This information aims to give tenants important information on matters relating to an application on a property so they know what is happening while their application is processed, can prepare for moving into the property and know what is expected when they eventually leave the property at the end of the tenancy.
Reserving a Property
When tenants submit an application to us and apply to rent a specific property an application fee must be paid to cover the costs of the referencing and the preparation of the legal documents. Tenants will be given a tariff of fees but our local office will confirm the exact fee when they receive the forms as this will depend on how many applicants are to be referenced and whether they will have a Guarantor on the tenancy. We must continue advertising and showing the property to other prospective tenants but will only accept and process one formal application at a time. The property will be held for a tenant whose application we have accepted and who have paid a fee until the processing of that application is completed.
All persons over the age of 18 and residing at the property as their main residence will need to pay an application fee and be referenced whether or not they are to be named as tenants. Our referencing is carried out by an independent professional referencing company and includes all the personal, credit and employment checks a tenant might expect to be undertaken to verify their ability to act as a responsible tenant capable of meeting their commitments as set out in the tenancy agreement.
When an application is made to rent a property, a copy of our General Information For Tenants (GIFT) will need to be signed and returned to us. If downloading a FLS application form, please also download the GIFT form, complete and hand to us signed by all tenants and any proposed Guarantor at the same time as the FLS application forms.
Confirmation of fee structure
When applying for a property the fees are taken in 2 stages. The initial fee is paid for the referencing carried out which is non refundable should an applicant withdraw their application at any timeor if for any reason they do not satisfy the referencing requirements referred to above. Prior to moving into the property a documentation fee is taken along with the deposit and rent in advance. Should for any reason the applicant withdraw at this stage the rent in advance and deposit will be returned by cheque or bacs transfer however the documentation fee may be retained depending on the amount of work that has been completed by us.
In certain cases a Guarantor must be provided at the start of the tenancy and the same Guarantor or a replacement must stay as Guarantor for the tenancy for as long as it continues. The Guarantor must also complete an application form, pay an application fee as referred to above and be referenced.
Before moving into the property tenants will need to pay the long term security deposit which can be up to 5 weeks rent or more on certain properties. Our local office will advise the exact amount in relation to the property a tenant is applying to rent.
Where a Landlord agrees to a cat or dog being kept at the property then the security deposit must be increased by £100 for each and every individual cat and dog. Any net amount returnable from this additional security deposit may not be returned for a longer period of time after vacating to allow for any cleaning or possible treatments that may be needed at that time. Please note the amount of the deposit will need to be increased by these amounts should the Landlord agree that a tenant may keep a cat or a dog at the property at any time after the tenancy has commenced.
Tenancy Deposit Protection
If the tenancy is to be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) then the deposit will be registered in accordance with the Tenancy Deposit Protection regulations which came into force in The Housing Act 2004 and were further amended by The Localism Act 2011. Depending which of the current Government authorised schemes protects the deposit the tenant will be given a leaflet or copy of that Scheme’s Rules containing more information on this subject. The tenant will also served with a notice within 30 days of paying the deposit advising which of the three Government approved schemes the deposit is to be registered with. If the tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) then the deposit (only) is held by us or the landlord as Stakeholder but on any other type of tenancy the deposit will be held by Castle Estates as Agent for the Landlord.
Appointments to move into the property can only take place during office hours. On the day of moving into the property Castle Estates will need to have received cleared funds in relation to the tenancy. This includes rent in advance which will be between 2 and 6 weeks, security deposit, documentation fee and any other additional costs agreed upon applying for the home such as pet fees. We will confirm the exact amount payable and if time permits will also confirm the figure in writing if only by email. Please note these monies MUST be paid by Building Society counter cheque or by Bankers draft, Bacs Transfer or Debit/Credit Card - personal cheques will NOT be accepted. Should Debit Cards be the preferred method for payment the transaction will need to be completed 5 days prior to your move in appointment.
Many tenants prefer to make these initial payments by credit or debit cards and if our local office has facilities for taking fee and deposit payments in this way they will confirm the usual small charges applicable.
Please also note that in order to avoid embarrassment and additional costs under no circumstances will tenants be checked into a property unless and until all necessary fees and payments have been paid in full and by way of cleared funds. All tenants must also be available to sign the legal documentation before the legal commencement of the tenancy i.e. the point when we hand over the keys and the tenant takes up authorised occupancy.
Checking into the Property
The check-in will either take place at the property where the inventory will also be agreed or at our offices in which case if tenants then check themselves in they will have up to 5 days in which to raise any queries on the inventory which they will also have been asked to sign. Tenants are also advised that although BT points and TV aerial or cable points may be present in the property there is no guarantee they are 'live' especially in a new build property. It is the Tenants responsibility to make these active if they need attention and bear the cost of doing so.
Keys at the start and end of the tenancy
Even if there are two or more occupiers legally the tenant is defined as one person so it is possible only one set of keys will be issued. If tenants require extra keys this must be advised, they will be cut at their expense and must be handed back to Castle Estates by the tenants when they vacate the property.
The Tenancy Agreement
The Tenancy Agreement will be drawn up for a period of time agreed with the tenants, though the initial term will usually be 6 or 12 months. Provided the tenancy has been conducted satisfactorily and if the Landlord is prepared to renew the tenancy at the end of the initial fixed period the tenants may be offered a Renewal Tenancy. If this happens then depending on the Landlord's instructions to us we will discuss this with the tenants and then ask them to sign a new tenancy agreement and any other necessary formal papers. There will be a tenancy renewal fee to be paid which we will confirm to the tenants at the time of renewal. This process will be repeated every time a new tenancy agreement is completed.
Who may occupy the Property?
If the tenants want any person to live at the property other than members of their immediate family and of course those named as tenants in the tenancy agreement to occupy the property, then they must contact us to discuss this and will require the landlord's written consent. In addition, tenants may not transfer their tenancy to another person.
When Tenants Can Leave
The tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract; it is for a fixed duration and tenants cannot simply give notice at any time to vacate before the expiry date. If for any reason tenants do vacate the property before the fixed term end date, whether with or without their Landlord's consent, they will legally remain liable for the rental payments and Council Tax to the end of the fixed term. Tenants will also be liable for any out of pocket expenses borne by us or the Landlord as a result of the property needing to be re-let prematurely and this figure will be quoted to the tenants at the time if early vacating should occur for any reason. In addition the outgoing tenants will be responsible for the Landlord's agency re-letting fees as applicable at that time.
Unless there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement allowing early release from the tenancy at a specific date before originally intended tenancy end date, tenants are only legally entitled to give notice to leave the property once the tenancy has become what is called Periodic. This means the end of tenancy date as stated in the tenancy agreement has already passed.
Check Out Appointment
If tenants intend vacating at the end of the tenancy term, or upon receipt of any notice letter sent to us once the tenancy has gone periodic, we will write to the tenants to acknowledge their intended vacation date and time. We will arrange to meet the tenants at the property to carry out the check-out, verify the condition of the property and read the meters. The tenants will be required to return all sets of keys at this meeting as if they do not then they will continue to be liable for the rent and Council Tax on a daily basis until all keys and possession are surrendered.
Tenants must be ready to leave the property and all of their personal effects and all of their own furniture must be removed. If the property has been professionally cleaned prior to moving in then unless professionally cleaned on the day of the check-out tenants may be charged for a professional clean when they vacate.
If the tenancy was an Assured Shorthold Tenancy the deposit will be protected by one of the Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) schemes. Any proposed deductions for damage beyond fair wear and tear is discussed with the tenant who then along with the Landlord is required to sign a form confirming their mutual agreement to any such deductions. The deposit can then be paid out accordingly.
Tenants will receive a Prescribed Information Notice (PIN) from us or the Landlord within 30 days of paying the deposit which will confirm how the deposit is being protected particularly naming the scheme it is with and giving their contact details. Please note if agreement is not reached on deductions and a dispute arises at the end of the tenancy between the tenant and the Landlord the amount of the deposit in dispute cannot immediately be released. This will only happen once the matter is resolved and the necessary form signed or else the dispute has been referred to the TDP scheme Administrator or the Courts and an independent decision on apportionment of the deposit has been reached.
It is in everyone's best interests therefore to try and negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement and we would therefore urge tenants to give their prompt and continued cooperation in this process at the end of the tenancy in order to agree any such deductions as quickly as possible.
Tenants are strongly advised to have their own contents insurance for personal possessions. These items will not be covered by the Landlord's insurance if the property is broken into or subjected to flooding, fire etc. More importantly having a tenant's contents policy will enable tenants to cover the Landlord's goods against accidental damage by them and will also provide tenants with Public Liability cover which is essential should a substantial claim ever be made against them for damage or injury occurring at the property to another person or their own property.
Neither Castle Estates nor the Landlord can accept any liability for a tenant's failure to have their personal possessions fully insured, protection against accidental damage to the Landlord's goods, or a lack of Public Liability cover. Tenants need to have a tenant contents policy in place to protect them as not only do they get the benefits outlined above, but a tenants contents policy will also meet costs for alternative accommodation should the property ever become uninhabitable for any reason, and the tenants need to vacate while remedial works are completed.
Utility, Telephone, Broadband, Media Providers and Council Tax
It is the tenant's responsibility as tenant to arrange for the transfer of utility and council tax accounts into their name. If they have not already done in advance of moving in then they must contact the utility providers and Council Tax authority immediately they take up occupancy. Very often before moving or very soon afterwards these companies will send papers to the property so occupiers can sign a supply contract with the provider, or to advise the Council Tax office of the person’s name then responsible for such payments.
It is a condition of the tenancy agreement that tenants do this promptly and they should not delay doing so.
Payment of Rent
The tenancy agreement is a legally binding document which requires payment of the rent in full in cleared funds on or before the rent payment date as quoted in the tenancy agreement. Failure to do this means the tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement, a potentially very serious situation.
Repairs and Maintenance
Should any problem be experienced with the structure, fixtures or fittings of the property or any of the contents provided by the Landlord the tenant should contact us immediately if it is a fully managed tenancy or if the Landlord is managing the tenancy themselves should contact the Landlord whose details will have been given for this purpose.
An approved contractor will investigate the problem but in certain circumstances and especially where any work required is substantial, either in terms of cost or size of the job involved, it may be necessary to obtain more than one quotation from contractors. In rare cases it may even be necessary to instruct a surveyor to assess the nature and full extent of the problem so that it can be resolved effectively.
Tenants must not instruct a contractor themselves and send us or the Landlord the invoice, as this will not be paid unless it has previously been agreed to resolve the matter in this way.
If a contractor attends to a problem that the tenant has reported and the fault is due to a lack of care or misuse by the tenant or any visitors to the property whose actions the tenant is also responsible for, the tenant will be charged the cost of putting it right.
It is very much in the tenant’s interests to be available for appointments made with contractors so repairs can be carried out as quickly as possible. If tenants fail to keep an appointment with a contractor they may be charged the costs of the contractor's abortive visit. No repairs can be carried out unless the tenant is either present at the property or has confirmed that the contractors can gain access to do the work with keys provided by us or the Landlord for that purpose.
Maintaining the Property
The tenant is responsible for normal household maintenance at the property just as if they owned the property instead of renting it. Normal day to day occurrences happen as a result of living in a property whether it is owned or rented, and so issues such as replacing light bulbs, cleaning windows, cutting lawns, maintaining hedges and borders, keeping guttering and drains clear of leaves and blockages, the removal of such pests as fleas, ants, wasps, etc. and any other tasks have been ruled at Law as being normal household management and therefore tenant responsibility.
If there is a garden with the property the tenant must keep it in good seasonal order, trees and shrubs should not be uprooted and no lawn areas laid at the start of the tenancy should ever be removed. If a tenant is unable at any time to discharge their obligations in respect of the garden please contact us if it is a fully managed tenancy, or if not the Landlord so that suitable arrangements (such as hiring a gardener) can be discussed. If a tenant ever has any doubts about cutting, pruning or dealing with anything else in the gardens they must seek advice from us or the Landlord.
If there is a shared common entrance to the property with other residents the tenant is required to keep that area, and any other shared areas at the property clean and tidy, free of rubbish and unwanted mail. It is particularly important that all occupiers keep shared entrances and exits clear and clean and tidy - this could be an escape route in an emergency. The same responsibility falls to all other occupiers of course.
If we are managing the property visits are usually carried out to the property by our staff every three months or so and the tenant will be notified of the time and date of the proposed visit in writing, and have the option of being present when we visit. This is not essential, and obviously tenants must appreciate that with a large number of properties to be visited regularly ongoing rota basis it is not always possible to negotiate revised visit times and dates.
But we will always do our best to assist if a tenant wishes to be present and look forward to receiving the cooperation of tenants to help us complete such visits.
By law the Landlord must comply with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and subsequent associated legislation. This basically means the Landlord must have all gas systems, appliances, flues and the supply itself checked at least every 12 months by a GAS SAFE REGISTERED engineer. These regulations do not apply to gas appliances owned by tenants for example a gas cooker but for tenant safety we recommend they have their own personal gas appliances checked at least every 12 months on the same engineer visit.
The tenant will be given a copy of the gas safety record issued to us by the inspecting engineer and for such an important safety area it is in the interests of the tenants own safety and welfare that they cooperate fully with contractors making appointments with them to carry out a gas safety inspection. Again we only use fully vetted and insured gas engineers for this purpose so there is no need for the tenant to be present for this visit.
Tenant decorations and alterations
The landlord wants their tenant to treat the property as their own home but to always be mindful it is owned by the landlord whose consent must always be obtained prior to any redecoration or alterations being carried out. Failure to comply with this obligation may result in tenants being charged any costs involved in returning the property to its original condition at the end of their occupancy after allowing for fair wear and tear during the tenancy.
If during the tenancy the keys to the property are lost, whatever the circumstances, the tenant is responsible for the replacement costs. First contact us if a fully managed tenancy or if not the Landlord (details listed below) as one of us will have a spare set of keys. The cost of having any essential additional sets cut is borne by the tenant.
If a lock change is required as a result of the tenant losing a key they will be charged the cost of that lock change. If it is a flat in a block which has a common entrance door key the tenant will almost certainly also be charged the cost of providing all tenants in the block with new common entrance door keys.
The tenant must return all the keys they hold to the property at the end of the tenancy and will be charged for the cost of any duplicate keys or lock changes required if they do not do this.