It’s an exciting time when you’re about to start in a new property and most of us just want to get settled. However, it’s important that you manage the move in process properly so that there are no issues at any other point in your tenancy as a result of anything you overlook now.
Read your tenancy agreement
This may sound obvious but so many of us don’t do it, either because we don’t believe we can make changes so we don’t bother, or because we get carried away with the excitement of moving. You are signing a legally binding document that commits you to everything that it contains so, at the very least, you should know what you are agreeing to. If you need help reading your tenancy then you can take it to a local Citizens Advice centre or the charity Shelter.
What will the tenancy cost?
It’s not just the rent and the deposit that you need to factor into your moving in process, there are other fees to pay too. Normally, all the fees need to be paid at once, up front, so you will need to ensure you have the cash available.
- A holding deposit – this is essentially a fee that is required to take the property or room off the market so that it is not available to other renters to view. It should be refundable when you move in but if you don’t take the property landlords or agents may deduct their costs when they return it to you.
- Contract fees – even if your landlord or agent is simply printing off a pre-prepared contract to which they have added your name and address they will still normally try to charge you a fee. Unfortunately this fee is fairly unavoidable as you need to sign the contract to enter the property. However, you may be able to negotiate it down in some cases.
- Agent’s fees. If the landlord is using an agent there may be ‘admin fees’ to pay to the agent when you move in.
- Inventory fees. There is usually a charge for the check in inventory, as well as the check out inventory. The standard practice is for the landlord to pay for one and the tenant the other. Inventories are important as they show the state of the property when a tenant moves in and moves out – what happens in between is damage or wear and tear that a tenant has caused. Damage (but not wear and tear) may be charged for by the landlord so it’s key not to pay for damage that was there before you arrived.
What about the deposit?
The deposit is designed to give the landlord access to cash should tenants cause damage that the landlord needs to repair. HMO landlords must protect deposits within 30 days in one of the three government deposit protection schemes, just like every other landlord of an assured shorthold tenancy. Once the deposit has been protected then Prescribed Information must be given to the tenant indicating where the deposit is held (within 30 days). It is a legal requirement for a landlord to do this and where deposits are not protected a tenant may be able to make a claim against a landlord for the entire deposit to be returned, as well as compensation of 1-3 times the amount of the deposit.
Checklist for arriving
- Make sure you sign and date your tenancy and get a copy for your records.
- When you pay all the fees, deposit and rent up front to the agent or landlord, ask for a receipt. Don’t pay in cash as this is not traceable – transfer the money electronically instead.
- You should receive a copy of the gas safety check certificate – this is an annual requirement. You can also ask for information on the last electrical system check (this should be done every five years in an HMO).
- Go through the check in inventory and make sure it is correct. You may have to make amendments or additions – that’s fine, do this before you sign the document off. Add time stamped photos if you can. If there is no inventory provided then do your own and send a copy electronically to the landlord so you have a record of what the property was like when you arrived.
- Buy insurance for your possessions – you will need specific HMO insurance.
- Find out who pays the TV licence – this is the landlord’s responsibility, strictly speaking, unless the tenancy agreement requires the tenant to do it.
- Open utilities accounts and allocate an account to different members of the HMO to look after (unless the bills are included in your rent or you are a sole tenant with an individual meter).
- Set up your rent standing order to make sure your don’t miss any future payments and incur penalties.
- Find out what to do in an emergency, such as a boiler breakdown. You should have contact details for the agent and/or for someone who can come and take care of emergency repairs in the evenings or at weekends.
- Which scheme is protecting your deposit? Hopefully you’ve already been told but remember that you must be given this information within 30 days of paying the deposit.
- Collect your key as soon as you sign the tenancy agreement.
- Start unpacking!