Before you start looking at online or newspaper ads for a flat or a house to rent, it is important that you first think about a few things! Keep in mind that in today’s economic climate the demand for rental property vastly outweighs the supply. It may be difficult to find suitable accommodation that meets all of your requirements as a tenant, so make sure to go into the process as prepared and informed as possible.

Ensure that your paperwork and records are in order. Landlords may reject a tenant’s application should they be deemed unable to afford the rental or show a poor credit record. Prospective landlords and the leasing agents will require tenants to supply them with references from previous landlords as well as proof of income and permission to investigate your credit record. Generally, the matter of whether you will be able to afford the rental expense is calculated by determining the tenant’s monthly net surplus after expenses, and usually amounts to no more than a third of the tenant’s total income.

This links directly to the next piece of advice you should follow: determine how much you can afford. Use the same guidelines that the landlord or agent will use to work out how much you will be able to afford monthly on rent. If you realise that you may need to spend less than you initially thought, consider moving in with a roommate. Prospective tenants should also make sure to find out what other costs are involved with the rental. For instance, are water and lights included in the rental or not? What is the average water and lights account in a month? Will you need to pay extra for parking, levies and so on?

Also, when you start looking for a property to rent, make sure to determine your list of requirements with regards to the property. For example, if safe parking, laundry facilities or a swimming pool are non-negotiable for you, make sure to inform a letting or rental agency before you start making appointments to view properties.

It is also wise to visit one or two rental agencies that specialize in the area you prefer, and ask them to do a cursory credit check for you. Since the demand for rental properties is so high it is essential that you contact your agent regularly as most good rental properties are let within ten days of being listed, so you need to make sure your persistence is noted by the agent.

Once you have found a suitable home or flat to rent, make sure to insist on doing an incoming inspection, well before you move into the property. Ensure that every sign of damage or potential problem is listed in writing and signed by both the tenant (yourself) and the landlord. It is essential that a tenant do this, as you may be held responsible for any damage not reported in this inspection, and the landlord will have the right to claim back such damages. During this inspection, which should be carried out with yourself, the agent and the landlord present, make sure to ask should there be any changes you would like to make – like installing a new carpet or shelving - and get permission in writing to do so.

Finally when you have agreed on the lease, insist that the lease is put in writing, as you have a legal right to do. It is crucial that should any disputes arise between tenant and landlord that everything that had been agreed upon by both parties is on paper and signed. It is, as with any contract you sign, to ensure that you understand what you are signing and everything that is expected of you as a tenant.

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