10 top tips for tenants

To let signsThe cost of renting a home in England and Wales shot up to record levels over recent months, pushing the average rent up to well over £700 a month.

Here are our top tips for tenants keen to get the property they want for less - and ensure their rights are protected while they are living there.

1. Do your research
When looking for a rental property, it is sensible to use the internet to get an idea of what is available and at what price. This way, you can work out if a property is fairly priced.

2. Go local
Check individual letting agency's website rather than property portals as they are usually more up to date.

3. Prepare your paperwork
Have your references ready to go so that you can move quickly when you decide you want to make an offer.

Your financial or employment reference will probably need to show that your income is at least two and a half times the rent. And any previous letting agent or landlord's reference will need to say that you paid your rent on time and kept the property in good condition.

4. Get ready to move
Be prepared to move quickly. Most landlords will prefer tenants who can move in within a month - and may accept a slightly lower rent in order to get someone in sooner.

5. View several properties
If possible, see three or four properties at a time to get a better idea of which one offers the best value for money.

You can also make offers lower that the advertised rent on more than one property to see which landlords are prepared to negotiate.

6. Be prepared to walk away
Leave some margin to increase your offer, but do not be afraid to walk away if this amount is not accepted. There will be other houses and flats available.

7. Think long term
Try to offer the longest rental period possible. Landlords hate to have their properties empty so may consider a lower offer from you if you can commit to a year rather than six months, for example.

8. Get a receipt
Always get a written receipt for your deposit, as well as a detailed inventory that you can refer to when you come to move out.

9. Check your utilities
Make sure that you see a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate before moving into a property.

And take note of the gas, electricity and water meter readings to ensure that you do not end up paying over the odds.

10. Insure yourself
Your landlord should have the necessary building insurance in place. However, it is a good idea to take out contents insurance to cover your personal belongings against theft and damage.
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