Trouble Free Letting – Questions Every Tenant Should Ask

This page has been designed to aid tenants who are looking to rent property through a residential letting agency and consists of questions that every tenant should ask and the answers they should receive.

 As a tenant, I want to rent. What should I ask?

First: Is the agent a member of ARLA? You will benefit from their experience, professionalism and compliance with ARLA’s bye laws, regulations and accounting procedures. Their professional indemnity insurance which complies with the requirements of the Association’s Fidelity Bond will protect your deposit.

What is ARLA’s Fidelity Bond?

The ARLA Fidelity Bond is designed as a protection of last resort for monies entrusted to ARLA members by landlords and tenants during the ordinary course of their business as letting agents.

In the event of proven theft or fraud if a member agent or its staff, if you cannot recover monies deposited with the agent during its period of membership of ARLA from the agent and the agent’s own insurance does nor cover the loss, you may make a claim to ARLA for reimbursement of the money you have lost.

Full details of the scope of this protection and how to make a claim under it are available on written request to ARLA at the address on the bottom of the page.

Do I pay any fees to the Agent?

You should not pay introductory fees but there will be certain costs for you to cover, for inventories and for administration including the preparation of the tenancy agreement and taking up references.

What money do I need to find at the beginning?

Normally at least a month’s rent in advance and the equivalent of a month to six weeks’ rent to be held as a deposit against damage and dilapidation’s (and the administrative charges noted above).

What information will I need to supply?

The addresses of referees for the agent to write and confirm your ability to meet the rental commitment. These will normally include your bank or building society, employer, previous landlords, or for some, your solicitor and/or accountant.

What are my responsibilities?

These should be clearly set out in your tenancy agreement, which you should read carefully before you sign. If in doubt, ask the agent. There is a duty for professional agents to ensure that anyone relying on them is offered correct advice.

What is a tenancy agreement?

It is a legally binding document between you and the landlord, applicable only to you and the property you are renting, that states the amount of rent, the length of the tenancy, your rights and responsibilities. Your agreement will most probably be an Assured or an Assured Shorthold tenancy under the Housing Act 1988. For bona fide companies and/or rental values over 25000 a year, the agreement will be drawn up under contract law.

How long does it all take?

Normally, about ten working days to take up and confirm references, clear your cheque covering the first rent period and the deposit arrange for inventories and the transfer of utility accounts into your name. No professional agent should allow you possession before all this has been done.

How long is a typical let?

Most agents require it to be a minimum if six months and rarely write a tenancy agreement for longer than a year. But...

What happens if I want to stay on or leave early?

Tenancies are frequently renewed and agents often agree the terms for renewal at the beginning and include them in the tenancy agreement. If you’re likely to leave before the end of the original term agreed, you must negotiate break clauses to be written into the agreement. If not, you will remain responsible for the rent until the end of the term agreed, unless a new and satisfactory tenant can be found.

What else do I have to pay for?

The tenant usually pays the utility bills such as gas, electricity, water and telephone during the course of the tenancy, TV. license, etc; and the Council Tax applicable to the property.

What must I do at the end of a tenancy?

Ensure you fulfil your obligations stated in the tenancy agreement to leave the property in the condition it was in at the start, or deductions will be made from your deposit. These will include thorough cleaning and all linen, used or not, freshly laundered. If you have moved furniture, return it to where you found it at the time of the inventory.

How do I get my deposit back?

After an inventory check and condition inspection, provided there are no missing items or damage, your deposit should he returned shortly after you leave the property. You cannot set your deposit against the last tent payment due.

Who has been holding my deposit?

Normally, the agent in a designated client’s deposit account. "That’s" why it is important to use an ARLA agent.

What is a holding deposit? Do I get it back?

Holding Deposits - usually a nominal amount — can if required when you make an offer on a property. If, for any reason, you decide not to go ahead by an agreed date, the holding deposit will he retained against administrative costs already incurred.

Otherwise it will be off-set against the first rent and full deposit payments. If the landlord decides not to proceed then the holding deposit will he returned. Paying a holding deposit in no way obliges either party to enter into the tenancy.

What are the ARLA Membership Requirements

There are stringent requirements for membership of the Association of Residential Letting Agents.

All ARLA members most lodge a copy of their professional Indemnity Insurance policy with the Association to comply with the requirements of the Associations Fidelity Bond.

This ARLA page is intended as a guide only to illustrate the questions that should be asked by the landlords and tenants when first approaching a letting agents. It is a guide to good practice but practices may vary from agent to agent. ARLA does not occur any liability from this web site.

Return to Residential Lettings