Your legal and financial responsibilities when renting

When renting a property, it’s important to be aware of your financial and legal obligations to the landlord. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your deposit when you move out and you might even face eviction.

Read your tenancy agreement carefully

Before you sign a tenancy agreement, be sure to read it in full, including all the small print.

It will list your obligations as a tenant. These will include things like maintaining the garden, keeping the property tidy and having it professionally cleaned before moving out.

It’ll also include what bills, other than rent, you will be responsible for paying. These might include:

  • Council Tax
  • service charges and ground rent
  • utility bills (gas, electric, broadband)
  • TV Licence.

If you’re responsible for paying them, it’s important to remember Council Tax and TV Licence are priority bills and not paying them can lead to a court summons. 

Keep in mind you’ll need your deposit back at the end of your tenancy to help pay the deposit on your next rental property – don’t do anything to jeopardise not getting it back.

You might also need a reference from your landlord for any new place you rent, or for a mortgage if you later want to buy somewhere.

How to avoid unexpected costs now or in the future

  • Make sure you are 100% clear about which bills are your responsibility to pay – if in doubt, ask.
  • Make a written or photographic record of any damage already in the property when you move in and have the landlord or agent acknowledge this.
  • If the property is furnished, check the inventory against what is included in the flat so you aren’t later held responsible for any missing items not there to start with.
  • Highlight the key aspects of your tenancy agreement you will need to bear in mind before you leave the property – check you’ve fulfilled them by the time you come to leave.
  • Save up or put aside a pot of money you can use to pay your moving-out expenses when you leave the property.

Your tenancy agreement – sole or joint tenants

If you’re sharing a property with others, it’s important to establish whether you’re joint tenants, or  the sole tenant and any others living there are effectively your guests – and so your responsibility.

If you are joint tenants

Two or more of you will be listed on the tenancy agreement.

  • All of those named on the agreement are liable to pay the rent and meet all the obligations to the landlord laid out in the tenancy agreement.
  • If one of you moves out, that person is still liable to pay their share of the rent until the tenancy agreement is altered – but if the terms of the tenancy agreement include ‘joint and several liability’ for paying rent and someone whose name is on the lease doesn’t pay, the landlord has the right to chase the remaining tenant/s for the missing amount.

If you are the sole tenant

  • Only you are listed on the tenancy agreement.
  • You alone are liable for the entire rent and bills.
  • If you currently share the rent and bills with a partner or housemates and they move out, you will have to pay all these costs yourself.
  • Your partner or housemate/s have no legal right to occupy the property if your arrangement or relationship breaks down – they will need to find alternative accommodation. 

It is a good idea for each of you to save up a month’s rent, so you have an emergency pot you can rely on in this situation.

What is a rent guarantor?

If you’re unemployed or studying, or renting for the first time – your landlord might consider you as more risky than other tenants.

As a result, they might require you to ask someone (typically a parent) to act as ‘guarantor’ – to provide a guarantee the rent will be paid.

This means if you fail to pay the rent one month, the landlord can legally call on your guarantor to pay up instead of you.

This is particularly worth bearing in mind if the property is shared, as in this case the guarantor might be liable for any failure of the rent from other tenants – not just their own child.

Again, it’s worth building up an emergency savings pot so you don’t leave your parents with the financial burden of paying your rent if you lose your job or fall ill.

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