Renting a property, the legal process

 


House prices are on the rise again, and with the size of deposit required to buy a home still high at 10% or even 20% of the property’s market value, the importance of renting has never been greater.


 


Renting a property is a straightforward business, but as a potential tenant it is very easy to be taken advantage of. To avoid nasty surprises, you should always start looking for a property to rent with some basic knowledge of the legal process.


 


The tenancy agreement


 


This is the legal contract you will sign entitling you to legally reside in the property. The tenancy agreement provides both you and your landlord with legal rights and obligations relating to your stay in the property, and sets out important information like the amount to be paid in rent, the duration of the tenancy and the way either you or your landlord can terminate the agreement.


 


The important thing to know about your tenancy is it cannot give you any less than your statutory legal rights. These basic legal rights include the right to live in the accommodation undisturbed, the right to have a property that is in good condition, the right to know information about the tenancy and the right not to be evicted without due legal process.


 


In addition to these basic rights, your tenancy may include additional rights. Legal terms in a tenancy can be written in the agreement, or they may be implied by custom between you and the landlord.


 


When you first receive your tenancy agreement, check for the key information that includes:


 


·         Names of both you and your landlord


·         Date of tenancy commencement and duration of agreement


·         Amount of rent payable


·         Services provided in the rent, and those you must pay for


·         Length of notice you or your landlord must give to leave


 


Legal issues


 


There are lots of legal issues which can arise when renting a property. You should have a solicitor check your tenancy agreement in the event of a dispute, but be aware that a tenancy may be legally formed on the basis of a verbal agreement.


 


You should be aware that you have a right to know who your landlord is, and you should be told if you write to whoever you pay your rent to. You should also be aware that if you pay your rent weekly you are legally entitled to a rent book, and it is a criminal offence if your landlord fails to provide you with one.


Your landlord has a right to enter the property but only after they have given you 24 hours notice, unless the work is essential and it is an emergency. A common issue in rented accommodation is a landlord who enters without notice to inspect the property, this is illegal in many circumstances.


 


Deposits


 


Deposit payments and the return of a deposit paid is a problem that many tenants face. Understanding your legal rights regarding the payment of deposits is therefore vital. Your landlord is entitled to ask for a deposit when you move in, and most do. There is no legal limit on what they can ask for, but it is customary to seek a month or a month-and-a-half’s rent in advance.


 


The law says that a landlord must provide a receipt for any deposit collected, and the tenancy agreement should set out why the deposit is being secured and the conditions upon which the deposit may be withheld. Your landlord is legally obliged to place your deposit in one of three government protection schemes. These schemes were set up in 2007, and allow you to recover your deposit without going to court.


This article was contributed by Contact Law. If you’d like to find out more why not visit Contact Law’s 5 FAQs on Renting Property.