Moving home? Here's our guide to unpacking the hidden costs of renting21/01/17
New Year is a time when people think about making changes and few of these will be as exciting as moving into your first flat.
The key to peace of mind when choosing an apartment is to be sure that you can afford your new home. Of course, the largest outlay will be on the monthly rent, but there are other costs - that are not always obvious, which you should be aware of when making your calculations.
Your landlord will require a deposit before agreeing to let you rent the flat. This acts as protection for the landlord in the event of damage to the property, if you leave without giving the required notice or leave unpaid bills.
Deposits are usually equivalent to one month’s rent and are required in advance, so you’ll need to have the money available straightaway, making it vital to include this in your calculations.
Importantly, Jersey law requires that the landlord places your deposit in a protected account held with www.mydepositsjersey.je within one month of your payment. The deposit protection scheme protects your deposit during the duration of your lease, and gives you a redress system to follow if you can prove any damages claimed or deductions by the Landlord at the end of the lease are un-fair.
Most shared properties such as blocks of flats, have a sinking fund that everyone in the property pays into. This is used for maintenance and repairs to the communal areas of the property. Some landlords pay this directly from your rent, whilst others may require you to pay it separately, or will add it as a separate monthly charge.
Before you sign a contract or lease agreement, make sure you know whether or not your service charges are included in the monthly rent, and also how much they are. For instance, if you’re looking to move into a modern block with lift access, the service charge will be higher than one without, as the lift will need servicing and insuring once or twice a year.
Utility Bills and Parish Rates
Your monthly or quarterly utility bills can be significant and will be in your name, making them your responsibility. However, different landlords have different approaches to bills: they may pay some of them from your rent, or may expect you to pay all of them separately.
Make sure you know exactly which bills are your responsibility before you agree to a tenancy. You should also ask your landlord or the Managing Agent for an estimate of the amounts that you’ll have to pay. Quite often heating costs in older buildings tend to be much higher than those in new builds.
Services like electricity and internet access may also require you to pay a connection charge. Make sure you know how much these are, because they will often be added to the first bill you get.
There are two main types of rates payable to the Parish you live in, Occupier’s rates and Foncier Rates. The Landlord as property owner will pay the Foncier rates and the tenant is responsible for paying the Occupier rates.
If you are living in a rental property before January 1st, you will be responsible for paying that year’s Occupier’s Rates. The rates are paid every year and vary according to the size of the property. As they are payable by the people living there on 1st January, this is a bill that can often appear some months after you have moved out. They are often apportioned between the two tenants if there is a change of occupancy during the year, but it is best to check.
When you leave a property, you may still be liable for that year’s parish rates (see above), and you will have to pay for any damage or breakages. Most landlords will expect you to have the flat professionally cleaned after a tenant leaves, particularly the carpets and the oven, so get an estimate to ensure you are forearmed.
As long as your deposit is sufficient to cover these costs, then you won’t necessarily have to pay directly. However, the deposit that is refunded to you may be smaller than you expected, particularly if there’s significant damage or a need to redecorate, as the Landlord will expect the property back in the same condition as it was initially let to you, fair wear and tear excepted.
Length of Contract
You should be aware that, in the event of you leaving the flat before the end of the lease, you’ll be liable to pay all of the rent for the time left on the contract.
If you do find yourself planning to leave early, then it’s a good idea to speak with your Managing Agent or landlord and see if they are happy for you to find a new tenant who can assign (pick up the remainder of) your lease.
Do Your Sums!
So, before you fly the nest and sign the contract on that great new flat, make sure you have factored in all of the costs. Write a list of all one-off and monthly payments and make sure you can cover them, both up front and on an ongoing basis.