Victoria, a housing adviser with Housing Rights, recently graduated from university. We've asked her what ten things she wishes she'd known when she started out as a private renter.
1. Check that things work properly, not just that things look fine on the surface. Turn on the shower! Flick light switches! Don’t be rushed!
2. You don’t need to sign your tenancy agreement on the spot. You can take it away to read. Don’t sign it until you are happy with all the conditions.
3. Don’t wait until the end of your tenancy to think about your deposit. If you’ve looked after the property and paid rent, you should get this money back, but you need to check that it’s been properly protected in the first six months of your tenancy.
4. Your landlord has to give you an Energy Performance Certificate, a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate for any gas appliances in the property and a rent book.
5. Get your landlord’s contact information. Even if your property is managed by an estate agent or someone else, you are entitled to this contact information. Trust me, it will come in handy.
6. Check the inventory and challenge it if you think it’s not accurate. You can use SmartRenters’ handy online inventory tool. And don’t be shy, take pictures and videos of everything. Your inventory should state how clean things are as well as what condition they are in.
7. Don’t underestimate your bills! Keep in mind electricity, gas, Wi-Fi, TV, socializing all add up on top of your rent. Give yourself some financial wriggle room when deciding how much rent you can afford to pay.
8. Your landlord should not increase your rent before your signed contract ends. Get advice if the landlord tries to do this.
9. Renting with housemates? Then, check your contract carefully. You could have joint liability; this means that if your housemates damage the property or do not pay rent you (or your guarantor) can be financially responsible. So check that tenancy agreement and pick your housemates well!
10. Pay your rent on time. If you’re late paying rent your guarantor will get a call and you could eventually be evicted. Set up a reminder, or even better, a direct deposit to be sure you’re always on time.
The more you know, the more prepared you are if anything goes wrong. Smart Renters can find simple helpful tips on renting in Northern Ireland at www.SmartRenter.org.
Speak to an adviser if you're having problems in your tenancy.