If you rent from a private landlord, there’s lots of choice - including houses, flats, studio apartments, bedsits, and rooms in shared housing. Properties may be managed by a private landlord, or by a letting agent, and may be furnished or unfurnished.
You can find a property by checking local newspapers, letting agents, notice boards, and the internet. You can get free access to the internet at the Maidstone Link in King Street.
It’s important to choose a home you can afford, as rent will vary depending on the property you pick. Ask to see the gas safety certificate to show that any gas appliances are safe and the energy performance certificate to give you an idea of how much it will cost to heat your home. Also make sure that soft furniture has fire safety labels.
You should check that there are working smoke alarms on each floor. You should also check that there is a carbon monoxide detector, especially if there is a usable fireplace or wood burning stove.
You usually have to pay a cash deposit before renting privately. This is your landlord’s security if you don’t pay your rent, or the property is damaged. The deposit is returnable and you should get it back when you leave if no deductions need to be made.
Your landlord must place your deposit into a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme which will protect your deposit and deal with any disputes over deductions. If they don’t you can make a court claim against them, and they will lose some of their rights to issue you notice if they want you to leave.
You may also have to pay a month’s rent in advance. If you can’t afford this you may be able to get help through Maidstone Homefinders.
Your tenancy agreement is a legal agreement between you and your landlord, and you should read the agreement carefully before signing it. The tenancy will detail who has to do repairs, who is responsible for bills and what happens if you want to leave. If you don’t have a written agreement, a verbal agreement is also legally binding.
There are several different types of tenancy including licences, and each gives you different rights, so you may want to check the details with a solicitor, or you can talk to Shelter or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Some landlords may also give you a list of items that are in the property when you move in. This is called an inventory and will help to avoid any false claims from loss or damage to furnishings when leaving.
Your tenancy agreement will show you how much rent you should pay and how often. If you pay your rent on a weekly basis, your landlord must give you a rent book. If you pay rent in cash, either weekly or monthly make sure you get a receipt. If you need help with your rent you may be eligible for housing benefit.
You will need to register with gas, electricity, water, and waste water companies and provide meter readings when you move in. You’ll also need to register and pay Council Tax for your property unless this is included in your rent.
Before your tenancy comes to an end you should talk to your landlord to discuss whether you are able to extend your tenancy, or whether you need to look for a new home. If your tenancy does come to an end, your landlord normally has to give you a legal period of notice to enable you to find a new tenancy.
When you move out if the property isn’t clean or you don’t take all your belongings, your landlord will probably deduct money from the deposit. You should also make sure that you’re up to date with your rent, or your landlord won’t give you a reference for your next tenancy.
This is where two or more tenant households swap their homes and tenancies. There are a number of mutual exchange schemes in Kent. Visit the Homeswapper website for more information or take a look at the Exchange Locata website.
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