Getting the keys for your new private rented home can be both an exciting and stressful time. Going through all the paperwork with the landlord, getting furniture, sorting your benefit claims and setting up your bills can leave your head in a spin. It can be easy to sign all the paperwork for your new home, without giving much thought to what you are signing and what this means for you in terms of your rights and responsibilities. Making sure you know where you stand from the beginning will help your tenancy go more smoothly and you will know what do if your circumstances change of things start to go wrong.
Here are The Bond Board’s top tips for renting a private rented home. Our tips cover private renters with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. They do not cover people who have licences, who are lodgers or those who live with their landlord. Our tips are a starting point, giving you information. You should not rely on them to make decisions without getting further advice from The Bond Board or another organisation first, such as your local council’s housing options/homeless service or Shelter’s free housing advice line on 0808 800 4444.
TheBond Board helped 1632 homeless households and private renters in Rochdale and Bolton last year-Don’t struggle on your own, if you need advice- Contact us
▪Help with rent: If you are claiming help toward your rent from Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, it’s really important that you make the claim as soon as possible, ideally on the day you sign your tenancy agreement, if not before. You will also need to hand in or send them other information such as a copy of your tenancy agreement, proof of your income and I.D. If you don’t make a claim and hand everything in in time, your rent won’t be covered. The rules for backdating benefits are now very strict, so you may end up getting into rent arrears and having to pay the landlord from your own money
If you are claiming help with your housing costs from Universal Credit, you will need to apply separately to your local council for help with Council Tax. If you are applying for Housing Benefit from your local council, you should apply for help with Council Tax at the same time. Most Councils don’t cover all of your Council Tax bill in full, even if you are on benefits, so find out if you will have to pay some of your Council Tax bill and what the options are for paying it. Remember, your rent is a priority as rent arrears could put you at risk of losing your new home. If you need any help with Housing Benefit/Housing Costs under Universal Credit or any other benefit problems-Contact us
▪Paperwork: Keep all of the paperwork about your tenancy in a safe place-you might need to check it later or use it to claim benefits.
▪Contact telephone numbers: Make sure you have a phone number for your landlord/Letting Agent, including a number you can use in an emergency.
▪Water and Electric Safety: Find out where the fuse box is for the electrics is and the stopcock for the water, so you can turn them off if there is a problem, such as a water leak.
▪Gas Safety: Find out where your mains gas supply is and how to switch it off.If you smell gas at any time, act quickly and get fresh air immediately. Open all doors and windows to ventilate the room .Switch off the appliance and do not use it. Turn off the gas supply at the mains. Call the National Gas Emergency number on 0800 111 999. If you are feeling ill visit your GP or the hospital immediately and tell them that your symptoms may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning. Tell your landlord. It is their responsibility to pay for a Gas Safe registered engineer to check and fix the problem.
▪Gas and Electric Meters: Read your Gas and Electricity Meters. If your landlord has given you readings already, check the meters match the figures your landlord has given you. Contact whoever supplies your Gas and Electricity with the meter readings. You may want to consider swapping to an alternative supplier, if they are cheaper. If you have quarterly meters, ask permission from your landlord and get advice before swapping to pre-payment meters as they are more expensive and if you run out of money, you might have to go without gas and electricity. If you need advice about Gas or Electricity problems or are struggling to pay your bills-Contact us
▪Water and TV licence: Contact United Utilities to register for your water account (they will tell you if there is a meter that you need to read) and TV Licencing about a TV licence if you watch live TV on a TV or computer. Both have various options for paying your bills. If you need help to budget your money or are struggling to set up or pay your bills-Contact us
▪Keys: Check you’ve got keys that work for all your external doors. If you’ve only got one key for your door, consider getting a spare one cut. If you have someone you can trust to keep it for you and not enter your home without your permission, leave the spare with them. If you lose your key and don’t have a spare one, the landlord will probably charge you to provide a new one or to change the locks.
▪Furniture: If you have not got all the furniture you need or white goods, such as a cooker and a fridge, we can give you advice on your options. Most high street chains with weekly payment plans charge massive interest rates, so you could be paying loads more than you need to. You also risk having items removed or having to give them back if you can’t afford them. We don’t always have all the answers, but you may be able to get help form the Local Council’s welfare scheme, help from a local charity or apply for a grant-Contact us
▪Food: Getting food in after being homeless or having the expense of moving can be difficult. If you are struggling to eat at any time-Contact us
▪Changing your address: Write a list and contact everyone who needs to know your new address. This could include the offices for any benefits you are claiming, banks, children’s schools, doctors, dentists, friends and family and any services that work with you, like support workers or organisations. Only tell people you know well and trust your new address. It’s not a good idea to put your address on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, you could have unwanted visitors or put yourself or your home at risk. If you need help to contact Benefit department or find and register with services such as doctors, dentists or any other services-Contact us
▪Insurance: It is worth considering whether you can afford contents insurance for your possessions. In most circumstances, your landlord won’t cover you if your possessions are stolen or damaged. Shop around for a good deal-price comparison websites are a good place to look.
▪Before agreeing to let to you: Your landlord is required by law to check that you have the Right to Rent. They will need to see and make copies of your documents which prove your identity and immigration status for you and any other adults over the age of 18 who are going to live with you. The landlord must not discriminate against you because of your nationality.
You have a ‘Right to Rent’ if you are a;
▪Citizen of a country in the EU or EEA
▪Citizen of another country, but allowed to live in the UK indefinitely.
You have a time-limited Right to Rent whilst you have;
▪A agreed period of time to live in the UK, for example, if you have a student, spouse or work visa or leave to remain in the UK for a certain amount of time.
If you need any advice about your Right to Rent or getting the documents you need to prove you have a Right to Rent Contact us
▪At the start of the tenancy: Your landlord has to give you information. This includes;
An Energy Performance Certificate, A Gas Safety Certificate (you should get a new one every 12 months), A copy of the government’s ‘How to Rent Guide’, the landlords name and address or details of their Letting Agent, details of how much the rent is and when/how it should be paid and details of which Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme they have used (if you have paid a cash deposit). Ideally, your landlord should give you an ‘inventory’, listing what items are in the property and what condition they are in, which you should check when you move in, to avoid any disputes later.
▪Repairs: Your landlord is responsible for repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, such as the walls, roof and chimney, guttering and drains and also has to keep the supply of water, gas and electricity in working order. If your home puts your health at risk, for example due to damp, risk of falling or risk of fire, your Local Authority might require your landlord to do work to your property. Your landlord is also responsible for providing working smoke alarms on every floor of your property and a carbon monoxide detector if you have an open fire or wood burning stove. Any furniture or electrical equipment your landlord provides should be up to safety standards. You should always contact your landlord in writing in the first instance to notify them of repair problems. If you moved into an Assured Shorthold Tenancy after the 1st October 2015, or your agreement has been renewed since that date, it could now be harder for your landlord to evict you for complaining about repairs. If your landlord is not doing repairs or you have any concerns about your safety in your home contact your local council or-Contact us
▪Rent: Your landlord should keep an accurate record of all the rent you have paid and any rent that has been paid directly to them via Housing Benefit/Universal Credit. If you pay cash to your landlord or their agent, always ask for a receipt and keep it in a safe pace, you might need it later if there is a dispute. If your rent is due weekly, your landlord must give you a rent book, which you should record what rent is due and what has been paid. Your landlord is allowed to increase the rent, but there are rules about when this can happen. If you have any concerns about your rent or think you might get into arrears-Contact us
▪Quiet Enjoyment of your home: Your landlord or anyone employed by them should give you reasonable notice in advance, if they need to enter your home to do repairs or a tenancy check, unless it is an emergency. They should also not harass you, this could include, for example repeatedly phoning or texting you, turning up on your doorstep without notice and wanting to be let in when it’s not an emergency or entering your home whilst you’re out. If you have any concerns about your landlord’s behaviour-Contact us
Letting Agents: If your landlord is using a Letting Agency, they must be registered with one of three Government approved redress schemes. They can deal independently with complaints about Letting Agents, including being misleading about any fees they charge you, not passing the rent you have paid on to the landlord and if they don’t follow the rules about behaving properly. You will need to complain to the Letting Agent in writing first. If they don’t respond or resolve the complaint within 8 weeks, you can then complain to the redress scheme. If the Agent isn’t registered with a scheme, it is a criminal offence and they could be fined. Your local Council should investigate if it finds a Letting Agency that isn’t registered.
Wanting you to leave: Your landlord will need to give you written notice if they want you to leave and then get a Court Order to get possession of the property back and finally a Bailiff’s Warrant before they can legally evict you. You may think your tenancy has ‘run out’ because the amount of time on your written tenancy agreement has ended, but you are still a tenant and still entitled to property notice. The rules about when a landlord can give you notice and how long it lasts for vary. There are also circumstances in which you can challenge the notice the landlord has given you. As a general rule, if you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and the landlord wants the property back the notice will be for at least 2 months (a ‘Section 21 notice’), although if you have rent arrears of more than 2 months, the notice could be as short as 14 days (a section 8 notice). Even if the notice looks official, it may still be possible to argue the notice isn’t valid or shouldn’t have been given to you, so it is always worth getting advice. If is against the law for a landlord/managing agent to evict you without following the correct procedures or if they try to harass you to make you leave. If you have any concerns about being asked to leave and need advice, contact the homeless department of your local council for advice. Make sure you keep any paperwork, texts or messages the landlord has sent you, as they will need to see them. You can also Contact us
Paying rent: You are responsible for paying the rent you have agreed with the landlord, including any short-fall that is not covered by Housing Benefit/Universal Credit. If the short-fall is a problem, you might be able to get help from Discretionary Housing Payments from your Local Council. You are also responsible for making sure any Housing Benefit/Housing Costs claims are in payment and for telling them if any of your circumstances change. If you have any problems with paying rent or sorting out benefit claims, don’t leave it, you could end up in rent arrears and could lose your home- Contact us
Bills: Check your tenancy agreement to see if any bills are included in your rent. In most cases, you have to pay your own bills. These include Gas, Electricity, Water, TV Licence and Council Tax. If you are struggling to pay your bills or need any advice about budgeting for bills or have debts Contact us
Looking after the property: You have to look after the property by not damaging it and by doing the small jobs, like changing the lightbulbs yourself. If you damage something belonging to the landlord, you will need to replace it, unless it has worn out because of fair wear and tear. You should follow any reasonable rules in your tenancy agreement, for example whether pets are allowed or if you can smoke in the property. You are responsible for letting your landlord/Letting Agent know if there are any repairs that need doing and letting them in to sort them out. You also need to help make sure the property doesn’t get damp or condensation by heating it in cold weather and keeping it ventilated by opening windows. If you are not sure whether a problem in the property is your responsibility or the landlords or what to do about it
Behaviour: As a tenant, you must not behave unreasonably, aggressively or anti-socially to your neighbours or your landlord/managing agent. You are also responsible for the behaviour of your children and any personal visitors to your home, such as friends and family. You could be evicted for Anti-Social Behaviour, even if it wasn’t you who was behaving badly, so be careful who you invite round and try not to let people who could cause trouble into your home.
Ask your landlord: Your tenancy agreement will usually tell you what you need to ask the landlord about before you do it. This normally includes asking before you make any changes in the property such as decorating/home improvements or letting someone else move in like a lodger. Your agreement will normally tell you that you are not allowed to sub-let the property to someone else or move out and give someone else your tenancy, without your landlord’s permission.
Going away: You must live in your home and use it as your main home in order to keep your tenancy. If you go away for a long time, for example to visit relatives abroad, because you are in hospital, re-hab or a refuge, you should let your landlord know how long you are likely to be away for. You don’t have to go into details about why you are away. You will still have to pay your rent whilst you are away. Your housing benefit could be affected, although in some circumstances, you can claim housing benefit whilst you are away or for two properties, e.g. your tenancy and a refuge at the same time. If you need to go away get advice as soon as possible to check where you stand-Contact us
Ending your tenancy: You will need to give your landlord notice in writing if you want to leave, unless the landlord agrees you can leave without giving notice or waiting for the notice to run out.
If you are in a fixed term tenancy, e.g. for 6 or 12 months, your notice can’t end and you will still be liable for the rent until the end of the fixed term or another tenant moves in. It is worth checking of there is a ‘break clause’ in your tenancy agreement that might allow you to give notice during the fixed term.
If your fixed term tenancy has ended and your tenancy agreement has become a month by month (‘periodic tenancy’), you will need to give 4 weeks’ notice if your rent is due weekly and a months’ notice if your rent is due monthly. In most cases, the notice must end on a period of the tenancy. An example would be that your tenancy started on the 3rd of the month and your rent was also due on the 3rd of each month. In this case, a period of the tenancy for your months’ notice to end of would be the 2nd of the month (the last day of a period of the tenancy) or the 3rd of the month (the first day of a period of the tenancy).
Abandonment: If you leave your home without telling your landlord or just handing in the keys without notice, this is called abandonment. It means you have still not ended your tenancy and will still owe the rent until the property is re-let. Having rent arrears or abandoning a property could make it much harder to get re-housed and leave you in debt.
If you want to leave your home, have you made plans for where you will go? If you leave your home without a good reason, you could be found ‘intentionally homeless’ if you apply as homeless to your local council. This might make it very difficult to get re-housed into social housing. If you have any problems which are making you want to leave your home and you don’t have a new home to move to or don’t know how to give notice, it is always worth getting advice first by contacting your local council’s homeless department or Contact us
Leaving your home: Remember to leave the property as it was. This means taking all of your belongings and furniture with you and removing any rubbish. Leave the property clean, including the cooker and fridge if they belong to the landlord. If you have damaged anything, you will need to fix the damage. If the landlord gave you an inventory when you moved in, check it as you move out to make sure you have left everything belonging to the landlord and it is in the same condition. Ideally, you should check the inventory with the landlord together, before you move out so you have time to put anything right if there is a problem. You shouldn’t lose your bond for fair wear and tear, such as the carpets being worn if you have lived in the property for a long time. Common reasons for landlords claiming against a bond include; rubbish left in or outside the property, tenants belongings left in the property, ripped wallpaper or drawing on the walls, dirty cookers, rent arrears and leaving without giving the proper notice.
Don’t forget to read your meters before you leave and make sure your landlord/Lettting Agent gets the keys back-ask for a receipt. Make sure you tell Housing Benefit/Universal Credit the day you have moved out, so you don’t get overpaid and have to pay it back later. Also give them your new address so you don’t miss any important letters and they know about your change of circumstances.
Remember: If you keep to your side of the rules and your landlord needs the property back through no fault of your own, it will be much easier to get re-housed. Your local council might be able to house you, or The Bond Board might be able to offer you a bond, or even a second bond. If you lose your home due to breaking the rules, such as not paying the rent or behaving anti-socially or your landlord claims your bond because you left the property damaged, it will be much more difficult to get re-housed.