A lot of people I work with are selling their property and re-entering the rental market after many years of being a homeowner.
If this is you, you’re looking for your first rental property, or you just want to make sure you get the best out of your rental property from the start, then I hope this guide will help you.
We’ll start with an important consideration when renting – should you go via an estate agent or private Landlord? As with all things in life, there are pros and cons to both. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Renting through an estate agent – Pros & Cons
Estate Agent Pros
- Estate agents are highly regulated and live and die by their reputation. They also rent properties day in and day out; they’re experts. This means you’re more likely to have a quick process when renting from an estate agent.
- Estate agents will ensure all the appropriate safety checks are taken out on the property, and that your deposit is safely held in a deposit scheme.
- You can easily check up on them through online reviews and word of mouth.
- Regular inspections should be expected from an estate agent, and they should have processes in place to deal with any issues that arise during these scheduled checks, and anything that arises in between them, quickly.
For these reasons, many people prefer to rent through an estate agent. But…
Estate Agent Cons
These facts, plus the huge shortage of available rental properties at the moment means that estate agents have far more interested tenants than they do available properties, and so have their pick of tenants to choose from.
You might be a perfect tenant in practice, but an estate agent is going to be looking at whether you’re a perfect tenant ‘on paper’.
They’ll run full checks on your finances and credit history, and anything negative found there could go against you when you’re up against someone with a glowing financial history. The same goes if you’ve got pets, or are self-employed.
It’s not that Estate agents aren’t human! But when you’ve got an excess of tenants to choose from, it comes down to the nitty-gritty. Their processes and systems will always opt for the ‘A* ideal tenant’.
Another thing to consider is that with an estate agent, you’re never the ‘customer’ – your landlord is. Since the changes to tenant fees (there are zero fees for the tenant – legally), the only income the estate agent receives is the management fee from landlords, so the chances are they’re going to be working to keep your landlord happy, rather than keep you happy.
Renting from a private landlord – Pros & Cons
Private Landlord Pros
Whilst there’s no guarantees here and there’s certainly a lot of bad eggs in the industry, if you find a decent private landlord you might find them a bit more ‘human’.
Unless they own 10s of properties or more, they are less likely to have rigid ‘new tenant’ processes in place – so they are able to be a bit more lenient and forgiving when it comes to things like pets or bad credit history.
Again, depending on the number of tenants they have, you could be a major source of income for them, you’re their customer! So they may be more inclined to try to keep you happy – let you decorate as you please, bring your pets along etc.
It’s always better for a landlord to have a long term happy tenant than to regularly switch tenants so if you treat their property well, there’s every incentive for them to treat you well and keep you happy.
Private Landlord Cons
It’s harder to guarantee authenticity with a private Landlord than with an agent. You’ll have to ask around and dig a little deeper to get references.
Private Landlords can fly more easily under the radar than an agency if they’re not following through on all of their legal requirements. So it requires a bit more leg work from you to know what the requirements are, and ensure that your landlord adheres to them. Later on, I discuss ways to get references and check on the legitimacy of a Landlord.
Communication may be less dependable than an agent – particularly if they don’t live locally, or live in another country. Again, this isn’t a deal breaker – but its definitely a question to ask your future Landlord.
Key things to remember when renting
Start looking 6-10 weeks before your moving date. You need plenty of time to find the right place!
It’s great to have a few days crossover between the two properties to take the stress out of moving on a single day, but the last thing you need when starting up a new rental contract is a full month’s crossover with your previous rent or mortgage payment! So consider this when choosing moving dates.
It’s ultimately a relationship you’re entering into – it could be for a year or two – it could be for ten! So start on a good foot by being honest about any less-than-preferable credit issues, pets, or anything you might consider keeping to yourself. There’s a good chance they’ll find out eventually, and at best you’ll start off on the wrong foot, at worst they will turn you down for the property.
“I’m more inclined to pick a tenant who is honest about previous credit issues then one who offers five months’ rent up front with no obvious reason for an excess of cash! I want people in my properties that I can trust and I get that people have pasts, and pets!”
The cost of moving into a new rental property.
A rental deposit is capped at 5 week’s rent for houses where the annual rent is less than £50,000 (6 weeks for properties over that)
A Holding deposit is capped at 1 week’s rent. Be wary that at the point of putting a holding deposit down, all legal and background checks will be made – if you aren’t honest on your application, perhaps failed to mention a previous CCJ for example, this is the point that it will come to light – and you could lose your deposit if there’s a discrepancy.
Legal Requirements from a new rental property
Tenancy deposit scheme
Your landlord must put your deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy. The scheme keeps your money safe and makes sure you get back what you’re owed at the end of your tenancy.
An Energy performance certificate (EPC) is a legal requirement which should be supplied by the estate agent or landlord. It tells you how economic a property is by considering the condition of its boiler, windows and doors, insulation, etc. A good EPC means the property retains heat well and will be cheaper on energy bills.
Gas safety and Electrical safety certificates
These are both legally required for very good reason – they show that an accredited tradesperson has tested the property’s Gas and Electrics and signed them off as safe.
Whereas this used to be the norm and covered the admin required to take on new tenants, It’s now illegal to charge tenants anything to start a new rental contract, all fees are taken on by the Rental agent and or Landlord.
Working Smoke Detecters and carbon monoxide detectors
Things to look and ask for when visiting a potential rental property
When looking around a property, ask about all of the legal requirements above.
- Check windows and doors to make sure they shut and lock properly and there are no major draughts.
- Be on the lookout for damp. Bear in mind that it is also possible to disguise it for a short while (during viewings, for example) if your Landlord was so inclined. With this in mind, be aware of any signs of recent painting – particularly if it’s just patches of fresh paint, as opposed to a whole room. Check particularly in the corners of rooms for this.
- Determine who will be your main point of contact for the rental period – is it the agency, or the Landlord themselves? If it’s an agency, what are their out-of-hours arrangements for emergencies? If it’s a Landlord ask the same, and find out how they prefer to communicate – email/phone/text. They may not live locally, or even in the same time zone so it’s important to know that there is someone you can reach 24/7 during a genuine emergency.
Ways to check your agent or landlord’s legitimacy
The South East Alliance of Landlords is a local alliance that aims to improve the management and standards of privately rented properties. If your Landlord is a member then they adhere to good standards.
The National Residential Landlords Association is the UK’s largest landlord association. They give their members guidance and support in the provision of offering safe, legal, and secure homes to their tenants. Landlords who are members will be reputable.
Reviews / References
A local agency will be very likely to have a Google business listing which you can check for reviews, you can of course ask friends and family, or local facebook groups for reviews and recommendations, too.
It’s harder to get references for private landlords – but not impossible! Any good landlord will be happy to put you in touch with current or past tenants in order for you to get an idea about what it’s like to rent form them.
“I always suggest new tenants get references for me and I really like it when they follow up on that advice! It shows they’re serious about the agreement we’re entering in to. I usually provide names and numbers for a few past and current tenants (I check with them first!) and leave them to make contact with them. I think including past tenants in there is important because they have nothing to lose if they want to give a bad review! So it helps the future tenant to get a genuine picture of me as a Landlord.”
Where to find a rental property around Southend.
If you’re renting through an agency, you’ll find a property online; Right move or Zoopla are the most popular. Or you may go directly through the agency’s own website or visit their store. However, finding a private landlord is a little different…
Where to look for private rental properties
- Open rent
- Gum Tree
- Ask around for local rentals that friends and family may know of or have
- Market Place
- Local Facebook groups:
Whilst the industry I know is filled with lovely humans who all take their business as a Landlord and their responsibility to their tenants very seriously, as I mentioned above – the private rental industry is known for having a few bad eggs, so please be vigilant if you are looking to rent privately. Follow all the steps listed above to ensure you’re entering into a contract with a reliable and reputable landlord, and never hand over money online for deposits etc before you’ve established you’re dealing with a legitimate Landlord.
I’m Joanne. I’ve lived and breathed property for longer than I care to remember! This blog provides advice and support with problems surrounding property, and life in general.
Previously on the blog…
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