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Housing Week: Questions for your Landlord

Questions To Ask Your Landlord or Estate Agent

So you're in the process of looking for private accommodation. Here are some important questions to consider asking landlords and estate agents, before you sign on the dotted line:

 

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE RENT?

Make sure to check whether the property is furnished, unfurnished and whether bills are included in the rental payment. Often, you will have to pay for bills on top of rent so bear this in mind when budgeting for your house.

 

WHO WILL HOLD THE DEPOSIT?

It is a legal requirement for your landlord to place your deposit into a government protected scheme within 30 days. If it is not, you can potentially sue your landlord for up to three times the amount of the deposit you originally paid, so make sure you know where your deposit is being kept! Ask your agent whether they will be placing the money in the scheme, or whether they pass the money onto the landlord to do this. There are three deposit schemes in England and Wales:

  • Deposit Protection Service
  • MyDeposits
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme

 

WHAT ARE THE TERMS OF THE TENANCY?

You need to make sure you read your contract and know exactly what you are signing. If you do not understand what the terms of the tenancy are, make sure you ask your landlord or agent to clarify them. You can also bring your contract to the Students’ Union Contract Checking Service run through the Advice Centre, simply email Housing@su.rhul.ac.uk with your contract and book a slot.

WHO DO YOU CONTACT IF YOU HAVE MAINTENANCE OR REPAIR ISSUES AT THE PROPERTY?

This all depends on whether your landlord manages the property, or whether they pay an estate agent to manage the property. When signing your contract, ask the landlord to clarify this. If the landlord manages the property, you will need to contact them for repairs. If the estate agents manage the property, you will need to contact them directly.

 

CAN I HAVE A BREAKDOWN OF ALL AGENCY COSTS?

When beginning a tenancy, there are three key fees that an estate agent may ask you to pay in order to secure the property:

Administration fee - This is paid to cover your referencing, the creation of your contract and all other admin tasks that come with a new tenancy. This is usually non-refundable. 

The Holding fee -This is a payment which secures your place at the property and takes it off the market. This will usually be refundable, and often they deduct this from your first month’s rental payment.

Security Deposit - This is paid as a security, just in case you damage the property or fail to pay rent. The landlord and agent are legally required to pay this into one of the three government schemes within 30 days of the start of the tenancy. This will be returned at the end of the tenancy within ten days, unless there are deductions for repairs, damage or rent arrears.

Below is a rough guide to agency fees you can expect to be charged in the area:

  • Agency fees: £80-250 per person (can include referencing/checking fees)
  • Referencing/credit checking fees: £0-80
  • Holding deposit: £100-250 (to be deducted from agency fee if paid prior to it)
  • Deposit: usually one or one and a half months’ rent

 

WILL THERE BE A PROFESSIONAL CLEAN AT THE PROPERTY BEFORE I MOVE IN?

Ask your agent to clarify if this will happen. It is best to get this in writing, just in case you move in and discover the property has not been cleaned properly.

NB: If a professional clean is going to be carried out at the start of the tenancy, you will be expected to carry out a professional clean at the end of your tenancy. If you do not, the monies will be deducted from your security deposit.

 

WHAT COMPANY WILL BE CARRYING OUT THE INVENTORY REPORT?

At the start of the tenancy, your landlord or agent is expected to carry out an inventory report of the property. This is to compare the visual condition of the property at the start of the tenancy, to the end of the tenancy. The landlord or agent is expected to use an independent clerk to avoid bias. You will then have 10 days from the start of the tenancy to question any discrepancies on the report. Make sure you clarify who will be carrying out the report and get the clerk’s email address.

 

HAS THE PROPERTY BEEN ACCREDITED BY RUNNYMEDE BOROUGH COUNCIL?

It is always a good idea to ask the agent whether the property has been accredited. This means it has passed all the relevant checks by the local council. If the agent can’t help, you can call Runnymede Borough Council and check.

NB: For a property to be accredited, it needs to have had an Electrical Safety Certificate, but this is not yet a legal requirement in the UK, this will be in effect from April 2018.