When you find a property, how much rent you pay will usually be reflected in whether it includes bills or not – so this is something to consider. If it doesn’t include bills, you’re going to need to sort out the utilities, including gas and electricity, council tax, water and broadband.
You’ll need to locate meters when you move in and take readings. Then whoever is in charge of that utility will need to submit meter readings throughout the year to make sure you don’t get overcharged. No one wants to be in charge of all the bills. So if you live with a few other people, it’s probably a good idea to divvy the bills between you and work out any extra each individual is owed once all bills have been paid.
But be careful how you work this. Having a joint bills account with a flatmate will mean that your credit records become financially linked, which means firms can access and look at that person’s credit report as part of assessing whether to accept you for a financial product in future.
Which type of tenancy agreement you have, and when your contract started, will affect your rights, so check which you have. In a nutshell, ‘assured shorthold tenancy agreements’ are generally the most common type if renting with a private landlord.
As an assured tenant you have the right to stay in your accommodation unless your landlord can convince the court there are good reasons for eviction, for example rent arrears or damage to the property, or that another of the terms of the agreement has been broken.
Letting agent fees and signing the contract
To find a property to rent, you may need to use a letting agent – who rent out properties on landlords’ behalf. These have notoriously charged extortionate fees for their services. As such, the Government has published proposals banning letting agents from charging fees to tenants. In the meantime however, always check for any extra fees or charges first, and factor them in.
Letting agents can’t charge you just for registering or to show you their list of properties available for rent. Though otherwise they’re free to charge any fees they like – for example, for credit checks, admin and even releasing your deposit. So always ask before you commit.
Once you get the contract, read it carefully before signing. Check it includes how much the deposit and rent is, when it’s due, and what it covers (eg, council tax, utility bills, and other dos and don’ts, such as whether you’re allowed to smoke or sublet).
Discuss points you disagree on, or don’t understand, with the landlord or letting agent. If they agree to change it, don’t just take their word. Ensure the contract’s changed to so you’ve proof.