There are some things that you must consider before you start looking for a new rental property. For example how long do you want the tenancy for? Generally, tenancies are between six months to a few years long.

Checking your finances

Before you start house hunting, work out how much you can afford each month but remember to budget for utilities like gas, electricity and water, phone and internet connections, TV licence and council tax.

Remember to put enough aside for food, household items and any other regular outgoings. You may also need to pay a deposit, this should be no more than five weeks rent due to a change in the law.

Draw up a list of the things you need from your new home.

  • Is parking important?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • How many bedrooms do you need?
  • Are you taking furniture with you?

Viewing properties

Draw up a shortlist and view them. Whilst you’re at the properties, check to see whether they’re safe. All landlords are legally required to complete an annual gas safety check. Note the carbon monoxide alarm and smoke alarms, although the law in this area is different in England, Scotland and Wales.

The property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will rate its energy efficiency from A-G and help you understand typical running costs. It’s also worth knowing that as of 1 April 2018, all landlords in England and Wales need to make sure their rental properties reach a minimum EPC rating of E for all new tenancies.

Signing of the contract and moving in

Right to Rent

Before you sign your contract, you might be asked to provide some identification such as a driving licence or passport to prove that you have the right to live in the UK. Be aware that landlords or letting agents in England are required to do this for all prospective adult occupiers to ensure they have the legal right to rent. If you have a time-limited right to rent, landlords and letting agents will need to conduct follow-up checks. These rules do not currently apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The contract

Once you have the agreement, remember to read it carefully from start to finish. The most frequently issued type of contract is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). This type of contract usually names all listed tenants as “jointly and severally liable” – which means that you are all legally responsible for all of the rent.

An AST contains a lot of crucial information, such as the length of the agreement, notice period and areas where you are responsible as a tenant. For example, it should tell you who is responsible for sourcing contents insurance.

Remember to look at who will be managing the property to see whether you’ll be dealing with a letting agent or landlord. The contract should also contain emergency contact details should there be an urgent problem.

Know your rights

Make sure you are given:

  • A copy of your new home’s Gas Safety Certificate (if the property has gas)
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • The Government’s How to Rent Guide or tenant information guide
  • Your Deposit Protection Certificate
  • The Prescribed Information (this may take a few days)
  • Any licence issued by the local authority (if the property is subject to any form of local authority landlord licensing scheme).
  • In England, the landlord or agent must provide you with a copy of the Government’s How to Rent Guide, so use the checklist and keep it safe to protect yourself from problems at every stage.

Professional Inventory

Before you move in, the agent should complete a professional inventory which records the property’s condition. Make sure they take dated photos of any damage, even small marks on carpets or walls. Get the damage agreed in writing by the letting agent. A detailed inventory means you should only be liable for any damage made during your stay and could save you money.

Once all the paperwork is complete, you can collect the keys from the letting agent and move into your new home!

Bills and insurance

You will need to notify the utility companies and give them meter readings, your move-in date and the names of all tenants if your agent hasn’t already. The landlord is responsible for insuring the building and their own contents but you need to cover your own belongings so make sure you have contents insurance.

Leave the property as you found it

The most common deposit disputes are over the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy. Make sure you give the property a thorough clean before you move out and leave the property in the same condition as the day you arrived.