Having found a property that suits your requirements it is now important that it becomes your new home as quickly and painlessly as possible. These notes have therefore been produced, not just to help achieve that aim, but also to ensure that the future enjoyment of your new home is not spoilt by any misunderstandings or lack of information. These notes also explain the process necessary at the end of the tenancy to obtain a full refund of your deposit. We therefore recommend that you keep these notes in a safe place! Please remember that we are here to help, so if you need any information or assistance at any stage of your tenancy, please ask!
Having viewed a suitable property you will now need to complete a Tenancy Application Form. This form asks for full personal details including name, age, marital status, details of children who will be resident, details of any pets, details of any adverse credit history, details of previous tenancies with addresses for the last six years, details of your employment record over the last six years, name of a character referee, Bank/Building Society details and an authority for Real Estates to confirm all this information and to store it on computer. If your provable household income is less than three times the rent then a suitable guarantor will also be required. Proof of your identity (preferably a passport or driving licence with photo) will be required.
The information supplied in the Application form enables us to obtain references from Current and Previous Landlords, Current and Previous Employers, Bank/Building Societies and Character Referees for each adult prospective tenant. We also carry out a detailed search of your credit history through a Credit Reference Agency. This search will show any previous bad debts, poor payment records, rent arrears and County Court Judgements (CCJ’s). This referencing process in no way casts doubts on your integrity or character but simply seeks to establish that in all respects you are a suitable prospective tenant. Obtaining these references usually takes two to three working days but could be longer if your life has been unusually complicated.
As you can see the referencing process is quite thorough and costs money. The good news is that from 1st June 2019 the Landlord has to pay for the cost of referencing and not the Tenant. You do have to pay a Holding Deposit of a maximum of one weeks rent. This holds the property for 14 days whilst the referencing takes place. Assuming the references are satisfactory then this can be used as a starting point for your deposit.
For unfurnished property, all our Landlords require a security deposit of one month’s rent. However, tenancies with pets will inevitably have higher wear and tear which could incur higher monthly rent costs, if in doubt ask or check our website. Before the tenancy can commence you will therefore need to provide the stated deposit plus one month’s rent. Personal cheques will need to be cleared before occupation so payment is usually by cash, bankers draft or direct bank payment. Your Deposit will be registered with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and you will be provided with a certificate that includes your Unique Identification Code (UID Code) and confirmation that your deposit enjoys the protection of the Dispute Service Limited. You can check the authenticity of this code by visiting www.thedisputeservice.co.uk and enter this UID code into the appropriate box. At the end of the tenancy, any dispute over proposed deductions from this deposit will then be referred to their arbitration service. Currently the resolution by the Tenancy Deposit scheme of such disputes is taking in the region of three months.
The deposit acts as security against any breach of your obligations under the tenancy agreement and will be returned to you within 10 working days of the end of the tenancy without interest, and subject to deductions for any rent arrears, damage, breakages, loss, theft, redecoration, gardening, cleaning, etc. The property and any contents must be returned in the same condition as stated on the Inventory/Schedule of Condition at the commencement of the tenancy, fair wear and tear excepted. It is important therefore that the Inventory/Schedule of Condition is carefully checked and agreed at the beginning of the tenancy (you have 7 days from the start of your tenancy to notify us of any inaccuracies in the schedule of condition) or you might end up paying for damage done by previous tenants. If any repairs, decorating, shampooing carpets, washing curtains, gardening, removing rubbish etc. are required and not completed to a satisfactory standard by you, then a deduction equal to the cost of employing a contractor to complete these works (subject to any fair wear and tear allowance) will be made from your deposit.
These are spelt out in painful detail in the Tenancy Agreement so it is most important that you read and fully understand the extent of your commitment before signing. Briefly you are legally obliged to look after the property, contents and gardens to a satisfactory standard, pay the agreed rent for a minimum of six months (regardless of whether you live there or not) and vacate at the end of the tenancy term.
Payment of all the service and utility bills (gas, water, electricity, telephone and council tax), are entirely your responsibility, unless otherwise stated. You must notify the companies/authorities of the commencement date of your tenancy, your name, address and meter readings. This ensures that you are not responsible for any previous tenant’s bills and equally prevents your bills becoming a new tenant’s responsibility. Keeping your own record of the various meter readings for both the start and finish of your tenancy is obviously also a good idea preventing any possible mistake or argument but you also need to notify Real Estates of these readings.
Rent will always become due for payment calendar monthly in advance. Payment can be by Standing Order direct from your Bank to ours, cash or cheque (either by hand or through the post to Real Estates office) arriving on the due date. The requested payment date for a Standing Order should be arranged for two days prior to your rent due date because of the time-lag caused by Bank’s processing your request. If you ever experience any difficulty with making a rental payment, please let us know immediately and certainly before the problem escalates. Unexplained rent arrears will upset even the most tolerant of landlords. Ultimately rent arrears can result in eviction and a county court judgement lodged against your name that would make renting another property and obtaining future credit very difficult indeed.
Some of our Landlords are prepared to accept tenants who are receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. Most of our Landlords need a regular rental income to pay the mortgage on the property and therefore there is an affordability calculation that has to be passed. Currently, you must be in receipt of income totalling three times the rent each month. i.e. if the rent is £500 per month, you must be able to show income of £1,500 per month.
The “Bedroom Tax” does not apply to the private rental sector as Housing Benefit is already based on the number of bedrooms that you qualify for and has done so for a number of years.
Some of our Landlords do allow Tenants to keep pets but written permission must always be obtained first and an increased monthly rent will need to be negotiated. £100 of your deposit will be retained for a month after your tenancy has ended to cover the cost of dealing with any flea problems. If there have been no problems a month after you vacate, then this £100 will be returned to you in full. However, you should be aware that pets will increase the likelihood that damage will be done to the property, carpets, contents, decoration and garden, and that this un-remedied damage will result in a deduction from your deposit at the end of the tenancy.
Keeping the interior of the property in the same good decorative order throughout the tenancy is the responsibility of the Tenant. This work must always be to the same style and colour using the same quality of materials as the original. Any variations to style, colour or type of decorative finish must be approved in writing before any work starts. The cost of returning the property to its original style and colour could otherwise be deducted from your deposit.
Gas and electrical fittings are regularly checked and certified as being safe. Any accidental damage, failure or malfunction of any gas or electrical appliance or fitting must be immediately reported by you to prevent any risk of injury or even death.
Since the responsibility for the continuing good condition of any contents is entirely yours it is sensible that you insure the contents against damage or loss. If the property is equipped and furnished to a high standard, we reserve the right to insist that you insure the contents against “accidental damage” – in any event it is recommended as a wise precaution. We can provide help with arranging Insurance if required.
Where a number of Tenants share occupation of a property, each Tenant will normally pay a proportion of the rent to one principal Tenant designated by the group as its spokesperson. This spokesperson will then pay the whole rent to Real Estates on the required day. Each Tenant, however, is jointly and severally responsible for the whole rent so that they are all equally liable for any non-payment of rent by one or more of their co-tenants.
During the tenancy term, usually six months, you have the right to enjoy the property without interruption provided that you abide by the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement. Real Estates however as agents for the Landlord, have an obligation to inspect the property at regular intervals. But rest assured, we will always give plenty of notice before any inspection and do our best to fit in with your schedule. These inspections are obviously to check that you are complying with all the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement but also to provide you with the opportunity to discuss any problems encountered with the property. The sooner we know about any problems the quicker we can solve them!
A Landlord always has to provide a Tenant with two months notice in writing. A Tenant always has to provide a Landlord with one months notice in writing. In both cases the notice period must start from a rent day and end on the last day of a rent period and cannot normally be earlier than six months from the beginning of the Tenancy.
Although you will have signed a binding legal agreement to rent the property for a specific period, probably six months, it is sometimes possible, in exceptional circumstances, to persuade the Landlord to allow an earlier termination of the contract. However, this is only ever possible if a suitable replacement Tenant can be found and there is no break in rental income to the Landlord. In other words you will continue to pay the full contractual rent, regardless of whether you still occupy the property, until the new replacement Tenant makes their first rent payment. There will also be an early termination fee to cover the Landlords additional fees for setting up the new tenancy. Balanced against your saved rent this nominal charge is without a doubt a very fair arrangement. The sooner we know of your change in circumstances, the sooner we can set about finding a suitable replacement Tenant.
Although most tenancies will initially be for a six-month period in many cases they can be continued for much longer. The initial Assured Shorthold Tenancy will automatically continue as a Statutory Periodic Tenancy with the same terms and conditions as the original tenancy unless notice to quit has been served by either Landlord or Tenant. This Periodic Tenancy will then continue until either the Landlord serves you with two months notice to quit or you serve the Landlord with one months notice to quit (both notices need to run from a rent day and end on the last day of a rent period). This form of tenancy can continue for as long as it continues to suit both parties. Alternatively a new Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement for a specific period with terms agreed by both parties can be entered into. There will be an administration charge for a new Tenancy Agreement which is capped at £50.00.
Preparations should now be made to hand the property back to us on the due date, in good condition. It is therefore a good idea to contact Real Estates to arrange an inspection two or three weeks before the end of your tenancy. We can then provide a good indication that the condition of decorations, carpet, garden, etc. is high enough to expect a full deposit refund. If jobs do need doing, then the two or three weeks should be enough to enable you to bring the property up to the required standard – probably at much less cost than us employing tradesmen. On the final day any contents should be replaced in their original positions as listed on the inventory to make checking easy and swift. Once checking has been completed and any dilapidations agreed the deposit or balance of deposit will be returned to you. Meter readings should be taken and you must notify all the appropriate authorities. However, under no circumstances should any of the services be disconnected.
If you have any questions or experience any problems with the property, however small, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can only solve a problem if we know that there is a problem to be solved!