Length of Rental
Short Lets: you can find rentals for as little as a week. Short lets are from a few days to 6 months. You will pay a premium for a short let (upto 50% more per week than a standard let) because the landlord will have more void periods and has higher agent costs, in addition to having to provide a high level of furnishing.
Short lets are almost always furnished (it’s too much inconvenience to move furniture in and out for short periods) so if you have your own furnishings these will have to go into storage. Not only will there be a sofa, dining table, bed and wardrobes, you’ll find everything from cutlery and crockery to an iron and hoover: all the items you would need in a home.
Utility bills, telephone and services will remain in the landlords name – the higher rent you pay will include these services (excluding phone calls) and will often provide a weekly cleaner. Short lets are a good idea if you are really unsure about where you want to live, or if you are in limbo for a few months. Renting a short let then staying for longer than 6 months is not advised as the cost will be much higher than a regular rental.
Serviced apartments: If you want maximum convenience, rather like living in a hotel, the premium version of a short let is a serviced apartment. Here you will have frequent cleaning (sometimes daily), a very high level of furnishing including satellite or cable television and broadband internet. Usually there is a daytime concierge or doorman and sometimes they will be there 24 hours a day.
Serviced apartments are sometimes affiliated to hotels so you can have room service and use hotel facilities. Nearly always, serviced apartments are based in very central London, on the doorstep of good amenities, shops, restaurants and transport. Pricing is more expensive than Short Lets and usually you would only take a serviced apartment for a few days to 2 months, as a cheaper option to a hotel room when visiting London, or as a stop-gap in between moving homes.
Long Let: A typical rental is for a period of a year. After this time you have the option to leave and the landlord can request you go. Each of you has to give each other notice (usually one or two months). Should you renew for another year, the landlord can request a rental increase. This is always a negotiation, although if you don’t come to an agreement you will have to move out. It’s fair to ask for a rent reduction if you think the rental market has softened in your area. Also, if you found any issues with your property, you can factor this in and see if the price will come down. Should those issues be more major (such as major building works next door or some other nuisance) then ask for a rental reduction during your tenancy, for the period of the disruption.
When taking out a long let, you may have to sign up for a year, yet you can often ask for a ‘break-clause’ after 6 months. Landlords will often grant this, knowing it’s unlikely you will use it (usually renters want this for peace of mind more than anything). Break clauses mean that after the minimum period (say 6 or 8 months) you are allowed to give notice (usually 2 months) and move out of the property at the end of that notice period without penalty. So realistically it means on a 6 month break clause, with 2 months notice, you can leave the property after 8 months, if you like. On the other hand the landlord cannot ask you to leave until the 12 months of the full contract are over. Do ensure you check the tenancy agreement carefully if you take this option.
Continuing a Long Let: When the first year of a long let tenancy comes to an end, you will renegotiate with your landlord, usually 2 months or so before the tenancy expires (if they haven’t contacted you 6 weeks before, contact them – or you face having to leave at short notice). Usually you can negotiate more flexible terms now.
Rather than renew for a year with the same 6 month break clause, ask for a ‘rolling notice period.’ All this means is that whenever you like during the tenancy you can give notice and move out once the notice period is over. Landlords will usually grant this if you have been a good tenant as they want to keep you and avoid the hassle and cost of finding a new tenant for as long as they can (remember this when asking for a rolling notice period and be firm).
You still sign a 1 year tenancy agreement, so you can be sure the landlord can’t ask you to leave in the next 12 months and to secure the rent at a fixed price for that time – never allow your landlord to have a rolling notice period over yourself – this is uncommon and leaves you with little security of tenure.
Property modifications: When taking out a long let, or renewing one, if you have specific changes you would like, that you think are reasonable, then ask the landlord or letting agent. Most Landlords want to keep their properties attractive to renters. If you suggest that they could add some built in shelves, or change the shower curtain for a glass partition, or even upgrade the old cooker or fridge, they may agree to get you to sign on for a rental contract. Best time to ask is when negotiating the contract or renewal.
Don’t be afraid to ask if you have an idea for an improvement during your tenancy. They may well oblige, having not thought about it themselves, or agreeing the change makes sense. In many cases the Landlord will suggest sharing the cost. Often they will make out that this is a favour to you and ask for a contribution of 50%. Should you think what you are asking for is more of a luxury than a necessity try offering just 20% or 25% of the cost – they Landlord may appreciate the gesture and accept. If you won’t be staying in the property for more than a year or think it’s more of an essential change then put pressure on the Landlord to pay everything themselves.
How much of a change can you ask for? I’ve heard of Landlords offering to redecorate (particularly in neutral colours when there has been some horrid wallpaper), upgrade furniture and even repaint the front of a house. When it comes to replacing bathrooms and kitchens or major upgrade work, it’s unlikely this will happen unless they are having trouble renting the property. For example if it has been empty for a few months. If you are renting through an agent, always pressure them, as they will better understand the value of the change, where the Landlord will only focus on the cost.
One example of where you could see major changes you want made to a rental property are with multi-year tenancies… read on…
Multi-Year Tenancies: Renting in the UK was typically seen as a ‘short term’ solution as most renters aspired to buy someday. As the cost of buying has increased dramatically – especially so in London – there is a growing culture of long-term renters or even ‘renters for life.’ Of course if you like a property and know you want to rent in that area for a few years, it would be nice to have some certainty, so you can settle into the property and make it more your own, without the fear that the Landlord may want you out after 12 months.
On the other hand, Landlords are looking for long-term tenants as they incur extra costs and periods when the property is empty, when tenants move out. In recent years a new style of tenancy has popped up to please both long term renters and Landlords: the ‘multi-year’ tenancy.
You won’t see a property advertised as a multi-year tenancy. However most long let properties you see will have Landlords that would happily agree to a longer term rental. All you need to do is ask the Landlord directly or the agent if you like the property. It’s best to ask before you sign anything, as you have maximum bargaining power then.
Negotiating tips for multi-year tenancies:
* Ask for a discounted monthly rental fee, if you are asking to sign up for 2 years or more. Landlords will value the security of a longer term tenant. They may be concerned that they will not be able to benefit from a general increase in rental prices, so if they offer you just a flat rent for 2 years or more (no price increase) then this may be a good deal too.
* Ensure there is a break-clause. You never know how lifestyle changes (a new job abroad, an extra child) or how a street or area can change, so always guard against being locked in without any flexibility. Ask for a break clause after a year (6 months if you can get it; probably not if you are benefitting from a better guaranteed rental price). You can always agree to a longer notice period (e.g. 3 months) if you are being offered incentives for a longer term tenancy – that usually suffices as a fair compromise.
* Get improvements made. Signing up to a multi-year tenancy gives the landlord more peace of mind that they will be receiving guaranteed cashflow for a longer time. This should soften them up if you want changes to be made. Ask for all the small things like built in shelves, a shed in the garden to store bikes, some redecoration of tired rooms and so on. In these cases you are more likely to be able to negotiate a new kitchen or bathroom if the property has old, dated ones. If they refuse and you are negotiating a rental period of 2 years or more, you may consider either offering to fund part of the cost (say 20%) or offer to pay slightly more in rent to incentivise the owner – after all it will improve your quality of life and you would have paid more if the property had been at a higher standard in the first place.