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10 legal tips on renting for the first time

Published: 19/08/2022

First-time renters can benefit from these ten legal tips to protect their rights and ensure a smooth tenancy experience.

Thoroughly Read Your Tenancy Agreement: The tenancy agreement is the most important document for renters. It outlines the terms and conditions of the rental, such as the length of the lease, who is responsible for bills and insurance, and each party's obligations. Before signing the agreement, it's crucial to read the fine print and ask any questions you have to clarify any doubts. Remember, the tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract between you and the landlord, and if you breach the conditions, the landlord can legally evict you.

Certifications: Before moving in, landlords must provide tenants with an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate, Gas Safety Certificate, contact details, and a 'How to Rent' guide. These certificates ensure that the property is safe and up to code.

Know Your Deposit: As a tenant, knowing who holds your deposit and how it's protected is essential. Since April 2007, landlords have been required by law to have a deposit. Three government-approved schemes protect tenants from landlords deducting an unfair amount when leaving the rental.

Safety First: Landlords have a legal obligation to provide a safe living environment for tenants. To fulfill this obligation, the following must be in place:

  • Fireproof soft furnishings
  • Up-to-date certificates for gas and electrical appliances
  • Smoke alarms on all floors
  • Carbon monoxide alarms in rooms with wood or coal burners and near boilers
Essential Utilities: Landlords must also provide essential services for living in the property, including running water, gas, and electricity. If there are any issues with these services, the landlord must promptly fix them.

Access and Inspections: From time to time, landlords may need to visit the property. If it's not an emergency that could damage the property, they must provide 24 hours' notice. Property inspections should be conducted approximately every six months by the landlord or estate agent, but they must be prearranged.

Rent Arrears: Withholding rent is a breach of the contract and can result in legal action and eviction. If you're experiencing financial difficulties, it's best to speak with the landlord and explain the situation. They may be more understanding if you're upfront with them. You can contact your local authority, Citizens Advice, or Shelter for more information on this topic.

Dispute Deductions:  As a tenant, you have the right to dispute any unreasonable deductions from your deposit. If the tenant and landlord cannot agree, the deposit holder will make a judgment based on evidence provided by both parties. Replacements must be on a like-for-like basis, meaning a landlord cannot replace an old armchair with a new one.

Wear and Tear: Wear and tear is considered 'reasonable use of the house by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.' It depends on factors such as the length of the tenancy, the initial condition of the property, how many people have lived there, and the quality and age of the items.

Deposit Refund: Finally, requesting a refund of your deposit is essential as soon as you vacate the property. Formally returning the deposit should not take more than ten days. You have the legal right to be informed of any proposed deductions.

In conclusion, familiarising yourself with these ten legal tips will help ensure a positive tenancy experience and protect your rights as a tenant.

If you are thinking of renting property in London, call 
Circa London.
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