Welcome to Beacon Lee & Ward who specialise in residential letting and property management
When to start looking?
Generally it is best for you to contact us about 6 weeks before an intended move date. We will try to understand exactly what sort of property you want as well as your preferred location. That includes the amount of rent that you wish to pay each month, the need for garden, garage space, off street parking and your own family/situation details that may have relevance on which property is appropriate for you.
How long is a usual tenancy?
The majority of the properties that we let are on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement for a minimum 6 month period. However, often the Landlord offers the possibility of continuing the tenancy for a longer period of time. Accordingly, many of our Tenants stay for much longer periods, unless, of course, the Landlord requires possession at the end of six months, but if that is going to happen the Tenant is usually aware of this fact before entering the tenancy.
Occasionally, we have properties available for less periods of time. These are usually holiday cottages that are being let out of season, mostly in the wintertime and mostly fully furnished. We can guide you on how long each property is available for.
What happens to the deposit?
You pay the deposit to us and then it is held in our Client Account. It is held legally by us as 'stakeholder deposit holder' until the end of the tenancy. Any interest earned is retained by the agent, not for the Tenant or Landlord. Since April 2007 we have to register the fact that your deposit is in our Client Account with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme at the start (and advise them when the tenancy ends and as default confirm no dispute, deposit passed back to the Tenant) and it is given a record number at TDS Ltd, which we can advise you of.
The stakeholder responsibility means that at the end of the tenancy we must have both the agreement of the Tenant and the Landlord about the amount of the deposit to be returned ie that any deductions for dilapidations are 'beyond reasonable wear and tear' and agreed by the Tenant as being justified and fairly charged for. The objective record of the condition of the property at the start is made possible by us preparing a written Inventory and Schedule of Condition (copied to you and signed by you) as well as a video film of the property kept in the Agent's archive.
To comply with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme we issue you with full details about the process and procedures to follow in the event of a dispute over the 'dilapidations charge' being requested by the Landlord. In brief if there is a dispute which cannot be reconciled quickly it is our duty that we must send the whole deposit to TDS Ltd, a government approved company, who will in due course appoint an independent case examiner to assess what is a fair deduction, then passing a decided amount of deposit back to the Tenant and the deemed fair dilapidation cost to the Landlord. We pass you a leaflet about the Tenancy Deposit Scheme at the start of the tenancy and the key details are included in your tenancy agreement (on Page 2 and 3).
The full deposit should be paid back to you by cheque payable to yourself within 5 days of the end of the tenancy provided no dilapidations or rent arrears, the cheque being posted to your new address.
If there are dilapidations or rent arrears the Landlord may inform you that there will need to be an amount taken from the deposit. You will probably normally agree with the amount being proposed by the Landlord to be deducted and if that is the case, there is no disagreement and the agent should give you back the deposit less the amount agreed. The objective measure for deciding dilapidation is to compare the exit condition with the start written Inventory & Schedule of Condition and the detailed video record that the agent takes just prior to each commencement of tenancy.
The key legal principle is that the Landlord should not be allowed 'betterment' ie claiming reimbursement from the Tenant for a new carpet when the existing carpet is already 4 years old. The Landlord can reasonably claim an amount for any breakages, damage, cleaning and gardening that is needed to bring the condition back to a similar 'start' condition excluding reasonable wear and tear. Any items need to be listed and invoice copies provided where possible.
What references will be needed?
We will need a third party financial credit reference on any adult who is proposing to live at the property. We carry them out with your permission. This will search for any adverse credit history and detect any County Court Judgements and give each individual an overall credit score.
If you are working, we take up an employment reference from your employer or accountant (if self-employed).
If you are already renting a property, we would need to obtain a reference from your Landlord. It may be that you are retired or moving to the area from abroad. In such circumstances, we may need to ask you to provide various identification information and also payment of 6 months rent and a 1.5 month deposit in advance. We ask you to be honest with us and we will pass a balanced view on to our Landlord. The final decisions on the choice of Tenant rests with the Landlord.
Referencing usually takes around one week but can be faster depending on the completeness of contact information given on our application form.
What about my pets?
Pets may be allowed with the Landlord's consent which will not be unreasonably withheld or delayed. There will usually be an individually negotiated clause mentioning any restrictions. A Landlord has the right to prohibit the keeping of pets that could harm the property, be a nuisance to other neighbours, or contravene a lease agreement (if flats).
If there are pets allowed, the Landlord will usually request a larger deposit (normally 2 months rent equivalent) and require professional carpet cleaning & curtain cleaning at the end of the tenancy, receipt to be passed to the agent (or Landlord).
What are the Landlord and Tenant obligations?
These obligations are clearly listed in the tenancy agreement which is a legal document, usually in the form of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement.
There are various obligations on the Landlord, as mentioned in the tenancy agreement, and many of these are statutory obligations such as being responsible that the property has a functioning heating system, that the property is structurally sound, and that the Landlord allows the Tenant 'quiet enjoyment' of the property, an old common law right. There may be other specifically agreed clauses in the First Schedule saying what extra commitments have been taken on by either the Landlord or Tenant. The Tenant has various obligations as detailed in the tenancy agreement.
In summary; the Tenant is obliged to look after the property and Landlord's items, use initiative to carry out minor maintenance matters (such as changing light bulbs, cutting grass ) but promptly inform the Landlord of any more serious problems, live quietly without disturbing neighbours and pay the rent on time. If the Tenant is allowed a pet, there will be other obligations to meet during and at the end of the tenancy.
The tenancy agreement is prepared by ourselves. You will normally receive a draft tenancy agreement some days prior to the commencement of the tenancy for you to check and then be asked at the move-in time to sign 3 original versions, one for you, one for the Landlord and one for us as Agent. If the Landlord has not already signed, we will ask you to sign and then we will post to the Landlord for signing and then return by post a final signed copy to you within a week of the commencement of the tenancy.
During the tenancy who do we contact if something goes wrong?
If there are maintenance or any other problems you are asked to contact the Landlord (when a Tenant find property) or ourselves (when a managed property). We will advise you at the start of the tenancy as to the right point of contact, agent or Landlord.
The Landlord or agent has a right to carry out periodic inspections of the property. Where managed, the agent will arrange a visit quarterly to check the property inside and outside. The key point of each inspection visit is for the agent to check for any building or appliance defects; though naturally we ask you to inform us of any identified problems as and when they happen. We check with you whether there are any other problems and so we normally ask you to be present when we visit.
You are entitled to 'quiet peace and enjoyment' during the tenancy and Landlord / agent visits would usually be by prior appointment, with at least 24 hours notice, except in emergencies.
Can we redecorate the property?
This really does depend on each Landlord and each property. In all cases, you should not carry out any redecoration unless you have the permission of the Landlord or agent in writing. If you think it likely that you will wish to redecorate some rooms internally we ask you to advise us when you complete your application form and then, if agreed, write a plan of the proposed changes and details of the new colour schemes and materials needed.
We will pass this on to the Landlord (if a Tenant find property) for a decision and this may sometimes result in the Landlord assisting with reimbursement of some costs for paint and materials. Most Landlords are open to such arrangements as long as the changes benefit the property. Neutral plain colours are most likely to be accepted. The Landlord can refuse any changes or ask for the colours to be changed back to the original colour at the end of the tenancy. Any decorating by the Tenant needs to be done to a reasonably professional standard.
Can the Landlord increase the rent?
The Landlord and Tenant agree a fixed price for the duration of the Assured Shorthold tenancy agreement, thereafter it is up to the Landlord to review the market rent levels and give the Tenant one month notice of any rent increase in writing. The Tenant has the option to accept the increase or decline the increase and move, sometimes there may be a compromise agreed.
After the usual 6 month initial contract period, the tenancy becomes periodic and most Landlords review rent at around 10 months, with a possible rent increase to be implemented each 12 months.
How to end the tenancy?
After the initial 6 month period, the normal notice that you need to give to leave the property is one month, in writing. Should a Landlord require the property back for any reason, they have to give you two months notice in writing from the next rent due back.
If neither side gives notice, the tenancy continues automatically after the initial period and becomes what is known as 'a periodic tenancy' The same Assured Shorthold tenancy agreement is valid for as long as the tenancy carries on ie. many carry on after the initial 6 months for several years, though the Landlord may require a rent review annually.
You are asked to leave the property clean and tidy, and carry out professional carpet cleaning where pets allowed.
You are asked to return keys (usually to the agent) and then the agent will go alone and check the property and meter readings a day or so after you have vacated. A decision on the deposit is then taken with the Landlord having final authority over returning your deposit back to you.