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Essential steps when you move in

Is your deposit protected?

Under the law in England and Wales, if you’ve an assured shorthold tenancy (the most common type of private tenancy agreement) that started on or after 6 April 2007, your landlord must put your deposit in a Government-backed protection scheme within 30 days of getting it. These are:

The landlord must tell you:

  • which tenancy deposit scheme is being used and the contact details for the scheme
  • what tenants can do if there is a dispute about the deposit
  • information about the purpose of a tenancy deposit
  • how money will be returned at the end of the tenancy

If the landlord or agent does not protect the deposit or provide tenants with all the information above, a court can order the landlord to pay tenants compensation, plus the deposit itself.

Find more information in advice on tenancy deposit protection.

Tips to help ensure you get your deposit back

Remember, get a signed inventory and take photos of any damage in the property before you move in. Check your contract, repair any damage, and ensure nothing’s missing or broken. Take photos as proof you’ve left it in good order, and if your tenancy agreement states you must get the property professionally cleaned, you may have to provide receipts to prove you’ve done it. But if it states you need to have it cleaned to a professional standard, you could do this carefully yourself and take photos as proof.

Does the property need a licence?

If the property has three or more storeys, and is home to five or more people who are not related, it is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and the landlord must obtain a licence from the Council. For more information, contact us using the details on this page.

If the landlord fails to get a licence he can be taken to court and, on conviction, fined up to £20,000. Following conviction, tenants can apply for a Rent Repayment Order from the courts to reimburse them for some of the rent, if they apply within a fixed time.

Council tax

If the privately-rented property is the tenant’s sole or main residence and they are over 18 years of age, the tenant must pay council tax. The following must pay council tax:

  1. A resident with a lease
  2. A resident with a tenancy agreement
  3. A resident with a licence agreement

If the property is an House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), where the residents have separate leases or licences, and only occupy or pay rent for part of the property (eg bedsit with shared facilities), the property’s owner is liable for council tax, and must pay the bill.

If two or more people are joint tenants, or are married or in a civil partnership or are living together as though they are, then they are held jointly and severally liable to pay council tax, meaning if one person can’t pay, then the other(s) must make up for it.

For more information see council tax.

You have a right to switch and save on energy bills

You do not have to stay with a previous tenant’s gas or electricity supplier. If you are on energy providers’ standard tariffs you could save money by switching to an alternative supplier.

A way to keep bills down is to seek advice on keeping warm and dry in the home. The Council is part of the Seasonal Health Interventions Network (SHINE) which offers ideas about how to heat your home, as well as offering other finance and health checks.

Take meter readings

Take meter readings for your gas and electricity when you move in. This way, you can pass them on to the suppliers to ensure you aren’t charged for the previous occupants’ usage.

Does every renter need their own TV licence?

If you rent, whether an entire property or a room in a shared property, you must be covered by a valid TV licence to watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV.

Usually you’ll have to organise this yourself (or between yourselves if in a shared house). But speak to the landlord first, as they may already have a licence for the property. If you live in self-contained accommodation, such as a separate flat or annex, you’ll need your own separate licence.

If you’re a lodger and have a relationship with the homeowner (a family member, partner, nanny, au pair, housekeeper, etc), you’ll be covered by the homeowner’s TV licence, provided you live in the same building.

But if you’re a lodger and you have a separate tenancy agreement for your room, you’ll need your own TV licence.

Ensure you have contents cover as soon as you move in

If you rent, your landlord is responsible for buildings insurance, so you should only be getting contents cover. Make sure your insurance company know you are renting and ask them if there are any special conditions you must meet.

Do you know where your stopcock is?

Your mains water tap, or stopcock, is the off-switch for all the water in your home. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it. But if you don’t know where it is and a pipe bursts, you’ll be powerless to stop it flooding your home.

The stopcock can look like a tap, and can often be found under the kitchen sink, or by the boiler, or in an airing cupboard. If you don’t know where yours is, check now. If you don’t know where it is, ask your landlord to show you.

Remember to redirect your mail

When you move, as well as updating your address with all your accounts, it’s a good idea to get your post redirected to your new address. This can be very helpful if an unexpected bill is sent to your old address.

Otherwise, if you miss it, the worst case scenario could see a debt collection process started that you know nothing about, causing huge damage to your credit rating. Visit Royal Mail to find out how to redirect your mail, plus current rates.

Page updated on: 5 September 2019

Private Sector Housing


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