Here at The Tenant’s Voice we have voiced our concerns – many a time – that not enough is done to help tenants understand their tenancy agreements. Given the effect that a tenancy has on the lives of renters it has always seemed nonsensical to us that more time isn’t taken to make sure that both the rights and responsibilities that come into play when you sign on the dotted line aren’t explained. Which is why we were very pleased to see the Government finally release a relatively comprehensive document that sheds light on what it is to be a tenant: ‘How To Rent: The Checklist For Renting in England.’
The Government’s How To Rent document was released in May this year and is designed to help tenants understand what questions to ask, what their rights are, and what responsibilities they have. It has been set out in a simple checklist format, with a list for all the various stages of renting, from looking for somewhere to live through to moving out at the end of the tenancy. The guide is aimed at those renting under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement and doesn’t cover lodgers and licensees.
Before You Start
This checklist looks at everything tenants should consider before beginning the search for a property. It offers statistics, such as “35% of your take-home pay is the most that many people can afford” when it comes to rent to help tenants work out what is affordable and also looks at the situation for those on Housing Benefit. We’d add just a few points to this, such as factoring in the extra costs of renting into affordability, not just the rent itself – council tax, deposit, agent fees – and more detail on how to choose an area (transport links, amenities, schools).
Looking For Your New Home
This meaty section includes all the questions to ask when you’re looking for the right property, such as who the landlord is, how long the tenancy is for, special rules with respect to children and pets and information about HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation). We think this section could also include the mention of break clauses and asking whether the property is managed by an agent or privately by the landlord.
When You’ve Found a Place
This checklist is really useful for pre-moving in steps and guides tenants towards reading the tenancy agreement – which so many of us don’t do – and agreeing an inventory. There’s also a useful section on what documents tenants should receive once moved in, such as the gas safety certificate and the deposit paperwork.
Living in Your Rented Home
Broken down into two halves, this checklist sheds light on both the landlord’s responsibilities and what tenants must do. Although the list only covers the basic responsibilities – and shouldn’t be an alternative to reading the actual tenancy – it’s a great place from which to start for both tenants and landlords.
The last two checklists are aimed at helping tenants to take steps to either extend or quit the tenancy when the fixed period comes to an end, and what to do should things start to go wrong. There are links to organisations that can be of some help if something happens during the tenancy and to further information on essentials, such as how notice needs to be given.
Although we think the ‘How To Rent: The Checklist For Renting in England’ could do with having a bit more tenant-focused information – but we would say that wouldn’t we – overall this is a great starting point for anyone looking to understand their rights and responsibilities. If you have any more detailed questions after reading this, you can always put it to one of our forums or take a look at our own Help & Advice pages.