Helping UK new home buyers

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With millions unable to get on the property ladder renting has become the only alternative for many potential first-time buyers. This is despite various incentives aimed at helping would be homeowners get on the property ladder:- 0%  Stamp Duty for first-time buyers up to £250,000 (until 25 March 2012) and initiatives including ‘First-Buy’ and the state-backed ‘Mortgage Guarantee Scheme’.  Even with record low interest rates which make it cheaper to buy than rent a home, many cannot save a large enough deposit to qualify for a home loan.







For the inexperienced, renting can be full of pitfalls. It is wise to ensure you know what rights you have and what to do in the event of a dispute with your landlord. Read the tenancy agreement very carefully and ask about anything that you don’t understand before you sign it.


Who is responsible for bills?

Generally the landlord is responsible for service charges in leasehold flats and Buildings Insurance. Council tax and all utilities such as Gas, Water, Electricity and Telephone are normally transferred to the tenant’s name as soon as they move in. Make sure you take readings of the meters when you move in.





Who is responsible for repairs?

Landlords are responsible for repairs and maintenance of the property. In addition to the actual building structure, they are also responsible for kitchen appliances, baths, basins, toilets and the heating and hot water systems. If you find a problem report it to your landlord as soon as possible before the situation gets worse. With a new home, the landlord will need to notify the house builder under the new home warranty and any delay may result in the house builder being able to wriggle out of his liabilities.


The landlord is not responsible for your own belongings unless they are damaged by say a water leak.





Insurance

The landlord is responsible for insuring the building but you need to get Contents Insurance for your own belongings. Be sure you tell the insurer you are a tenant.


Gas Safety Certificate

It is a legal requirement under Regulation (36)(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 that all gas appliances and flues are inspected every 12 months by a Gas Safe Registered inspector. Make sure you are given a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate(s)

To Let boards

Deposits and key money

It is now common practice for landlords to require a deposit, normally one month’s rent with three month’s rent not uncommon. A deposit is required for security against any damage that may be done to the property or furnishings. It also gives the landlord some leeway against non-payment of rent. Under the Housing Act 2004, every landlord or letting agent must join a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme. This means your deposit is not directly held by the landlord and cannot be unreasonably withheld without good reason when you leave.


Look after the property

If the home is brand new, make sure all outstanding snagging has been completed. Remember you could be the first person to live there, so it could be difficult to prove that any scratches or damage was not done by you. It is essential you make a note of any damage when you move in and notify your landlord immediately in writing of any damage. Your landlord or letting agent should draw up a list of all furniture, contents and equipment in the property. It is also a good idea to take photographs of the condition of the property and contents when you move in. even adding picture hooks and failure to keep the property clean can trigger some of the deposit being withheld.


Rent increases

If you have a rolling monthly agreement it should state the frequency that the rent can be reviewed. In other cases rent increases will depend on the length of your tenancy agreement. Provided you have a fixed-term tenancy agreement the rent can only be increased if you agree to it!  If you think a rent increase is unfair you can appeal to a rent assessment committee. In general, provided you can commit to a property, it is better to have a long agreement with 12 months a minimum.


Can the landlord evict me?

Renting does come with a degree of uncertainty, as the tenant can never be sure when they may have to leave. The landlord can evict you by giving at least two month’s notice on a rolling tenancy agreement or at the end of a fixed-term tenancy agreement. But be warned, if they want you to leave because you have broken the agreement (by not paying rent for example) the notice can be as little as 14 days.


For more information see Top Tips for Tenants and download the Communities and Local Government advice for tenants PDF


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Advice when renting a home