My first step into the rental market was not a good one! As a young single girl I moved cities to go to university but had applied too late to get student housing so had to find somewhere to rent privately. I found an advert on a newsagents window and phoned a complete stranger to view a one bedroom flat close to the university. I took along a friend as I entered the flat and decided that it was ok, looking back I was very easily pleased as the flat was really not up to the standard that it should have been but as a very young naïve girl I was pretty clueless and I think the private landlord knew that. I signed a six month contract for the property and did not really check what was written in the small print, I trusted the fact that the landlord would be a honest and trustworthy person and I foolishly handed over my security deposit. After a few months of living in the flat I came home one day to find that some of the furniture had moved and I had a horrible suspicions that someone had been through my chest of drawers, although the person who did it must have had a key as there was no break in. Later the landlord told me that he had the right to enter the property whenever he wanted to, to check on the state of the property.
The appliances in the property were quite outdated and I am sure that none of them had been checked to ensure that they met safety standards, After a few months I decided that it was not a great place to live and that I would move into a shared house with friends. The landlord was obviously a seasoned pro at intimidating young clueless girls and told me that I was breaking the contract and after writing a letter that was full of mistruths such as leaving the flat in a mess, destroying property and leaving rubbish that needed to be deposed of, he refused to return any of the security deposit. At the time I was glad to be leaving the property but looking back I feel very foolish and think the landlord was laughing all the way to the bank when he answered my phone call to rent his flat.
I certainly learnt the hard way that renting a property can be full of problems however if I had gone through a proper lettings agency or via a property management company I think the whole experience would have been a better one. Property managers ensure that the property is up to standard before it is let out and that all the appropriate safety regulations are covered such as having fire resistant soft furnishings and having gas and electrical supply and appliances checked by a qualified tradesman. They are also on hand in case you have any problems such as problem neighbours or problems with the property itself, such as a dripping tap or a broken window. I would certainly recommend going through a property management company if you are considering renting for the first time, as there are too many hidden pitfalls.