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How to Secure and Move Into a Rental Home

Written by Shelley Slater on Wednesday 15 January 2014

The process of renting a home can certainly be more straightforward than the home buying process, but that doesn’t make it simple. There are many things you need to be aware of, and pitfalls to avoid ensuring your rental home suits you – and your legal rights are protected.

It doesn’t matter what stage you’re in with life; student, young adult, mid-life or retired – you need to find the right home for you.

How to rent a home

Location

As with any home search, location is probably the first thing you consider. Things to look for:

  • Commute to work
  • The school run, if you have children
  • Is public transportation nearby?
  • Good motorway / main route links
  • Off-road parking and/or ample street parking during peak hours

Also consider the neighbourhood:

  • Visit during different times of the day and evening to view what the area is like both during the day and in the evening.
  • Does it suit your lifestyle? If you yearn for café culture, you may not enjoy a home in a rural or suburban area not within walking distance to the amenities you desire.
  • Will you and your family fit in? If it is a neighbourhood with mostly retirees or students, will your young family feel comfortable there?
  • What’s the crime rate like?

Budget

Your budget should be set before you start to look for your new home.

  • Find a figure you’re comfortable with – and stick to it.
  • Determine if your budget will allow you to have a home in your desired neighbourhood
  • Figure into your budget the cost of council tax, utilities, contents insurance, etc.
  • If you’re renting through a letting agency, be sure to budget for their fees, which can include up-front charges for administration fees (up to £165 or more in both Manchester and Birmingham) – advice from Shelter about letting agent fees.
  • Deposit – it can be up to six weeks of the monthly rent, with extra deposits if you have pets.
  • Fees to renew your tenancy.
  • Removal company or van hire costs.
  • Furnishing, if required.

Viewing a property

Just because you’re not buying the property doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out the structure and living conditions well. You’ll be living there, and you’ll want to have a happy and cosy home for the time your tenancy lasts.

  • Make a good impression! You’re being checked out just as much as you’re checking out the flat/apartment/house.
  • Look for signs of damp. Loose wallpaper, spots on ceilings and walls, condensation on windows, or a general smell of damp. Unless the landlord can show you where he’s taken recent action to correct the damp, you probably won’t want to live there. Damp can destroy your belongings and wreak havoc with your health.
  • What’s the water pressure like? Can you take a shower with more than a trickle? Does the toilet flush properly? Do the taps work?
  • Are there other issues, such as leaking taps, damaged walls (indoors or out), worn carpeting? Ask the landlord or letting agent if these will be repaired before you move in – and be sure to get this in writing. If they’re small issues and you can live with them, consider using them as a point to negotiate the rent down.
  • If you meet the current tenants, ask them what living there is like; likewise for other tenants in the same building if you’re renting a flat or apartment.
  • Is it furnished, part-furnished or unfurnished? Be sure to find out what exactly comes with the property.
  • Does it meet fire and safety regulations?
  • What sort of lock does your main door and the windows have? Most contents insurance policies require at least a five-lever mortice deadlock on your entry doors, and also require all windows to have locks.
  • Ask about energy efficiency – a poorly insulated home will cost you more to heat.
  • Find out how much the council tax is.
  • Ask to see the latest gas safety certificate.
  • Find out if the gas and electricity meters are prepaid or contract, as this can greatly impact the cost to heat and light your home.
  • Find out if there is a water meter or a flat rate for water. If there’s a meter, find out the approximate bill for this; if a flat rate, find out how much this is per month or year.

Securing tenancy

  • If the landlord requires a guarantor, have one lined up before you commit to anything, otherwise you could be out of pocket for any fees you pay up front if the guarantor you had in mind refuses.
  • Make sure you have your previous landlord and current employer references ready to be given.
  • If you pay cash for anything, make sure you have a written receipt.
  • Find out the name of the tenancy deposit scheme your landlord will be using.
  • Find out how long the tenancy is, and what the policy on renewing tenancies is. Some landlords start with an assured shorthold tenancy, and move to a periodic when that expires. More information on tenancies from gov.uk

Prepare to move

Once you’ve found a property and secured your new home, you need to prepare for moving. Some things to consider and do:

  • If you’re currently renting, does your lease require you to have a professional cleaner at the end of your tenancy? Arrange this and be sure to get a receipt that you can show your landlord or letting agent.
  • Clear out as much as you can before moving day, but if you’re in a furnished or part-furnished home, be sure not to dispose of your landlord’s possessions.
  • Arrange for school places, if required, for your children.
  • Arrange for contents insurance for your new home, ensuring you’re continually covered during the moving process.
  • Shop around for an energy supplier for your new home.
  • Arrange for your post to be redirected.
  • Notify your bank, credit card and loan companies, doctor, dentist, DVLA, and the council of your move and provide them with your new address.
  • Book your removal company – keep in mind that during peak seasons and on peak days, slots may fill early so it is best to be as flexible as possible.
  • Begin to pack for your removal. Guide to packing for your home removal.
  • Repair any damage you may have caused, including filling nail holes.
  • After all of your belongings are moved out and the cleaning is complete, take photographs of your old home, in case you have any disputes with your former landlord.
  • Be there during the checkout inventory with your landlord or letting agent.
  • Take a meter reading and provide it to your energy company for both your old and new properties.

Getting settled in your new home

Once you’re in your new home, you can unpack and relax, but make sure you do these things too:

  • Have the telephone number for the person responsible for repairs (landlord/agency).
  • Take photos of the inside and outside before you move your belongings in); you may need these to prove the condition when you move out.
  • Ask the landlord or the agency where the stopcock and thermostat is.
  • Ensure everything – sockets, light switches, taps, showers, white goods, etc. – that comes with or is in your new home is in good working order, and flag up with the landlord or agency if they’re not.
  • Find out your trash days.

The journey of moving home is never simple, but with some preparation and planning, moving into a new rental home can be less stressful than anticipated.

Article by: Shelley Slater, our website manager who is originally from the United States of America and has lived in Sweden, Switzerland and the UK

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