Firstly – this article isn’t in any way intended to be legal advice –although you can’t get away from the legalities, so the law will be referred to. (All references to the law are based upon the recent changes to the LAU in June 2013) . Secondly – this isn’t an ‘all agents are bad, all tenants are good’ article. There are bad agents – there are some who have no idea what they are doing as far as the legalities of long term rental – & worse, there are some who DO know the rules & still break them left, right & centre. But there are good agents who do their best for both clients – the tenants and the property owner.
There are of course also bad tenants. You only have to look at the ‘name & shame’ sites on Facebook to see what dreadful things some tenants do to the properties they rent.
Thankfully (hopefully) the bad agents & the bad tenants are the minority.
These articles are intended as a guide to what questions you should be asking of the agent, both as a prospective tenant, and prospective landlord – or if there’s no agent involved – what the tenant & owner should be asking each other.
- Be upfront & honest about how long you want to rent for. Tenants – if you truly only want to stay 3 months, that isn’t a long term rental. There are different contracts for short term, essentially holiday lets. Owners – if you don’t truly want a long term tenant – just do short term holiday lets. A long term contract is generally for a minimum of 6 months – less than that would usually be a short-term let. Long term rental contracts, according to the law, can be for any length of time, as agreed by the tenant & landlord. Once the initial period of the contract is reached, it is automatically renewed for a period of three years. No new contract needs to be signed. There needs be no further negotiation. It simply continues. Providing the tenant isn’t in any way in breach of the contract they have the right to stay in the property for that period of time. Should they wish to leave before the end of that time they need give just one month notice, although there can be penalties written into the contract in the form a proportional compensation, according to the new rules. For example, if it’s a one year contract, it can be written in that there is a penalty equivalent to one month’s rent, proportionally, should the tenant leave before the end of the contract. So if they leave after 9 months, they would have to pay the equivalent of half a month as compensation.
Pretty much the only way a tenant who is in no way in breach of the contract can be made to leave before the end of the three years, is if the owner or immediate family needs the property to live in themselves, due to homelessness on their part, for one reason or another.
- If you are using an agent – find out exactly what ‘the deal’ is. Some agents should really be called ‘property finders’. They have lists of properties, sometimes working on behalf of rental agents. They show the properties to prospective tenants for a commission. The commission might be the equivalent of half a month or a month (or more) rent. It might be paid by the owner of the property, it might be paid by the tenant, and it might be shared. Whatever the ‘deal’ is, make sure you know (in writing) before you list your property with one, or before, as a prospective tenant, you view a single property. The property finder might deal with the signing of the contract, but their responsibility will end at that point. Any problems with the property or between the tenant & owner would have to be sorted out between themselves. The rent is paid directly to the owner.
Some agents will offer an ongoing support service. This could simply mean phone or e-mail support, with little or no face-to face contact. They might arrange for a plumber when the heating breaks down, or they might give the tenant a number to call. Or they might offer a ‘Complete Service’ – that could mean that they collect the rent, contact the plumber, check that the work is done properly, pay the bill etc..
Whatever the arrangement is, both the property owner & the tenant need to know right from the start. So from a tenant’s point of view – ASK!
The most important thing really is to COMMUNICATE – either with the agent or directly with the owner or tenant.
With thanks to Jo Ivory of Sunset Properties for helping with an ‘agents point of view’.