Well the boot is very firmly on the other foot now. Instead of being a landlord, I am now a TENANT! Ha! Everyone should try it. It’s great.
After 14 years in our beloved Old Vicarage in a small Cotswold village, we have relocated to a rental property in Cheltenham, until our new house, which is being restored, is ready for occupation. I’ve written about this before, but suffice to say that the Listed Buildings people are still keeping us waiting, so it could be a while before I give up my tenant status.
After a frantic four months tripping the light fantastic as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, (yes, it was fabulous and I am now fit for the first time in 40 years!) we managed to sell the house on the proviso that the buyers could move in before Christmas. Yikes. That gave me four weeks to plan a three-way move and before you could say “two thousand crystals” we were living in a town house in Cheltenham.
And boy what hoops you have to jump through to rent a house. As a landlord I pay my letting agent 10% to find the tenant, research his or her credit-worthiness and references, and then draw up the Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement. They then take and hold the security deposit. However, I had no idea how complicated it could be if you are a first-time tenant. (It’s all to do with money-laundering apparently. Bloody Russians.)
Because my husband and I have not rented a property before, we didn’t have any referees. So I promised to be really, really tidy and pay the rent on time. The bank had to vouch for me, as there seemed to be some confusion over whether I was Mrs Shackell (my married name), or Miss Fullerton (the name on my passport and all documents). So now I feel as if I’m living in sin! The agents asked for a security deposit but my debit card was declined. Oooops. (The bank thought it was fraud ‘cos I only ever shop in Boots and Tesco.)
So after signing my life over to the agent/landlord, we moved in, having told them that we, um, forgot to mention we have two dogs. Phew.
And I must say it’s rather civilised.
The house was unfurnished so we brought a truckload of furniture with us and the rest went into storage. Living in a minimalist way is very cathartic I find. Who needs all that stuff’? Slowly we adjusted to three-storey townhouse living (all those STAIRS), but the best bit was when the boiler broke down. Yes, it was freezing but instead of having to answer the phone and deal with it, I simply called the agent and said, “Er, the boiler’s broken down.” Somebody immediately came to fix it. Heaven. Then there was a leak from one of the bathrooms and then a waterfall down the chimney. Such fun.
So here are my tips if you are a first time tenant:
- Decide on location and budget.
- Make sure your letting agent is a member of ARLA.
- Don’t be persuaded above your budget.
- Be very specific about what you want to rent, to save time.
- When you have found a suitable rental, negotiate on price. There is usually a little leeway.
- Be prepared to provide proof of identity and previous bank balances etc. for the credit checks. If you have rented before ask your landlord to provide a reference. (It is always useful to have photo-copies of your passport and driving licence.)
- Ask about all agent’s fees. Don’t be caught out. There will be an admin fee of around £150 plus a holding fee while they do all the checks.
- Remember to budget for Council tax, utilities, service charge, contents insurance, and security deposit (usually six weeks rent). This will be held by the agent, not the landlord and should be returned on departure, assuming you haven’t set fire to the place.
- If the property is furnished be sure to check the inventory carefully in case there is something missing.
- You will be asked to pay one month’s rent in advance, (this is as well as the security deposit) so make sure funds are available.
- You are expected to return the property in the same state as you find it, so insist that it is professionally cleaned.
- Make sure you have all the appliance instruction manuals.
So there we are. Teething troubles over and ideally the tenant (me) should go quiet. I’ve had tenants for four years who I haven’t heard a squeak from. They’re my favourites. I my case however, as a tenant, the novelty has yet to wear off!