Have you had a great tenancy? My belief is that they are not as common as they should be. When they go wrong, it is stressful for both the tenant and the landlord. Advice on having a great tenancy should be on the school curriculum in my opinion. When I worked for Citizens Advice about a fifth of problems concerned housing which is such a shame when homes are where we should feel safe and happy.
My renting experiences
I have rented homes since leaving university. To be honest, my best experiences were living in a rented room with a resident landlord. I think that is probably because a resident landlord obviously wants to keep their home in a good state of repair so you benefit from that as a lodger. Also I think that when you are lodging you get to know the landlord and vice versa so you understand each other that bit better than in a traditional tenancy.
My complaint about landlords is probably mainly that they are not realistic. If you rent to a family with small children, the house will not be pristine 24 hours per day. Similarly do not rent to families with pets unless you want to see the odd dog hair or two. Life changes from time to time so if someone loses a job there may be a delay in getting their benefits and they can’t help that. Pick the right tenant for your property and for your circumstances.
My other complaint is that landlords can be tardy to deal with repairs. That means things tend to only get worse and in the most extreme cases the wellbeing of the tenant and their family is put at risk.
I have had some good landlords but overall it has always felt that they were after money and did not really care about their tenant’s welfare at all. I find it amazing that I have never had the How to Rent booklet that landlords are supposed to hand you when you take a tenancy with them.
The landlord’s perspective
Of course, landlords have their own pressures partly because they are maintaining more than one house with all the associated costs from mortgages to maintenance. Some tenants do behave badly causing damage or issues such as noise pollution with neighbours. Great tenancies happen when both parties behave well and with respect. Sometimes it can be easier to have a letting agency such as HomeLet to help with this.
How to have a great tenancy
I think the first step is for both parties to act honestly and to communicate clearly. Yes there is the written tenancy agreement but it would also be good to see a good human as well as legal relationship in place too. Some things really help at the start such as reading the fuel meters together and agreeing the readings. That is one potential area for conflict sorted on day one. Make sure the landlord or his/her agent shows you how to use the boiler and appliances, where the fuse box and stop cock is. These are so easily forgotten but you do need this information about your new place. Setting up a direct debit for rental payments is reassuring to the landlord and a great idea for the tenant as then the rent is prioritised over other expenditure so securing their home.
Protection for tenants
- Negotiate for the period of time you would like the tenancy for
- Be realistic about what you can afford to pay in rent
- Check that you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to
- Collect proofs of identity, immigration and employment status so you have it ready for the landlord should they ask for these
- Find out if your potential landlord is part of an accreditation scheme
- Find out if the letting agent is accredited
- Check out deposit protection schemes
- Research bond and guarantee schemes to help you put your deposit together if you are struggling
- Ensure the landlord has provided smoke and carbon monoxide monitors
- It is a good idea to agree an inventory of the items in the house to prevent disputes later on
- Make sure you have the landlord’s real address and find out if the property is mortgaged. I once had the not so lovely experience of a possession summons for mortgage arrears arriving on the doormat just after I moved into a house many years ago now.
- You should be provided with a gas safety certificate, electrical inspections details and an energy performance certificate.
Who can help in a crisis?
The lovely news is that if everyone behaves with good intentions, you can have a great tenancy. If things do go wrong, you can seek support from the Citizens Advice Bureau or a specialist housing charity such as Shelter.