First-time renter? Here's what you need to know

First-time renter? Here's what you need to know

Renting your own place can be really exciting, but sometimes things can go wrong. Here’s a round-up of some of the most common questions we get asked about renting with a private landlord.

And just to say that this post relates to assured shorthold tenancies (AST), the most common type of tenancy if you rent from a private landlord. If you have a different type of agreement, or you don’t know, use our Tenancy Rights Checker to find the right advice for you.

What do I have to pay before I move in?

Most landlords ask for a tenancy deposit and at least one month’s rent in advance. If you go through an agent, you also have to pay admin fees for things like credit and reference checks. Only pay a holding deposit to reserve the property if you’re sure you’re going to take it. You won’t usually get a holding deposit back if you pull out, though it should be returned in full if the landlord changes their mind.

What does my landlord do with my deposit?

When you hand over a deposit at the start of your tenancy, your landlord has 30 days to protect it in a government-approved scheme. They should also send you information about where your money is held. Keep hold of this as it will make it easier to get your money back when you move out.

What’s a guarantor?

A guarantor agrees to pay for rent or damages if you don’t. First-time renters are sometimes asked to provide one if they can’t give references or pass a credit check. It could be your parents or another family member. They’ll be asked to sign a legal contract, so it’s vital they read it properly. If you’re renting with other people and your landlord asks for a single guarantor to be liable for everyone, see if you can have one guarantor each instead.

My boiler’s broken – what do I do?

Your landlord’s responsible for most repairs, unless it’s something you’ve damaged. Report repairs to your landlord as soon as possible – or to your letting agent if they manage your home. We always suggest you follow up phone calls with letters or emails and keep records of the repair work that gets done (like photos and correspondence).

When can my landlord come into my home?

You’ve got something called the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of your home. This means your landlord can’t just show up without giving notice. If this becomes a problem, find out what to do here.

What if my landlord asks me to leave?

Your landlord can’t just make you leave. They have to follow a legal process that starts with sending you a section 21 notice and can take months to complete.

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What if someone wants to leave my shared home?

You’ve probably got a joint tenancy if you have one agreement with all your names on. If it’s a fixed-term contract and someone wants to leave early, then usually all the tenants and the landlord must be in agreement. If you have a periodic tenancy and a joint tenant wants to leave, then they can give notice, but be careful: this could end the tenancy for all of you! Things can get complicated, so check out our advice on this one.

What should I do before I move out?

It’s important to end your tenancy properly or you could still be responsible for paying rent after you leave. Check for a break clause if you want to end a fixed-term contract early or negotiate an early surrender with your landlord. If you have a periodic tenancy, make sure your notice meets the legal requirements or the tenancy could continue to roll on.

How clean does the property have to be when I leave?

You shouldn’t be expected to leave the place spotless if it wasn’t like that when you moved in. Your landlord should also allow for normal wear and tear of things like carpets and walls. Make sure you get your landlord’s permission before you make changes to your home’s decoration or you could have to pay for it to be put back.

If you need more help with something, head to our housing advice pages.

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