Renting private accommodation for the first time is an exciting rite of passage for many students and young professionals. However it’s all too easy to get caught up in all that excitement and make some simple (and costly) mistakes when you fly the nest.
Here are 5 pieces of advice we wish we knew when we rented our first flat:
1. Safety First
This is a mantra that should be adopted for most of the big decisions in your adult life, and renting your first flat is no different. You should seek assurances, and more importantly proof, that appliances have been checked and certified safe, and that the gas safety certificate is up-to-date.
If you’re renting a large flat, sharing with 3 or more people, you should also ensure your landlord has an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) License. This places certain responsibilities upon them to make sure the property is equipped with fire safety equipment, including extinguishers, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide alarms.
2. Know What You’re Signing
You must have absolute clarity on what it is you’re signing. Read your lease carefully, and ask questions if you don’t understand anything in particular.
If you’re moving in with flatmates, and you all sign the same agreement, then you’re agreeing to a joint tenancy, which in essence means you’re all equally liable for the rent and any other costs detailed in the document. If one of your flatmates is short on the rent, your landlord can pursue you for the balance.
And just as your landlord will have certain responsibilities, you will too. You must agree that you won’t leave the property empty for prolonged periods of time, that you’ll look after the interior and any furnishings, and that you’ll report any major repair work required. You must also carry out any minor maintenance such as testing your smoke alarms or changing lightbulbs.
3. Have A Budget
This is a big one. Can you actually afford to take on a tenancy agreement? The rule of thumb is that your income should be at least 2.5 times the rent per annum. This can of course be reduced by moving in with a flatmate, which is usually the approach most first time renters take.
And don’t forget to factor in bills such as council tax, broadband, and utilities. Being absolutely clear on the affordability of the property before agreeing to take it on will save you all sorts of financial worries down the road.
4. Double Check The Inventory
You should be thorough when you move into your new home. This is a habit that will stand you in good stead with any properties you happen to rent in the future. Leave no stone unturned when checking the inventory that you’ve been provided (and if you haven’t been given one, request one!).
Take time-stamped photos of any damage already present when you first move in, and return a signed copy of your inventory to your landlord or letting agent, keeping a copy for your own records. This will help you mitigate any disputes when the time comes to renew or move on.
5. Protect Your Deposit
This is for your landlord to do, but it’s important that you clarify with them that it has indeed been done.
Here in the UK, letting agents and private landlords must use a tenancy deposit protection scheme approved by the government in order to keep your cash safe. They must do this within 30 days of the beginning of your lease, and provide you with details of the scheme they are using.
You can find out more at the following links:
Scotland: SafeDeposits Scotland / mydeposits Scotland / Letting Protection Service Scotland
England & Wales: Deposit Protection Service / mydeposits / Tenancy Deposit Scheme
Do you have any advice for first time renters? What did you wish you knew before the ink dried on your first lease agreement? Tell us on Twitter!