Whether it’s a safe and secure house or flat to raise our family, or a single room to be close to our work, studies or training, we all want a place to call home. But from a peak of approximately 70% in 2000, home ownership continues to fall, and with stagnating wages and insecure employment contracts, buying a property remains a distant dream for many. Local Authority housing, too, is in short supply across the country, and many on the housing register, can face a long wait.
The Private Housing Sector provides an invaluable resource for home seekers, including those who simply prefer the flexibility of a rental property. The sector may be private but it’s still subject to laws and regulations, so if you find yourself about to enter into a contract with a private landlord, you might wish to check your rights and responsibilities along with your landlord’s obligations to you.
A tenancy agreement can be verbal or written – if you pay rent to a landlord then you have a contract – although a written agreement may of course be preferable: there’s a physical copy of its terms; how long the tenancy is for and how much rent you’ll pay, and whether your rent includes bills for example. The agreement will include both express terms, such as those already mentioned, and implied terms based on customary practice which don’t need to be specifically included, such as your right to live peacefully in the accommodation without nuisance, and your right to expect your landlord to carry out basic repairs. You can check what type of lease you have or any of the detail on the Citizens Advice website which has a wealth of information and can also signpost you to other specialist agencies for help. www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/tenancy-agreements
Up-front costs – Renting in the private sector can be a costly business too. A landlord can ask you to pay up to 2 months’ rent in advance, and may ask for even more if there’s a problem with your credit history or references. They, or their letting agents, might also ask for a holding deposit while they check these, although this should be returned in some way e.g. taken off the advance rent or the tenancy deposit – and should at least ensure they don’t let the property to anyone else in the meantime! A landlord can ask for 4-5 weeks’ rent to hold as a tenancy deposit for use in the event of any damage to the property. This deposit should legally be no more than 5 weeks’ rent – unless the annual rent is more than £50,000 – and should be protected in an authorised tenancy deposit scheme. Since the Tenants Fees Act 2019 came into force for all tenancies from 1 June 2019, there are very clear rules about the fees landlords and letting agents can charge. A landlord can no longer charge a ‘check-in’ or ‘check-out’ fee for example, nor can letting agents charge tenants a fee simply to ‘get on their books’
Beware also of schemes which claim to alleviate the burden of up-front costs. ‘No Deposit’ or ‘Deposit Replacement’ schemes have been reported, where tenants can pay a more affordable monthly amount rather than a lump sum tenancy deposit. These may be tempting, but your money may not be protected, and you may not get anything back yet still be pursued for the costs of repairs and redecoration. If you have any worries about the fees you’re being charged, or you’d like to check the details of recognised tenancy deposit schemes for example, have a look at our website, https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-privately/private-renting/how-much-it-costs-to-rent or contact your local Citizens Advice Office.
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