In an economic climate where getting a foot on the property ladder is tougher than ever, renting is not only a short-term necessity for most, but is also becoming a long-term, even permanent, option for some. In the last ten years, the number of middle-aged renters has doubled, meaning it’s not just the younger demographic relying on rented accommodation.
Renting does offer some notable benefits, though, including better financial and contractual flexibility alongside low maintenance costs. But, it’s important to understand all the essentials before signing a contract.
So, what do you need to know about renting your first apartment?
Letting Agents & Tenancy Agreements
Your renting journey will likely start with a letting agent. Letting agents manage the majority of the rental process, from advertising, viewings, and negotiation of tenancy agreements. They may also occasionally managing the property on the landlord’s behalf.
The tenancy agreement is the contract between you and your landlord, which details the terms of your living arrangement. Agreements are usually six or twelve month fixed term contracts and come in two forms: joint tenancy or individual agreement.
The former holds the entire renting group responsible for property costs, while the latter is a contract between each individual and the landlord. An individual contract is more favorable to you, as it means you won’t be on the hook for any costs incurred by others in the property (such as extra rent if one tenant leaves).
It’s important to read your tenancy agreement carefully and understand your obligations as a tenant before signing. This means you won’t face any unexpected costs down the line because you didn’t meet expectations.
Finally, letting agents charge administration fees for the likes of setting up the tenancy agreement, establishing inventory, and checking references and credit reports. The total admin costs depend on the agent and additional fees. For example in the UK, total admin costs tend to sit at around £300-£400.
Security Deposit & Inventory
On top of administrative fees, you’ll also be liable for a security deposit. The security deposit, usually the equivalent to a month and a half’s rent, is put down against the property to cover any potential cleaning, repair, and maintenance costs that sit outside of your tenancy agreement.
Stick to the tenancy agreement terms by cleaning regularly and avoiding damages to the property. If you do this, then you should see most, if not all, of your deposit back. Those who don’t look after properties will find letting agents and landlords quick to eat into their deposit.
To properly monitor this, you’ll need an inventory carried out of the property before you move in. The inventory will list what items are included in the property, any pre-established faults and the general condition of furnishings. Your deposit will be paid back according to this inventory at the end of your tenancy. So, make sure you’ve seen the list and agreed to its contents and details.
While the inventory is carried out by the letting agent, you should take your own notes and photos to combat any claims you wish to dispute. If no initial inventory is taken, you could be off the hook for any costs, as your landlord has no document to refer to when claiming damages.
Your Responsibilities As An Apartment Owner
Upon renting your first property, it’s important you understand the basic expectations on you as a tenant. The majority of these should be fairly obvious, but it’s a good idea to remind yourself of your fundamental responsibilities:
- Pay your rent according to the agreed timeline.
- Understand you are responsible for utility bills, council tax, and any additional services (unless otherwise agreed in the contract).
- While major maintenance is not your responsibility, you are expected to carry out general tasks like changing of bulbs and keeping the property clean and tidy (see the tenancy agreement). If you do encounter bigger problems such as a leak or boiler trouble, inform the landlord as soon as possible.
- You are not allowed to carry out any renovation or redecoration of the property, at least without the landlord’s consent. You may be able to repaint or put up pictures, but only with prior permission from the owner.
- Be respectful of your fellow tenants and neighbors. Consider your noise levels, especially at unsociable hours.
There’s a lot to be conscious of when entering the rental market. The fundamental advice to renting your first apartment is to understand your tenancy agreement fully before signing, and to carefully keep track of your finances when it comes to the initial administration and deposit costs.
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