10 tips for setting up a new flat
Confused about tenancy agreements? Unsure about insulation? Here’s our advice.
Ready to sign the lease on your new flat? Here are our top tips to help make sure you get the information you need and don’t get hit with unfair fees.
1. Check the type of tenancy
A fixed-term tenancy lasts for a set period, typically 12 months. You can’t break the tenancy early unless the landlord agrees. They can charge a fee for doing so, but it should only reflect reasonable costs. With a periodic tenancy, you can end the agreement with 28 days’ notice and no fees can be charged.
Here’s more info on how to end a tenancy, and what landlords can and cannot do. For example, you only need to leave the place “clean and tidy”. Do you need to get the carpet professionally cleaned? No.
2. You can’t be charged letting fees
Landlords or property managers can’t charge you a letting fee. You also can’t be charged “key money”, which is money (other than rent and bond) requested for granting or making changes to a tenancy.
3. Budget for the bond
A bond can’t exceed 4 weeks’ rent. Your landlord must lodge the bond with Tenancy Services within 23 working days of signing the tenancy agreement. Both the landlord (or property manager) and the tenants’ signatures must be on the bond lodgement form. You should receive a letter from Tenancy Services within 6 weeks confirming your bond’s been lodged. If you haven’t, contact your landlord or property manager.
4. Check the insulation statement
Landlords must include an insulation statement in any new tenancy agreement. This should tell you whether the property is insulated, what type of insulation there is and its condition. All rentals must have ceiling and underfloor insulation, where it’s practical to install.
Even with insulation, if you’re signing up for a rental in summer, you might be in for a cold surprise come winter. Our “Rental checklist” sets out what to look for in a warm, dry home.
Note: your agreement must also have a statement confirming whether the property complies with the healthy home standards, which come into force in July 2021. These standards set requirements for heating and ventilation.
5. Take photos during the property inspection
Before signing the lease, the landlord or property manager should walk through the property with you.
Check for any damage and record it by taking a photo with your phone. Note any stains on the carpet, marks on walls and floors, and check windows, locks and appliances are working. This ensures you won’t have to fork out for repairing damage you didn’t cause.
If you do cause careless damage during the tenancy, you’ll be liable for repair costs of up to 4 weeks’ rent or the landlord’s insurance excess, whichever is lower. The landlord’s insurance excess must be stated in the tenancy agreement.
6. Check the electricity meter
Ask where the meter is and take a photo of the meter reading on the day you move in. If you’re not sure how to do this, your electricity provider can explain what to do. This will give you evidence to send to your power company if you suspect your first power bill is incorrect.
7. Compare power prices on PowerSwitch
Check you’re getting the best electricity deal by using Consumer’s free PowerSwitch tool. The site lets you compare power prices in your area.
8. Get everything in writing
Use emails or text messages to communicate with your landlord or property manager. This way you’ll have a record of everything that was said, which could come in handy if there’s a disagreement.
9. Know where to go if things go wrong
If something’s gone wrong, you can get advice from Tenancy Services. This government agency has information about your landlord’s obligations and your options to solve tricky problems.
If you find it difficult nailing down what you need to do, contact 0800 836 262 (0800 TENANCY) and a staff member can assist you.
If you’re at university, your student association will have heard it all when it comes to student flats. All associations have a website that lists their services, drop-in hours and contact details.
10. Check Tenancy Tribunal orders
What’s your landlord going to be like to deal with? You can search Tenancy Tribunal orders here to see whether they’ve been involved in disputes with previous tenants.
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