Becoming a tenant for the first time can be an exciting experience. However, there are several things you need to consider to ensure you are not caught out. In this guide, we look at everything you need to know when moving into rented accommodation for the first time, including:
- Choosing a Property
- The Tenancy Deposit
- Tenancy Agreements and Types of Lease
- Tenant Responsibilities
If you would like to discuss your rights and responsibilities as a tenant in Stirling, Tillicoultry or the surrounding areas, please get in touch with one of our property lawyers today.
You may already have a property in mind, or you could just be starting your search. Either way, there are various matters to think about before you sign the lease.
Firstly, it is vital to consider whether you are getting a good deal on the property. It can be easy to ‘fall in love’ with your ideal space, but it could mean you pay more than what the property is worth and ignore some crucial flaws. You should research the prices of similar properties in the area so that you have a good idea of what you should be paying for that type of property.
You should also be mindful of exactly what you are paying for. Does the rental price cover council tax, water charges and utility bills? Understanding what is included in the rental amount can help you make an informed decision about whether you are getting a good deal, and whether the property is affordable for you.
When you move into rented accommodation, you will typically be asked to pay a deposit by your letting agent or landlord. Your deposit will act as a guarantee against any damage to the property, pay for cleaning bills if you leave the property in poor condition, cover rent left unpaid or any outstanding utility bills. Your deposit may not be used to cover ‘normal wear and tear’ including carpets or furniture. Landlords are legally required to register your tenancy deposit with a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 working days of the tenancy starting.
For housing associations and co-operative housing, it is not common to pay a deposit; instead, a rent payment in advance is usually required.
How much should my deposit be for a rental property?
In most cases, rental deposits are the equivalent of one month’s rent. However, you can legally be asked for as much as two month’s rent. Letting agents or landlords may try to charge you additional sums of money, which may be called ‘holding fees’, ‘cleaning fees’, ‘reference fee’, ‘admin fee’, or ‘key money’. Such fees are considered unlawful, and you should not hand over any money that is non-refundable and designed to cover administrative costs of the landlord or letting agent.
A tenancy agreement, often referred to as a lease, is the contract between you and your landlord or letting agent. The agreement will set out your rights and responsibilities when living in the rental property.
On 1 December 2017, the ‘private residential tenancy’ was introduced to replace assured and short assured tenancy agreements. If you are entering into a new private, residential tenancy, this is the type of agreement you should have.
The private residential tenancy is open-ended, meaning your tenancy will last until you choose to leave the property, or your landlord uses one of the 18 grounds for eviction. Additionally, the lease provides tenants with more protection against excessive rent increases.
A tenancy agreement is a legal right when renting, and you should be provided with an electronic or written copy within 28 days of the start of the tenancy. If your landlord does not provide you with a copy of your lease, you are entitled to make an application to the First-tier Tribunal. You must give your landlord 28 days’ notice of your intention to make an application before applying to the Tribunal.
Your tenancy agreement will set out the statutory rights and obligations of both parties, including:
- The contact details of the landlord and tenant
- The address of the rental property
- The tenancy start date
- The rental amount and how it may be increased
- The deposit amount and how this will be registered
- Informing the landlord if you are absent from the property for more than 14 days
- The condition the landlord must ensure the property is in
- Your duty to inform the landlord of any required repairs
- Giving reasonable access to the property when the landlord has given at least 48 hours’ notice
- The process for bringing the tenancy to an end
Some terms may be included in your rental agreement that attempt to usurp your legal rights as a tenant, including:
Late Payment of Rent
Your agreement might state that you can be evicted after a certain number of days of late payment of rent. However, your landlord needs to obtain a court order before they can legally evict you.
Notice to Leave
Your letting agent/landlord may seek to include provisions that state you can be asked to leave the property at a week’s notice. However, this is unlawful and cannot be enforced. You must have at least four week’s notice and to evict you, your landlord must have a court order.
There are certain responsibilities you have as a tenant, which will be set out in your rental agreement. As a tenant, you are expected to pay your rent on time, in addition to any bills and utilities set out in your agreement.
Property damage is also likely to be referred to in your agreement, including:
- Taking care not to damage the property,
- Paying for any damage caused by you or your guests, and
- Reporting any problems with the property which could cause long-term damage (such as mould).
Unless permitted in your agreement, the tenant cannot sub-let the property to anyone, take in a lodger, or give up the tenancy to another person. You will be expected to inform your landlord if someone comes to live with you and they are over the age of 16, living with you as their main home, or they are not a joint tenant.
Taking the time to read your tenancy agreement carefully and understand what responsibilities you have with the property is crucial. If you need legal assistance with your tenancy agreement, speak with a member of our team today.
Landlord & Tenant Legal Advice Solicitors in Stirling & Tillicoultry
If you have concerns about a tenancy agreement, we can help. Our lawyers can provide legal advice and representation in relation to residential tenancy agreements, tenancy deposit issues, increasing rents, serving notices and more. Contact our property solicitors based in Stirling, Tillicoultry, Stirlingshire, Clackmannanshire, Plean, Cowie, Alloa or the surrounding areas in Scotland. You can call us on 01259 753330 for more information, or complete our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.