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Top Ten Rental Hacks

Renting a property in London needn’t be a shot in the dark. You have rights and it pays to familiarise yourself with them as much as possible. Here are 10 legal stepping stones to a happy outcome.

1. Read the Contract

Goes without saying, right? However, you’d be surprised how many tenants don’t realise that the rules and requirements that come with living in a property are set out in the contract by the landlord. This is the document that spells out lease length, what bills (if any) you are responsible for paying, insurance etc. Don’t sign until you’ve read it.

2. Certification

The law requires that all landlords should provide gas safety and energy performance certificates to their tenants before their moving-in date.

3. Deposit Scheme

In order to prevent landlords from making bogus deductions from your deposit, the government has set up three schemes that your deposit can registered with. This has been a legal requirement since 2007, so it’s a good idea to check with either the landlord or the estate agent, soon after moving in. In London, all good estate agents are part of this initiative and they will be keen to make tenants aware of the advantages.

4. Safety First

By law, your landlord must ensure that electrical installations and wiring are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy, while you, the tenant, should feel obliged to report electrical problems as soon as they’re noticed. Carbon Monoxide and smoke alarms should also be fitted in the appropriate places. New developments tend to have the very latest technology installed as standard.

5. Basic Utilities

It is a legal requirement that your landlord provides the basic utilities for living in the property. These include running water, gas and electricity. If there are issues with any of these, they need to be promptly dealt with.

6. Landlord Access

On certain occasions, your landlord may need to gain access to the property. Unless it’s an emergency situation that could damage the apartment or endanger the tenant, 24 hours notice must be given. Scheduled inspections of the property can be arranged well in advanced and can involve either the landlord or the estate agent.

7. Rent Arrears

Withholding the rent not only inconveniences the landlord and hinders the upkeep of the property, but is also a breach of contract which could lead to legal action. Landlords need to be made aware of any financial problems you might have. Being honest from the start makes it easier for both of you to reach some kind of agreement before things reach the litigation stage.

8. Fair Deductions

You have the right to challenge any deductions from your deposit if you feel that they are unwarranted. If a used item was damaged, it would be unfair for the landlord to deduct the price of a new one from your deposit. Replacement costs are deemed reasonable when they are “like-for-like”.

9. Wear and Tear: A Definition

The legal definition of wear and tear is “reasonable use of the house by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.” The last five words take into account the length of occupancy, number of tenants and the initial state and age of the various items. A poor-quality sofa will usually deteriorate quicker.

10. Deposit Return

For any financial transaction, there is a built-in turnaround time. A formal request for the return of your deposit should be made as soon as you vacate the property. There will be a refund process already set up for you to follow and it should take no more than ten days. You have the legal right to be informed of any deductions.

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About the Author

Established in 1958, Benham and Reeves is one of London’s oldest, independently owned property lettings and sales agents.  With specialism in residential sales, corporate lettings and property management in prime areas of London, the company operates from 19 prominently located branches and 8 international offices.