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One of the main reasons many of us want to buy a home is to get away from the insecurity of renting a property. The average UK tenancy is just 12 months and long-term tenancies of three to five years are unheard of. That means, for many tenants, there is an annual insecurity about losing the roof over your head. Add to that the increasing cost of renting and the lack of good properties and it can be a thoroughly anxiety-inducing situation. But there are ways around it. If you want to find – and keep – a great rental property, it can be done.
There’s no need to rely on high street letting agents any more to find the best rental properties in your area. Online agencies such as Upad often have a much wider selection of options and lower fees. If you want to bypass the agent completely then sites like Open Rent connect landlords and tenants directly.
Start by giving yourself the time to research the perfect property. Letting agents have a tendency to give the impression that there’s no time to think. However, although the market is tight, rushing into signing an agreement for a poor property is never a good idea. Look at location, neighbours and find out why the last tenant left. Take the time to thoroughly inspect the property looking out for signs of damp, poor maintenance and damage. Ask when the boiler was replaced – one of the biggest complaints tenants have is being without heating and hot water because of boiler issues.
If you want to make sure the property is yours then be decisive. Pay the holding deposit, have your references in order and be ready to move quickly. If you’re not going to offer the asking price then be sensible about what you put forward. For example, a 10% discount on monthly rent in return for committing to a two year tenancy. Look out for fees and charges and make sure you’re not being charged twice – some agents will charge both agent and landlord the same fee. In the recent Autumn Statement it was announced that letting agent fees are to be abolished. When this kicks in there should be nothing for tenants to pay up front.
Landlords have a reputation for being difficult or trying to make money from doing very little. Some are like this but many aren’t. Agents muddy the waters when it comes to landlord and tenant relationships as they have their own agenda so it’s a good idea to make direct contact with a landlord just in case. Understand the nature of the relationship with a landlord – if they’re paying an agent to manage the property then they will want the agent to deal with maintenance, repairs etc. However, if you feel the agent isn’t passing messages on, or is overcharging in some way then the landlord will likely want to know. Landlords are charged by agents every time new tenants must be found so they are just as keen to establish good ongoing relationships.
Keep noise to a minimum, look after the property and pay your rent on time. Clean regularly and don’t make changes to the structure of the building or the colour of the walls without asking first. It doesn’t take much to keep landlords happy. If there’s an issue with the property that needs fixing then be firm but fair about it. Take the time to read your tenancy agreement so that you can show the agent or landlord where you believe they aren’t sticking to their part of the bargain. Be reasonable and give the landlord time to respond and fix problems. Because there’s a lot of money at stake for tenants and the renting landlords, relationships can get fraught. However, there’s usually a way of solving the issue that suits everyone.
When you move out, do it respectfully. Pay your last rental payment, clear out all your things, do the final full clean and leave the property as you found it. Don’t force the landlord to chase you through the courts for money or have to hire a skip to remove old furniture. You may think that’s the end of the relationship but remember that your next landlord will ask for a reference from this one so it’s crucial that they have good things to say.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read about Alex Hartley
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