The Tenant’s checklist: Tips for renting in London
Entering an assured shorthold tenancy can be a bit of a minefield for an unseasoned renter, empowering you with important rights and encumbering you with responsibilities in equal measure. Being aware of what these are can help you avoid issues in the future and let you know where you stand right now. The advice below is sourced from the How to Rent checklist on the gov.uk website, which your landlord is legally required to give you when you sign a tenancy agreement with them.
How much is the deposit?
2019 saw the introduction of a cap on the required deposit from a tenant starting their tenancy. If the total annual rent is less than £50,000, the deposit cannot exceed five weeks’ worth of rent, which becomes six weeks for anything over £50,000. The deposit must be refundable at the end of the tenancy, usually on the condition that the rent be paid and the property being returned in good condition.
How long is the lease?
Tenants must be granted a minimum of 6 months, though most fixed-term contracts are likely to be double that at 12 months. However, 12 months is by no means the maximum. Many renters choose an arrangement that rolls over on a monthly basis, giving them maximum availability. These tenancies have no fixed end date, but normally come in after an initial 6-month stay.
Do you have all the necessary documents?
Landlords and agents will want to confirm your identity, immigration status, credit history and possibly employment status or proof of funds. The UK government website has many great resources to help you through this step.
Do you have the right to rent in the UK?
Before your tenancy starts, landlords in England must check that you are over 18 and that living at the property has the right to rent. There are two types of right to rent checks; a manual document-based check or a check via the Home Office online checking service. Your landlord can’t insist which option you choose but not everyone can use the online service. Further information on how to prove your right to rent to a landlord can be found on GOV.UK.
Is your deposit protected?
Gov.uk lists the approved schemes through which your money should always be protected. Some schemes hold the money, and some insure it. Your local authority should also be able to tell you whether you’re eligible for a bond or guarantee scheme.
Have you photographed furnishings?
Check you are happy with the condition of furniture and fittings, and that you’ve caught any existing cosmetic damage that was already there when you moved in. Of course, this only applies to a furnished apartment, but we seriously recommend creating an inventory album on your phone, which stores not just the image but the date on which it was taken, in case you need to provide evidence later.
What are the rules?
Some landlords can be more particular than others about such things as: Smoking; Pets; Cycle storage; Refuse storage and recycling.
Which bills are included?
Utilities such as water, gas and electric are sometimes paid for by the landlord and factored into the total sum of your rent. However, this is not always the case, particularly for things like WiFi and council tax. Confusion can result in a fine down the line, so it’s always best to be as clear as possible, as soon as possible.
Are there smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide detectors?
According to Gov.uk, Landlords must have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of a property they let out, and at least one Carbon Monoxide detector in a property likely to have open flames, like one with a working fireplaces or gas-ring hobs. These can be life-saving, so don’t feel bad about pressing your landlord about these measures.
Is your home safe to rent?
How to rent a safe home is a great government resource to make sure your property is as safe as possible.
Is your home fit to live in?
If your property isn’t free from things that could cause serious harm, including damp, you’re within your rights to take your landlord to court. For more information, see the tenants’ guide on using the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 on Gov.uk. You should also check whether your tenancy agreement excuses you from paying rent in the event that it becomes unfit to live in, like in the wake of a flood or fire.