Renting via an Agency

Article reviewed: 2013/01/29 | Next review due: 2014/08/17

There are hundreds of agencies specialising in lettings within London. Their rates can vary between £100-£400, depending on their reputation, but they cannot charge you until you have found somewhere you want to rent.

There are a number of property websites that compile all the adverts of the various agencies in London, such as findaproperty.com and nestoria.co.uk. Both sites are very good and have thousands of listings available for searching.

Beware of scams – some adverts may ask for money before even viewing the place. Under no circumstances should you pay any money unless you have seen the property. Additionally, no agency should charge any money until you have agreed to rent a property.

Once you have found a flat you want to rent, speak with the agency to review their tenancy agreement. Every agreement must stipulate: the rent amount and frequency; if any utility bills are included (water, electricity, etc.); if the rent must be paid in advance, the amount of the deposit to be paid; start and end date of the agreement; and the contact details of the agency or landlord in case of emergency.

The agency's role is to put you in touch with the landlord and to act as a third party with regards to the terms of the agreement. Once the agreement is signed, either the landlord will be responsible for any issues you have whilst living there, or the landlord will pay a fee to the agency and they will manage the property on his behalf.

Rent

Rent is usually paid monthly, however the price on the contract may be confirmed in a weekly rental price. Monthly rent payments are paid ‘per calendar month’, meaning 12 equal payments per year. For a conversion from weekly to monthly, multiply the weekly amount by 4.3 (or 52/12).

If you sign a lease for six months on a fixed term tenancy, the rent cannot be increased within that six months period unless previously agreed, but if you extend the contract beyond six months, the owner has the right to instigate a rent increase in conjunction with a new lease.

Rent prices can be increased by your landlord, but only if you are both in agreement (unless you were previously informed of this increase when you signed the lease). If you do not agree with a rental increase, do not pay it. If you pay your increased rental amount, this will constitute your acceptance of this increase and you will not have recourse to a refund.

Deposits

A deposit is an amount that you give the landlord to cover any damage or unpaid rent when the lease expires. Damage is defined as any damage to the furniture or property that was not noted on the inventory when the tenancy commenced.

For all rental agreements made after April 6th, 2007, a deposit must be stored in a government controlled scheme to guarantee the funds. If at the end of the contract, your landlord wants to retain a portion of the sum for damage repair, he cannot do so without your consent. If you refuse, you can plead your case with the deposit scheme litigators. In case of dispute regarding the return of your deposit, contact the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

If the deposit amount to be returned has been agreed, the landlord must provide you with your sum within 10 days.

In case of disputes or for more information, go to citizens advice bureau.

To stop the landlord keeping hold of the deposit, make sure the inventory carried out is thorough. Whether the lettings agency, the owner or the tenant does the inventory, make sure you take your time to check through it. Note down any stains, mould, leaks etc. and indicate as such on the inventory.

If there is damage to the property that was not written on the inventory, the landlord can take some or all of the deposit to pay for repairs. This happened to Arnaud, 32, during his last move,

At the end of my lease, the landlord kept £600 from my deposit saying that there was mould on the bottom of the curtains. It was already there when I moved in, but I wasn’t paying attention to the detail on the inventory – when I re-read it, the inventory said the apartment was immaculate when I took it, which wasn’t the case.

Tooltip information:

  • Tenant: A person or group that rents and occupies land, a house, an office, or the like, from another for a period of time; lessee

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