Finding a property
If you are considering renting a property then our advice would be to go for the best presented property that you can find within the rental price range that you are considering. The reason for this is that it will indicate that the landlord is someone who cares for their property and, hopefully, will respond quickly to any problems that occur during the period of your lease.
Similar to finding a property to purchase it is wise to extensively search the area visiting as many estate agents and letting agents as you possibly can and looking in all the local newspapers and on the internet. Make appointments to view all the properties that suit you as soon as you can. The rental market can move much more quickly than the selling market and it is likely that if a good property becomes available a tenant will be found fairly quickly.
It is likely that the lease will be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy which is likely to be for six months to begin with but can be for a much longer period. Many landlords will put restrictions on the type of tenant that they will allow in the property and you must ensure that you will be able to comply with these requirements otherwise you could be in breach of the contract.
You will probably be asked to pay a deposit. If it is considered by the landlord or letting agent that at the end of the tenancy the property is in as good a repair as when the tenancy started, allowing for fair wear and tear, then you should receive the whole deposit back. However landlords can deduct from the deposit compensation to cover the damage caused by you as the tenant. Under current legislation the deposit will need to be lodged with one of the approved organisations.
Many landlords like the comfort of a tenant having a guarantor and if it is at all possible to arrange one then this could help you in your quest for a property. Most landlords will ask for references and will probably carry out credit checks on you to ensure that you have a good credit history.
Read the lease document carefully so that you are aware of your rights and obligations and also those of the landlord. In most cases you will need prior permission from the landlord to undertake any changes at the property or to change utility providers.
If there is a garden at the property then you will probably be required to maintain it but not to alter it. If it is a large garden and you are not keen on gardening, ascertain at the commencement of the lease the standard the landlord would expect you to keep it in.
Legally binding contract
Once you have signed a lease you have entered into a legally binding contract and you will need to continue to pay the rent for the duration of the tenancy. Provided you have served the required notice you will be able to vacate the property at the end of the fixed period.
If you decide to stay for a longer period and the landlord is happy for this to happen then you will have a choice of either entering into a new fixed term contract or allowing the tenancy to "roll on" as a periodic tenancy with all the terms and conditions of the original lease still applying. If you do go down this route you then have the advantage of only needing to give one months notice to vacate the property but on the otherhand the landlord will only need to give you two months notice to ask you to leave the property.
So if you feel that you may want to be moving on in the near future this is probably a good option. On the otherhand if you want security of knowing you are there for a set amount of time it would probably be better to enter into a new fixed term tenancy.
A flexible option
Renting a property is often looked at as the poor relation to buying a home but it must be remembered that for many people it is an exceptionally good way of occupying a property. It gives you far more flexibility to move areas if, say, you have a job move. Also the landlord will usually be responsible for the external repairs to the property (other than those caused by the tenants misuse).
Utilities, Tax and Insurance
As a tenant you wll normally be responsible for paying for gas, water and electricity as well as the Council Tax. You will also need to insure against accidental damage to the landlords items items such as carpets. It would also be prudent to consider insurance to cover your possessions.
Costs for tenants
Although currently subject to a government review it is likely as a tenant you will encounter some costs from the letting agent before the tenancy begins. Check with the agent how much this will be and what the payment covers.