Q. What is a tenancy agreement?
A. This is a legally binding contract between the Landlord/s and the Tenant/s which outlines the legal and contractual obligations of both parties.
Q. What is the difference between an 'Assured Shorthold Tenancy' and a 'Non-housing Act' or 'Contractual Tenancy'?
A. If the tenancy falls into any of the following 4 categories, then the type of contract will be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, which means that it will be covered by Housing Act legislation:
- The tenant is an individual or individuals (up to 4 people) and not a company
- The annual (pure*) rent is less than £100,000
- There is not a resident landlord in the original building**
- This is the tenant’s main home
* The annual rent less the cost of any services included in the tenancy, such as the gardener or the cleaner.
** If the property has been extended and the Tenant lives in the extension, then this is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. If the original building is converted into flats and the landlord lives in one of them, then that is a Contractual Tenancy.
Q. How long is the tenancy agreement for?
A. This will vary according to the wishes of both parties and the type of tenancy being used, however, most agreements are for 12 months and often include a break clause after month 6. Sewell & Gardner do not organise agreements for less than 6 months. A tenancy agreement over 3 years MUST be drawn up as a deed by a solicitor, therefore, it is unusual for tenancies to be for longer than this initially. An initial fixed term Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement does not automatically end after the fixed term has expired. Unless notice is served on the other party the tenancy will become a periodic tenancy unless a further fixed term agreement is put into force.
Q. What does 'joint and several' mean?
A. Where there is more than one adult on the tenancy agreement 'joint and severally liable' means that all of the tenants on the contract are responsible for the rent and all liabilities, or any breach of the tenancy. For instance, if one of the tenants cannot pay their portion of the rent, then the other tenants will have to pay it, because they are all liable for the rent, or if one tenant wishes to end the tenancy, they ALL have to vacate, because they are all liable.
Q. What is a break clause?
A. This is a clause inserted in a fixed term tenancy which allows either the landlord or the tenant to give written notice after the minimum term, thus terminating the tenancy earlier than the original fixed term.
Q. If I pay a £300 deposit to secure the property, is this in addition to the rent and the 6 week security deposit?
A. If you are serious about renting a property and you want the property to be taken off the open market whilst your contracts & references are sorted out, then you pay an initial £300 from the balance of completion funds required before you move into the property. Traditionally these are the security deposit, 1st month’s rent, contract & administration fee and referencing costs, these are all listed in our Tenancy Application Booklet. (link to Tenancy Application Form> Please ensure that you fully understand the costs involved in this process because you will forfeit the initial £300 if you withdraw from the deal prior to completion.
Q. What is the usual process if I want to take a tenancy with Sewell & Gardner?
A. After you have viewed the property and negotiated the offer, you as the prospective Tenant will secure the property with a goodwill payment of £300 and we will stop marketing the property whilst status references are taken and the contracts are drawn up. Once the references have been agreed by the Landlord and the contracts are ready for signing, then the balance of the completion funds is taken from you and the contracts are 'put into force' by all parties signing and returning to us for dating. Please note that it is usual practice for the contracts to be put into force on the morning of the tenancy start date. If you wish to secure the tenancy prior to this, then please ensure you make the relevant arrangements with a member of the lettings team, but note that either party can withdraw at any point prior to the contracts being signed and DATED! Do not assume that because you have signed your contract, that it is all in force, as this is not the case.
Q. How much security deposit will I need to pay?
A. We will ask for a deposit equivalent to 6 weeks rent unless the landlord has specified a larger amount, of which you will be notified at offer stage. This will be held in our protected deposit account for the duration of the tenancy and insured by the TDS (Tenancy Deposit Service). (link to TDS) or within the landlord's chosen scheme. You will receive information regarding the deposit scheme and a certificate within 14 days of paying your deposit.
Q. How much rent in advance do I need to pay?
A. It is usual to pay one month's rent in advance and payment is required prior to the commencement of the tenancy, in cleared funds.
Q. Can I change my rent payment date?
A. Your monthly rent will be due on the same day as the tenancy commencement day, if you wish to alter this date you must settle any remaining rent for the month and there may be an administration charge incurred.
Q. Will I be referenced?
A. Yes, you will be referenced through Homelet, the market-leaders. They will carry out thorough checks including credit report, employer and previous landlord (where applicable).
Q. If I have adverse credit, how will it affect my application?
A. So long as you have been truthful on your application form with regards to your credit history each case will be looked at individually. Usually the outcome is either full rental payment in advance or a suitable guarantor but some bad credit is acceptable. If you are unsure, please speak to the Lettings Negotiator at the time of making your offer, we are here to help and certainly not to judge.
Q. Do I need to provide Photo Identification?
A. Yes, please provide an original copy of your passport or photo identification such as a valid driving licence and current proof of residency in the form of a recent utility bill, will be required for file records, at the outset of the tenancy.
Q. What about an inventory and schedule of condition?
A. ARLA and all the Tenancy Deposit Schemes consider an inventory an essential document which provides a written benchmark that should be remade at the beginning of each tenancy. A properly constructed inventory will detail in full the fixtures, fittings and contents of the property and it should be used to provide a schedule of condition at the outset and at the end of the tenancy.
Q. What about insurance?
A. It is your responsibility to ensure you have sufficient means to cover your liability for accidental damage to the landlord's property, furniture, fixtures, and fittings (as described in the Inventory and Schedule of Condition). You may also wish to consider insuring your own personal possessions should the worst ever happen. Sewell & Gardner can provide you with a free quotation for your Tenant's Insurance on 01923 721900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wildabout Properties Limited trading as Sewell & Gardner is an Appointed Representative of HomeLet which is a trading name of Barbon Insurance Group Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England number 3135797.
Q. What about safety regulations for rented property?
A. The landlord must provide you with an annual gas safety certificate, issued by a registered engineer. Each tenant should receive a certificate at the outset of the tenancy and you will be contacted again when this is due for renewal, so that you can allow access for the Gas Safe Registered engineer to call. The appointment should take no longer than 30 minutes. If the property is managed by Sewell & Gardner, please confirm if you are happy for the engineer to use the management key to gain access (subject to appointed date & time) and your new certificates will be left in a visible place for your attention. Please note that all engineers are thoroughly vetted by Sewell & Gardner.
Q. How do I serve notice to end my tenancy?
A. Notice can be given at any time, however, it will not come into force until it is legally allowed to do so, and this is dependent upon the tenancy you have; whether it is an assured shorthold or a contractual tenancy; whether fixed term or a periodic tenancy or whether you have a break clause?
Q. How do I serve notice when the property is MANAGED by Sewell & Gardner?
A. Please write to Sewell & Gardner stating the full names of all tenants (tenants are joint & several so the notice must be signed by all of you) and the date you are giving notice and the date you wish to leave. We will liaise with your landlord on your behalf and write to you directly regarding the check out procedures and what you need to do.
Q. How do I serve notice when the property is NOT MANAGED by Sewell & Gardner?
A. You need to write directly to your landlord, the address of which can be found in your signed tenancy agreement. Please send a copy of your notice letter to Sewell & Gardner, 103a High Street, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 1AN so that we can organise the check out procedure and confirm your obligations at the end of the tenancy.
Q. What happens if either party wants to end the tenancy early?
A. There are only limited ways in which this can happen. The landlord cannot make you move out, nor can you lawfully walk away from your obligations to fulfil the contract. Either party might request of the other that a formal surrender of the tenancy be allowed (called a Mutual Release Agreement). It would then be up to both parties to agree the terms and conditions of such a surrender and this might include some financial compensation for inconvenience or costs incurred.
Q. Who controls my rent payments and who sets them up?
A. It is a Tenant's responsibility to set up a standing order mandate. When you move into the property you will be given a mandate to complete with your own bank details and hand to your bank in plenty of time for the next rent due date.
Q. Why is the mandate dated 3-4 days before my rent is actually due?
A. Most banks take this length of time to clear the funds from your account into the account of your landlord or agent. If you set up the mandate on the date the money is due then your rent could be late every month and you may receive penalty charges.
Q. How do I cancel my standing order mandate?
A. This is your responsibility! Neither the landlord or the agent can stop the payments, so make sure that you contact your bank and cancel the standing order mandate, once you have paid your final rent payment. If you do not cancel this mandate, your rent will continue to be paid.
Q. Who pays for the utilities, council tax and TV license?
A. Unless it states differently in your Tenancy Agreement, it will be your responsibility to pay for the gas, electric, telephone, council tax and TV license. In some leasehold blocks of flats, the water is included in the charge that the Landlord pays, but please make sure that you check whether this is or is not the case. If it is your responsibility to pay Water Rates then you may need to ask the water company to come and read your meter.
Q. Who notifies the utility companies and council tax office?
A. If the property is a managed property then all of the relevant companies will be notified by Sewell & Gardner, with the exception of the telephone line supplier as they will not take instructions from a 3rd party. If the property is NOT managed by Sewell ∓ Gardner, then you should notify the relevant companies yourself, giving your ingoing meter readings. DO NOT cut off the supplies and please check with the landlord or agent before you change supplier.
Q. Can I use my deposit as my last months rent?
A. Deposit monies are held against the property to cover dilapidations or damage and to settle any outstanding bills or unpaid fines at the end of the tenancy. The deposit is held in a special account and cannot be touched until the end of the tenancy, so it is not possible to use this money to pay your last month’s rent, as this would be a breach of your tenancy agreement.
Q. What happens after the end of the initial fixed term tenancy?
A. Whether your property is managed by Sewell & Gardner or by your landlord, you will receive a letter from us approximately two months before the end of your tenancy. This will include a form for you to complete asking you specific questions on your requirements for the coming year. If you return this form at your earliest convenience, we will notify your landlord and either organise your check-out or your renewal tenancies, whichever applies to both you and your landlord. If you are renewing then new tenancy agreements will be drawn up and sent out for your signature. Remember that a tenancy does not come into force until all parties have signed and the contracts are dated and any fees are paid.
Q. I am in a MANAGED property and I have a maintenance issue?
A. Firstly, please ensure that the problem is in fact something that should be remedied by your landlord. Eg. If your heating is not working, have you checked that the thermostat is set correctly or that the boiler is pressurised regularly as the instruction booklet tells you to or that the pilot light hasn't just blown out? The landlord has the responsibility to fix a problem if the boiler is broken, but it is your responsibility to ensure it is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. If you DO NOT have an instruction manual, make sure that you notify Sewell & Gardner immediately. If a call out is made for a problem that transpires to be down to you, then you will be responsible for paying the subsequent contractor's invoice when it is received.
For maintenance issues: Contact John & Shirley Green on 01895 461349 or 07718 638050 or email email@example.com.
Q. I am in a NON-MANAGED property and I have a maintenance issue?
A. You need to contact your landlord directly and the details of your landlord appear on your moving in letter from Sewell & Gardner. If you have lost these details, please contact the lettings team on 01923 721900 and they will give it to you.
Q. Who is responsible for external maintenance?
A. External decorations and maintenance are the responsibility of the Landlord. However, if the property has a garden then you are responsible for the upkeep as long as the Landlord has provided you with the necessary tools.
Q. What is the difference between condensation & damp?
A. Firstly, condensation is NOT damp! Condensation is caused by lack of air in the property and a difference in the temperature inside and outside. It is a tenant's responsibility to ensure condensation and mould does not build up in the rental property. If you have any doubt about the nature of mould, please ensure you notify us immediately and a specialist damp survey will be organised to ascertain the cause of the problem. If it is NOT damp, then it is not down to the Landlord to fix it!
Q. If I have a maintenance issue and I instruct a contractor to carry out work without notifying the landlord, can I be reimbursed?
A. It is your duty to notify the Landlord when you have a maintenance issue and it is the duty of the landlord or managing agent, to get the issue sorted within a 'reasonable' time. If you go ahead and instruct a contractor without checking credentials or having sight of insurances etc, you could end up liable for a lot more than just a bill for the work! Always leave maintenance issues to your Landlord!
Q. What is ‘reasonable’ time?
A. This will depend upon the type of issue and the time of year and various other factors! For instance, if your heating breaks down in July it will be less urgent than if it breaks down in December, when the weather is cold. Common sense prevails and it is important to consider how you would react if this was your own property and something went wrong and take into account that sometimes parts need to be ordered or investigations need to be made, and these can take time.
Q. Is there stamp duty and who pays it on a rental property?
A. Yes, there is stamp duty payable on residential leases, but not until the rent paid exceeds £120,000 as a cumulative sum from the outset of the tenancy. For example: If you pay £1000pcm rent to your Landlord you will need to rent the same property for approx. 10 years before you are liable for stamp duty. Once the rent paid exceeds this amount, then stamp duty is payable by the tenant to the Inland Revenue. For further information please visit www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/so.
Q. What is the procedure at the end of the tenancy?
A. Once you have given notice and a moving out date has been set, take a look through your original inventory and schedule of condition because this document will be used to ascertain any dilapidations or damage caused by you during the tenancy, for the purpose of deducting costs from your deposit.
Remember that the Inventory Clerk does not work for Sewell & Gardner or your Landlord, he/she is unbiased and fully qualified:
- Make sure that you leave the property and any contents in exactly the same condition / place as at the outset of the tenancy. Of course you are allowed fair wear and tear, and this will depend on how long you have lived at the property, how many tenants / occupiers, pets or smoking allowed.
- Dispose of rubbish, check the light bulbs, fuses, batteries in the smoke detectors and replace where necessary. Be mindful that a contractor will be employed to carry out any of these jobs if you do not do them, and you will not only be charged for the items but also for the contractor call-out.
- A 'domestic' clean is not the same as a 'professional' clean. If you are required to provide a professional clean then you will be charged for this if you do not organise it yourself, however 'clean' you manage to get the property yourself! If your property was professionally cleaned at the outset of the tenancy then you must provide proof (invoice) for the professional clean at the end of the tenancy along with the contact number of the cleaning company used.
- ALL keys, including any you have had cut yourself, MUST be returned to Sewell & Gardner or the Inventory Clerk at the correct time, or you will be charged for additional days rental or even a change of locks.
- ALL utility services should be as at the outset of the tenancy, unless you have notified Sewell & Gardner or your Landlord of new suppliers.
- Any specific clauses negotiated with your Landlord, such as re-decoration or installation of satellite dishes must be adhered to. If you have to remove items or re-instate items, please ensure you do this.
- If you have purchased items you intend to leave at the property, ensure you have written approval from Sewell & Gardner or your Landlord or you will be charged for their removal / disposal.
- The check-out report will be received from the clerk within a few days and a copy will be issued to you so that you can confirm the relevant deductions from your deposit and the deposit money can be returned to you. To adhere with Tenancy Deposit Scheme regulations, any deductions required from the deposit will be notified to you, in writing, within 10 days from the check-out appointment (unless there is a valid reason for a delay, such as awaiting quotations for unusual items).
- Please ensure you have provided a forwarding address for your deposit return, otherwise the address provided on your contact information form provided at the outset of the tenancy.