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Finding your perfect property: The must-haves

Once you know how much you can afford to spend, and you have put the additional monies (deposit, referencing, and so on) to one side, you should start to think about your ‘must-haves. These are the things that you definitely want in your new property – it could be a garden or off-street parking. You might need three bedrooms as a minimum.

Do you have a pet? This needs to be factored in. A furnished property might be essential, especially if this is your first home. Perhaps you need to be within walking distance of a good school, shops, the local train station, or your place of work. Is it city central or more peaceful that makes you happiest? Make a list of the things you just can’t compromise on so that you can narrow down your search.

At the same time, a list of things you would like but could manage without if a property that ticked all the other boxes is a useful exercise. It will show you how set you are on your idea of a house or flat and might open up new areas or entice you to view a property you would have passed over before.

Viewing Properties

Now that you have an idea of what you want, the next stage of the rental process is to start viewing properties. Some will look ideal on paper, but once you get there, they may not be what you want at all. Similarly, those properties that almost match your requirements but might need a little compromise could, when you actually step inside, feel just right. The property you fall in love with is an entirely subjective thing, and without viewing a variety, you’ll never be able to quite find what you’re looking for.

It’s a good idea to have a set of questions ready to ask about each property you see as this will give you a better idea of the place, and also allow you to directly compare each house or flat that you see. Here are some important questions to ask:

  • What is included in the rent?
  • How much is the deposit?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • How much storage space is there?
  • Is there a good mobile phone signal and fast broadband speeds?
  • Who manages the property?
  • Does the landlord live nearby?
  • What is parking like? 
  • Do you need to budget for a permit?

Depending on what you want from a property and the reasons you’re moving, you’ll have your own questions to add to this list too. Write them down and don’t be shy about asking them – if you’re going to live somewhere you need to know all the details.

Take a tape measure with you when viewing properties as well as the measurements of your furniture. It’s no good deciding that you want to live in a certain house only to find that you won’t get your bed up the stairs, or the sofa is too big.

Household bills

Don’t forget to budget for household bills when looking for your property. These include:

  • Council tax
  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Broadband & phone line
  • Contents insurance

Household bills can make a big difference to your budget and what you have left over to pay for rent, so calculating these costs needs to be done as a priority.

In order to save money, be sure to visit a comparison site to compare providers before signing into a contract for each bill. Sites such as MoneySupermarket, MoneySavingExpert, and uSwitch can save you hundreds of pounds each year, so it’s well worth shopping around.

Tenancy agreements

A tenancy agreement is a written agreement between landlord and tenant to make the rental of the property by the landlord to the tenant legal. It gives both landlord and tenant security and also clearly lays out each party’s responsibilities.
The agreement is made up of two types of term:

  • Express Terms: explicitly written in the agreement. These include items such as the length of the tenancy, names and addresses, the amount of rent payable, and payment terms, as well as notice period for both parties.
  • Implied Terms: items or responsibilities that don’t need to be written down, because they are legally required. Implied terms can include things such as the fact that the landlord must carry out repairs, and that the tenant must provide access for the repairs to be made.

Looking after your property

When you’ve moved into the property, there are certain things that are generally either the tenant’s or the landlord’s responsibility.

As the tenant, you are obliged to pay your rent on time, whether that’s weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. The payment terms will be set out in your tenancy agreement.

You must also keep the property in a good state. It must be well ventilated, sufficiently heated during the winter, and clean of rubbish and dirt. It’s also your responsibility to check smoke alarms, change light bulbs, and get the windows cleaned. There are also things like not smoking indoors, which you’ll need to bear in mind, and if you decide to get a pet, you must get it signed off by your landlord first. Going ahead without written consent could have you evicted.

Your landlord will look after maintenance and repairs, but you need to report any breakages or faults, and be able to provide access for the repairs to be made. If you damage any decoration, furniture, or amenities that don’t come down to general wear and tear, you will need to pay out of your deposit.
Our guide to landlords’ responsibilities details what your landlord will look after.  

Moving out

When it comes to moving on, you’ll need to give notice to your landlord, to Churchill Mathesons. If you’re on a rolling contract, you can usually give 1-2 months’ notice, but if you’re in a fixed term contract – usually 6 months to 1 year – you’ll need to give notice 1-2 months before the end of your contract. If you want to leave before the end of your contract, you’ll generally need to pay a leaving fee, unless your agreement contains a break clause.

Your tenancy agreement will detail everything you’re expected to do before you leave the property. This could be having the property professionally cleaned, and dry cleaning the carpets. General best practice will be to fill any picture hook holes, touch up paint scuffs and chips, and leave the shower and bath sparkling. The inventory from when you first moved in will be useful in helping you get the property ready.

It’s also important to ensure you let your household utilities companies know you’ll be ending your contract, or moving it on to a new property. Make sure you give plenty of notice so you don’t have to pay fees. Sometimes it’s cheaper to move current tariffs over to your new property to avoid leaving charges.