In the excitement of finding a property to rent, sometimes common sense can fly out of the window. The property looks good, is in the right location, the rent is fair and the letting agents are fabulous… but there could be all sorts of potential problems lurking in places you might not have imagined or that you didn’t notice when you viewed the property.
If the previous tenant owned a pet, there could potentially be a problem with fleas. They are nasty little creatures and their eggs can lay dormant for up to a year. Ask your letting agent whether the carpets and furniture have been cleaned since the last tenant left and whether or not they had animals. If the flea infestation was there prior to you taking over the tenancy it will be the landlord’s responsibility to treat but it might be difficult to prove, especially if you have a pet.
If there is a crack in one of the windows or a window is broken, naturally it is the landlord’s responsibility to repair but don’t accept that this will repaired after you move in. Insist that it is repaired before you move in because where the letting agent doesn’t have full management of the property, the landlord may take some time to organise the repair. The same applies to anything that is visibly broken or not working. Letting agents have to work within the confines of what they are contracted to do and if they are not in control of repairs then you will have to keep contacting the landlord directly.
If you spot a broken socket or any bare wires, this is unacceptable and not safe. Insist on them being repaired and also on an electrical safety check, because if the landlord is prepared to leave a broken socket or bare wires exposed, the chances are that the whole system needs to be inspected. There is no legal requirement for the landlord to have an annual electrical safety check – except in certain circumstances such as the property has the status of an HMO (House in multiple occupation) – but for your safety you can ask that it is done before you commit to signing a tenancy agreement.
When viewing, ask for a demonstration of how the central heating boiler and other gas appliances work. In this way you will establish whether they are working correctly or not. Also ask to see the annual gas safety report. It is a legal requirement for the landlord to have an annual gas safety check and is a criminal offence for the landlord not to comply with gas safety regulations. If there is not a gas safety report in evidence don’t sign the tenancy agreement until you have seen it. If the letting agent can’t produce the gas safety report it is more than likely the landlord has not complied with gas safety regulations so don’t take the property. The money you pay in rent to the landlord or agent is money for a service that should be provided legitimately and to legal safety standards.
If you see evidence of damp or mould, ask for it to be sorted out before you sign the lease. The mould could be caused by condensation, but what you don’t want is to move into the property and then have the landlord refuse to repair the damage because condensation caused by tenants is usually their responsibility to fix.
Garden, shed and garage
If the garden is untidy and the shed/garage is full of things that are not included in your tenancy agreement, get them cleared. The landlord or letting agent may state that you can throw them away but this can come at a cost. If you are prepared to clear them, get permission in writing and ask for a reduction in rent commensurate with the time and expense it will incur. In this way you can avoid arguments about what should have been retained and what should have been thrown away. If the landlord wishes to store things in the shed or garage for a period of time, demand something in writing as to how long the items are going to be there. If you don’t need the storage space you can negotiate a reduction in rent but make sure that the landlord has insured the items since you don’t want responsibility for damage or loss. If you do need the storage space make sure that the landlord puts in writing when the items will be removed and the penalty should they not be removed within the given time frame. This could be that you put them in storage at another location at the landlord’s expense.
Penalties for not doing repairs within a certain time frame
There will be references to whose responsibility it is to undertake certain repairs within the property. The landlord also has legal responsibilities as to what must be repaired when renting out a property. However, a common problem that many tenants experience is the time taken for repairs. One way to eliminate this is to have a clause inserted into the tenancy agreement whereby the landlord has a certain period of time in which to carry out repairs, from the date he or she is notified of the problem, but if the repairs are not done within the given time frame, you as the tenant may get the repairs done and deduct such cost from the rent. A good landlord will have no problem with a clause such as this. However you must follow a strict procedure if you are going to take this approach.
Renting can be an enjoyable experience or a nightmare depending on what you do before you sign the tenancy agreement. Good landlords and letting agents will always value a good tenant and recognise that the rent their tenants pay represents payment for the service being offered. If the service is sub standard or lacking in the way it was initially described, you should put protection in place so that don’t suffer as a result. In this way you can circumvent potential problems when renting before they happen.