More than a third of UK households are now renting and it can be an expensive business, as many of us already know. If you want to make sure that you don’t fall down all the usual pitfalls or waste your money on a bad experience, we’ve got some tips to help you improve the financial side of your renting experience this year.
Make sure your deposit is protected
According to Shelter, one in five tenants renting privately in the UK don’t know whether their deposit is protected or not. We know from our forums that some landlords will concoct all sorts of reasons as to why they don’t need to protect your deposit, from telling you it’s ‘less hassle’ to leave it unprotected, to deciding that they’re not within the requirements for deposit protection.
- ALL deposits relating to an assured shorthold tenancy agreement (that’s most private tenancies) starting after April 2007 must be protected.
- The landlord has 30 days from the date the deposit is paid over to protect it.
- You should be sent Prescribed Information that tells you where the deposit is protected.
What if the deposit isn’t protected? Well, you can make a claim against the landlord for the return of the deposit, plus compensation of 1-3 times the deposit if any of the above are not complied with.
Make sure you get your deposit back
Your deposit remains yours until you agree to deductions or the tenancy deposit scheme rules deductions are fair. To give yourself the best chance of getting most or all of the deposit back: read the contract to see what is your responsibility (carpet cleaning, garden clearing etc), fix damage, replace anything you break, clean properly before you leave. Take time stamped photos and make sure you have a check in and a check out inventory to record the state of the property before you arrive and after you leave.
Avoid joint accounts with housemates
If you’re sharing then it’s often a better idea to avoid setting up a joint bank account for the house – take a bill each instead. If you share an account with another tenant and that other tenant isn’t particularly financially responsible it’s going to affect your credit score too.
Check out the landlord before you sign anything
Take steps to make sure the landlord is who they say they are if you’re renting direct. Establish full name, address and do a search at the Land Registry (£3) to make sure they do actually own the property. You could also do a search with the National Landlords Association. If you’re renting via an agent then check them out with professional bodies such as Association of Residential Letting Agents, National Approved Lettings Scheme, UK Association of Letting Agents or National Association of Estate Agents.
Inventories are crucial
When you move in you want to get settled, when you move out you want to move on, but trust us inventories are worth the effort. Take just half an hour to check over your check in and check out inventories to make sure they’re correct, to take photos of any damage and to make your own records of the state of the property and you’ll save yourself a lot of cash when it comes to resisting any wrongful suggested deductions from your deposit. Remember that the landlord can only deduct for damage, not wear and tear, and if you don’t agree with the deductions, start a dispute with the deposit protection scheme holding your deposit and make the landlord prove the right to your cash.