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September 30, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Laying Down the Law

I haven’t always been sensible and good at law. I’ve got into trouble from doing stupid things like not reading the contract. I’ve learnt the hard way that you should never, under any circumstances, pay money to a ‘property manager’ without signing (or at least being able to look over) the contract. Don’t be like me—learn from my mistakes…

Before you move in

It’s pretty common, especially in your first year of flatting, to get conned into signing onto a sub-lease over summer and then being locked in for another whole year—I did that, and got locked into paying for 15 months in an overpriced Newtown dungeon. It’s vital to check things like the term of the tenancy—‘fixed term’ means you’re locked in for a specific time (usually 12 months), whereas a ‘periodic tenancy’ means that your landlord can give you notice to leave in 42–90 days, depending on the circumstances.

You should also check to see if there are any strange conditions—some contracts will say things like you’re not allowed to fix anything to the wall, or use a particular type of heater. Watch out for extra costs—some places make you pay a massive bond to get water connected. It pays to ask about this before you sign. One thing that’s important this year is whether you’ll have to fork out when TV goes digital—some landlords have started putting in clauses that it’s up to the tenant to pay for things like installing a new aerial or satellite.

Paying rent

If you’re in a flat with four people on the lease, you’re usually jointly liable for rent—that means if one of your flatmates stops paying, the remaining three of you are still liable. Choose your flatties carefully.

Moving out

If your landlord tries to take money out of your bond, they can’t take anything for “normal wear and tear”. That means that things like the carpet wearing down, or the walls getting small marks on them from furniture, are not your problem. (The hole you punched in the wall last weekend probably is, though.)

If something goes wrong

The Tenancy Tribunal and the Citizens Advice Bureau can help if something does go wrong, but it can be pretty stressful, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get money back from a dodgy landlord, or that you’ll be able to get out of paying extra rent if someone ditches—so it pays to be careful and try to avoid problems before they arise.

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