I advised a client recently who had an unusual problem. After signing the tenancy agreement for his rented property, he discovered there was a total stranger living in a studio flat above his garage! He had no idea that it was there.
Neither had he realized that there was only one water meter and one electricity meter between the two properties, and guess who the bills went to?
This is a rather extreme example of the nasty surprises that can await you if you don’t check a property over thoroughly before you sign.
There’s a latin phrase which some of you will know, called caveat emptor. It means ‘let the buyer beware’. And that means, if you don’t spot a problem before you buy something, you’re stuck with it.
That’s actually not the case any more with things you buy in shops, as we now have the Sale of Goods Act. However, it does apply to rented property.
So if you discover when you move in, that half the kitchen cupboards don’t open, that the sofa is plastic not leather, or that the house is next to a noisy school, well tough. You should have checked first.
There is legislation regarding the condition of the property, and there is also a common law right for tenants (of furnished properties anyway) to move out if they find that it is not fit for human habitation, so long as they do it quickly.
However often its not that a property is physically in disrepair. Its just that you’d sort of assumed that nice little bureau would still be there when you moved in.
Don’t be embarrassed about asking questions and don’t feel intimidated about having a good look around before you sign. The property will be your home and you will usually be paying quite a lot of money for it. Make sure you know what you’re paying for.
See more help for tenants on Landlord Law.