So, you’ve viewed a property that you really like, it ticks all your boxes and you’re super keen to take it off the market to ensure you don’t miss out – what are the next steps?

First, you should always discuss the available dates with the agent, to ensure you can move in when you need to. Nobody wants to be moving house when they still have a month to pay for their current accommodation, and similarly nobody wants to move out of one place and straight into the next on the same day – these timings rarely work, and it can result in a lot of extra unnecessary stress. Aim for around a week of overlap to allow you to move your belongings over leisurely, set up the essentials like internet, utilities and council tax, and importantly clean your previous home once it’s empty of everything you own.

Secondly, you should check that you’re likely to meet the criteria set out by the agent. This includes affordability, having the right to rent in the UK, having a guarantor if necessary, and having the funds available for a deposit and first rent payment. Standard protocol is for tenants to earn at least 2.5x the monthly rent in order to be accepted, however, there are of course alternative options if you do not think you’ll meet these criteria. At this stage you can also ask to view sample copies of any documents you’ll be required to sign (such as a pre-contract agreement, guarantor agreement, and the tenancy agreement) and this should also be when you make clear any requests regarding the property (such as painting over marked walls or having the garden cut back before your move-in).  

Next, ensure the deadlines for payments will fit into your financial schedule. There will usually be a holding deposit, damage deposit, and the first month’s rent to pay before moving in. For each property, the deadlines will be different based on how long you have between securing the property and moving in. Ensure that you have the funds available before the due dates, and don’t rely on receiving your damage deposit back from a previous rental property on a certain date (as this process can vary hugely in timescale). If you have any concerns, voice them as soon as possible with the agent – more often than not the deadlines can be adjusted to accommodate your needs, but being proactive is key, as we don’t want to chase you for money before you’ve moved into your property.

Once you’re confident that everything suits your requirements, you’ll be asked to pay a holding deposit, which is usually equal to a week’s rent. This secures the property for you, taking it off the market for other potential tenants, and covers the cost of your referencing and paperwork. It’s never an additional fee, just an advance portion of the total damage deposit and first month’s rent total that is due before moving in.

Your agent will then begin your referencing and paperwork. This will usually involve filling in an application form online; signing a pre-contract agreement to confirm the terms agreed so far, and filling in any requested information on an online referencing portal. This portal will check various facts, figures and finances on your record. Referencing is all very routine and absolutely nothing to be concerned about. We’re often asked how long this process will take, and the answer really is ‘how long is a piece of string?’. If you’re proactive and responsive, it can be complete in a day. However, if there are complications or your previous landlord/employer/guarantor is slow to fill in their information, or there are CCJs or adverse credit found on your account, it can take a while to iron out any issues. If you know there may be red flags during this process, we would always advise declaring them prior to submitting your application.

When your referencing is complete, your agent will be in a position to make a decision on whether to accept your application for tenancy. Your remaining paperwork will then be sent out for signature, which may include a guarantor agreement in addition to your tenancy agreement. Closer to your move-in date, there may be additional documents for you to sign or read through, such as your deposit protection certificate, fire safety information, gas safety certificate, energy performance certificate, electrical report and so on. Although these are not the most thrilling reads, they are essential and useful information.

Finally, once your paperwork is complete, you just need to ensure that all of your payments are made by the agreed deadlines, and then – hey presto, you’re ready to move in! If your landlord provides an inventory and schedule of condition, check through this thoroughly within the stated timeframe (usually 7 days) for peace of mind that your deposit is held against an accurate report of the condition of the property when you moved in.

During this whole pre-tenancy operation there can be a considerable amount of back-and-forth communication between us and the landlord, contractors, inspection clerks, managing agents, referees, guarantors, banks, accountants, employers… the list goes on and varies with each tenancy. Like any well-oiled machine, what may ostensibly seem like a simple process can often be a complex and multi-faceted process behind the scenes. As an experienced team, we have come across just about every situation imaginable during the referencing and move-in process, and we are therefore well-equipped to seek out the best and most beneficial way forward for the tenant, landlord and agent. Our aim will always be to make your experience moving into one of our properties as stress-free and enjoyable as possible – after all, moving house should be a pleasure, not a chore!