with a few basics and essentials – including white goods, appliances, curtains, carpets, sanitary ware, bed frames and light fittings – but this isn’t guaranteed.
Part-furnished properties are becoming a more popular phenomenon, but this can get a bit muddled. Are the properties more furnished than unfurnished, or vice versa? Furnished properties will typically cost more to rent, but it means you will have fewer possessions in tow if you choose to move on, plus your bank balance will be pleased at not having to shell out on furniture and bedding. Unfurnished properties means you’ll have to buy a lot of your own furniture and will have more to take with you if you decide to end your tenancy, but you’ll also be able to make a house feel more like a home and you should be faced with lower rents.
Unfurnished properties are generally more popular than furnished ones, particularly among families and young professionals, so expect demand to be high for this type of rental home.
Whether your property comes furnished or unfurnished, it's also wise to consider taking out contents insurance. A contents insurance policy for tenants doesn’t only protect your personal possessions, it may also cover accidental damage to a landlord’s furniture, fixtures and fittings, giving you further peace of mind.
Although you have a number of rights, responsibilities and obligations as a tenant – set out by your tenancy agreement and including, but not limited to, looking after the rental property, paying your rent on time and paying for the repair of any damage caused by you, other tenants or guests – there are also legal obligations you must adhere to.
Firstly, you must not sublet your property unless it’s been explicitly stated that you’re allowed to in your tenancy agreement. This, and other serious breaches of the tenancy agreement such as excessive damage, could lead to legal action being taken by your landlord to evict you.
What’s more, if you’re a tenant in England, you need to prove your right to rent. Since February 1 2016, all private landlords have to check that new tenants have the right to legally rent residential property in England. Landlords must check the right to rent of all tenants aged over 18 before the start of a new tenancy. There are certain types of accommodation that are exempt from the rules, including social housing, student property, care homes and hostels or refuges.
Before you rent a home for the first time, it’s also important to get a good understanding of deposits and what your rights are when it comes to deposit protection. The required deposit amount – typically equivalent to the first three months’ rent – will be outlined in your tenancy agreement, but it’s important to know that landlords in England and Wales have a legal obligation to place a deposit in one of three government-approved schemes (namely the Deposit Protection Service, My Deposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme).
Your landlord must tell you which of the schemes your deposit has been placed in and give you written confirmation of this.
As a tenant, it’s also important to know your rights, who your landlord (or the person managing your tenancy) is, what type of tenancy you have and when it starts and finishes.
Making sure you have a clear and detailed tenancy agreement, as well as a thorough and comprehensive inventory at the check-in and check-out of your tenancy, will both help to give you peace of mind.
As you can see from above, there is quite a lot to get your head around if you’re a new tenant, but there is help and support out there – both online and in person – to make sure you are well-versed in all aspects of the rental process. If you have friends or families who are renting, or have rented in the past, don’t be afraid to turn to them for advice, support and assistance.