Four things every tenant needs to know

22 March 2012

Renting is no longer reserved for students and the young - one in five people will rent their home by 2016, according to Savills estate agency.

In a recent survey of landlords by the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), 55% reported that they had more tenants on their books than available properties to rent.

"Renting is often seen as a low-hassle, lower-risk option when compared to purchasing a home," says Ian Potter, operations manager at ARLA. "Yet many people find the prospect of renting a home daunting, whatever their age or experience."

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So if you are a tenant here's what you need to know:

1. Unregulated agents

The rental industry is unregulated so anyone can set up as a letting agent or landlord. For peace of mind, try to only use agents who are affiliated to a professional organisation such as ARLA. All ARLA agents have to comply to a strict code of conduct, which includes offering client money protection and redress schemes.

2. Secure deposit

Your deposit should be secure. It is a legal requirement that your landlord or lettings agent protects your deposit through a tenancy deposit scheme. This protects your money and means the landlord can't go out and spend it.

3. Professional inventory

A professional inventory is a good idea. A well prepared, detailed inventory assists you in getting fair decisions at the end of your tenancy. Make sure you check the inventory thoroughly to be sure it covers everything in your property.

4. Tenancy agreements

There are different kinds of tenancy agreement. Many shared tenancies contain a joint liability clause. This means you are responsible for the actions of your co-tenants for the duration of the tenancy. This can include covering their share of the rent if they were to unexpectedly move out. Make sure you read the smallprint and understand exactly what you are agreeing to before you sign anything.

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