Tenants FAQs

Below are some of the questions we are often asked by tenants.  We hope you will find the answers helpful.  If you have any queries which are not mentioned here, please let us know.

Why is it necessary to pay a holding deposit?

This is your commitment to renting the property. If this is not paid, you could change your mind and in the meantime the landlord/agent may have cancelled viewings and/or turned down other offers.

Why do agents charge fees?

A lot of work is involved to get a tenancy up and running and agents spend considerable time on this. Sulgrave Estates tenant fees are low. If we charged an hourly rate for our time instead, you would get a much bigger bill!

In addition, tenants overwhelmingly use Rightmove and Zoopla when looking for a rental property – but they are unaware of the huge fees these portals charge agents to advertise on them.

Despite many other portals springing up, it has so far not been possible to lure tenants away from Rightmove and Zoopla. As long as prospective tenants continue to look predominantly on these two portals, they will continue to charge agents accordingly.

Why do we have to pay a deposit?

This is to protect the landlord. Whilst the vast majority of tenants look after properties there are a minority who don’t, and in some rare cases serious damage is caused. This is often combined with non payment of rent resulting in lengthy eviction proceedings. Other issues that a landlord may use the deposit for can be non payment of utility bills, repairs caused by damage, inadequate end of tenancy cleaning etc. If you look after the property and pay all the bills you have no need to worry about not getting your deposit back at the end of the tenancy.

Why is tenant referencing so important? Isn’t is just a formality?

Referencing is very important indeed. Look at it from the landlord’s perspective. They don’t know you at all, but you are going to be living in their property. They want to be sure that you will look after it, that you are able to pay the rent and that you are a law abiding citizen with no criminal record, bankruptcy proceedings or illegal immigrant status lurking.

Any of these could impact on a landlord. In fact, they could be prosecuted if they allowed a tenant to move in who was not legally allowed to be in the UK. And so could the agent!

What does a credit check include?

A credit check will reveal basic information like your name and date of birth, whether you are on the electoral roll, a list of all accounts and when they were opened, the credit limits on credit cards and loans, any missed payments on credit cards and even accounts closed and settled over the last six years will be listed.

A credit check will also show if a tenant has any county court judgments outstanding (CCJs), are or have been bankrupt, or if they have any unpaid debts that have gone to a collection agency. This information will stay on the report for six years.

You will be given a credit “score” which will help the landlord decide if you are a safe bet to live in their property. A low score could mean you would fail the credit check, and in turn will fail the referencing.

What is the Prescribed Information?

This is basically a document stating the deposit is held by e.g The Deposit Protection Service. The tenants and landlord sign it so they both acknowledge where the deposit is held.

What does “Joint and Several Liability” mean?

In a shared tenancy it means ALL of you are responsible for paying ALL of the rent. Not just your share. So if there are three of you and one decides to disappear, the remaining two will have to pay ALL the rent.

Why does the check in and check out take so long?

The check in comprises a thorough inspection of the property comparing it with the documents describing it. The check out will also comprise a thorough inspection of the property, this time to assess its current condition compared to its condition at the start of the tenancy.

In both cases this includes decor, fixtures, fittings, appliances, furniture, upholstery and cushions, blinds and curtains, linen and towels and any other items at the property. If fully furnished this will also include plates, glasses, cutlery, saucepans etc. This is not a quick job. A rough guideline given by inventory clerks is 1½ to 2 hours although this varies depending on the size of the property, whether it is furnished or unfurnished etc.

Usually, how much is a deposit?

It is usually 6 weeks rent. Some landlords just ask for a month’s rent, but 6 weeks is considered to be the norm. However, landlords may ask for a higher deposit if there are children or animals in the property on the basis that both these would lead to a greater degree of wear and tear and a higher chance of damage being caused.

Is there a standard response time for the agent/landlord getting back to the tenant on an issue?

The landlord or agent is expected to respond in a “reasonable time”. Obviously, different people will have different views on what is reasonable. It also depends on what the issue is. For example, a water leak would usually require an immediate response, whereas a broken dishwasher would be a much lower priority.

What is the landlord responsible for and what is the tenant responsible for?

This is all stated in the tenancy agreement but briefly, the landlord is responsible for ensuring the property is provided with water, heat and light. He/she is also responsible for ensuring the property is safe to live in (hence the annual gas safety checks) and to maintain adequate insurance.

The tenant is responsible for maintaining the property. This includes paying all the utility bills (unless they are included in the rent), and looking after the property in a “tenant like manner”. This was set out by Lord Denning in 1954 and it still referred to today. Lord Denning said “The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. He must clean the chimneys, where necessary, and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do the little jobs about the place which a reasonable tenant would do.”

Some of the wording is a bit dated now, but you get the gist.

The tenant is also responsible for keeping the property secure and for notifying the landlord or agent promptly of any issues that may be hazardous or affect the fabric of the building. “Some bricks fell off the roof a month ago but we forgot to tell you” is not acceptable!

If mould occurs, is that the tenants’ problem?

It depends what has caused the mould! Often it is the tenants’ lifestyle but proving this can be difficult. I have seen tenancies where there are no mould problems, the tenants move out and new tenants move in then a few months down the line there is mould. Clearly this is a lifestyle issue. Other causes may be down to building problems, bathrooms and kitchen not being painted with mould resistant paint etc. In these situations the landlord would have to deal with the problem.

In bathrooms I have noticed that mould is overwhelmingly due to tenants not keeping the room ventilated and not wiping around the bottom of the bath or shower when they have finished (sorry, but it tends to be the case!). The water sits there and mould appears around the sealant. Mould on bathroom walls and ceilings is usually caused by using the bathroom with the door and window closed and then leaving the bathroom and closing the door so the condensation cannot escape. Landlords really appreciate tenants help on this one by keeping bathrooms well ventilated.

Is the landlord responsible for repairing equipment, such as a washing machine, if it breaks?

It depends why it has broken. If it is down to tenant misuse or tenant damage then the tenant is responsible. I have had two cases of washing machine repair where the machine broke down due to tenant action. The first was a hairband that was wrapped around the filter, the second was a hair pin. In cases such as these, the tenant is liable for the repair. If the machine is old and just breaks downs then landlords will usually replace them (although legally they don’t actually have to).

Tenant misuse or damage also extends to their invited guests. So if any of their friends or family cause the damage, you as tenant are liable.

Is the tenant responsible for a leaking shower?

This depends on what has caused the leak.  Tenants are responsible for replacing the hose and handset if they leak.  Often the problem is due to usage and not keeping them clean from limscale and gunk!  Tenants are not usually responsible or a leaking shower tray unless the leak is a result of action on their part.   Limescale is a big problem in hard water areas such as London and can cause permanent damage to sanitary fittings.  The answer is regular cleaning. Surfaces should be dried and not left wet.  Showers should be wiped down with a squeege and fittings wiped. Taps should be cleaned and shower heads should be descaled regularly (follow manufacturers’ instructions).  Shower heads damaged by blocked limscale will have to be replaced by the tenant.

Is the tenant responsible for blocked drains?

Probably yes.  Again, it depends why they are blocked.  Kitchen sinks can become blocked with food, waste and fat.  Showers can become blocked with hair and soap.  Flushing through with thick bleach or soda crystals regularly will prevent most blockages (as will not putting food, hair and fat in them in the first place!).

Why do we have to be present at the Check Out?

You don’t have to, but Sulgrave Estates strongly advise that you are. Firstly, it is your responsibility to facilitate access to the property for the inventory clerk. Secondly, you should return all keys to the Inventory Clerk at the end of the check out.

It is also in your interests to be present as this is your opportunity to see if what is being noted down by the Inventory Clerk is appropriate and accurate. This will affect whether any deductions are proposed from your deposit. It is far easier to explain something to the Clerk there and then rather than to the landlord or agent afterwards. Inventory Clerks often tell me of disputes that go on for days involving numerous e-mails and telephone calls – all of which could have been avoided if the tenants had just turned up for the Check Out in the first place!

Why is professional cleaning so expensive?

It’s not really when you think about it. Have a look at our Check Out Guide. There is a lot to do. Cleaning is always the biggest bone of contention between landlords and tenants. The best approach to this is to look at it from the point of view of the tenants moving in after you. They don’t want to see any evidence of your dirt and mess. They want to move into a property that is spotlessly clean – as would you. Reputable professional cleaners are always the best option and save an awful lot of arguments on sub standard cleaning between landlords and tenants at check out. Pay the cleaners and relax, safe in the knowledge that they will do what they know is necessary for you to get your deposit back.

How do we get our deposit back after the check out?

Firstly, the agent/landlord will need to see documentary proof that all utility bills have been paid up to the check out date. The tenants may not always be able to get this information straightaway. In the case of gas and electricity, it can take several days (or sometimes longer) to receive the final bill in the post at their forwarding address. It is in the tenants interest to expedite this, usually by making final payments over the phone and getting bills emailed to them instead.

Secondly, after the check out is completed, the Inventory Clerk will prepare a Check Out Report for the landlord/agent. The condition of the property will have been compared to its condition at the start of the tenancy as detailed on the Inventory (fair wear and tear accepted). See the question “Why does the check in and check out take so long?” for more detail on this.

The landlord/agent will then decide whether to make any deductions from the deposit. This could be due to damage caused to the property or to a specific item or if there are any items missing. If deductions are proposed these will be put to the tenant. If the tenant agrees to the deductions, arrangements for return of the deposit can start (less the agreed amount). If the tenant disagrees, then both parties would initially try to reach agreement. If it is not possible to reach agreement, the DPS Arbitration Service would be notified and arbitration would commence. Both parties would have to submit evidence to the DPS outlining their case. The DPS decision is final and binding.

The landlord/agent has to return the deposit within 10 working days or give a reason as to why not. In my experience, the most common reason is awaiting proof of payment of all bills.