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10 legal tips on renting for the first time

Published: 09/07/2020

There are many laws in place designed to protect tenants. Below are ten legal tips to help first-time renters.


1. Tenancy Agreement

Understanding your lease is the most important thing. Check the length of the lease, who’s responsible for which bills, insurance obligations, and your obligations. You must read the small print set out in the agreement because if you breach the conditions, the Landlord can legally evict you.

Before signing on the dotted line, make sure you clear up anything you’re in doubt about (preferably in writing). It is the legally binding document between you and the Landlord, and signing it means you agree to everything.

2. Certification

Landlords must provide an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), Gas Safety Certificate, contact details, and a ‘How to Rent’ guide before moving in.

3. Deposit

Since April 2007, it has been a legal requirement for the Landlord to hold a deposit. Make sure you know who holds your deposit; three government-approved schemes give the tenant protection from the Landlord deducting an unfair amount when leaving the rental.


4. Safety

By law, the Landlord has to ensure that the property is a safe environment. The following must apply:

  • Soft furnishings need to be fireproof
  • Gas and electrical appliances must have up-to-date certificates
  • Smoke alarms have to be fitted on all floors
  • Carbon monoxide alarms in rooms where there is either a wood or coal burner and preferably where there is a boiler

5. Basic Utilities

By law, the Landlord must provide the essential services for living in the property. These include running water, gas, and electricity. If there are issues with any of them, the Landlord must fix them promptly.

6. Access

From time to time, your Landlord may need to visit the property. If it isn’t an emergency that could damage the property, then 24 hours notice must be given. Approximately every six months, property inspections must be conducted by either the Landlord or the estate agent, but these must be prearranged.

7. Rent Arrears

Withholding rent is a breach of the contract and can lead to legal action and eviction. For more information on this, you can contact your local authority, Citizens Advice, or Shelter. If you’re having financial difficulties, speak to the Landlord and make them aware. They’re much more likely to be sympathetic if you’re upfront and explain the situation.


8. Deductions

The tenant’s right is to dispute any deductions from the deposit if deemed unreasonable. A Landlord cannot replace a used armchair with a new armchair as replacements have to be on a like-for-like basis. If the tenant and the Landlord cannot agree, the deposit holder will reach a judgment on evidence provided on both sides.

9. Wear and Tear

Wear and tear is “reasonable use of the house by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.” It depends on:

  • the length of the tenancy
  • the initial condition
  • how many people have lived on the property
  • the quality and age of the items

10. Deposit

Requesting a refund as soon as you vacate the property is essential. A formal return request for the deposit should not take more than ten days to process. You have the legal right to be informed of any proposed deductions.

If you are thinking of renting property in London, call Circa London on 020 3 137 7877.