So, you've found the home you want, and made sure it's up to your standards. What next?
Ask the landlord for a copy of the lease. This should be a fairly standard document, but if it seems particularly complicated, it can be worth asking a lawyer to have a look at it for you. See s1homes' lawyer Austin Lafferty's Legal Guide for some of the more common pitfalls.
Your landlord will normally want the first month's rent in advance, plus a deposit which should be refundable when you leave, minus any deductions for breakages. The deposit is usually a further month's rent, although it may be more.You may also be asked for a retainer or key money - but remember you cannot be charged a fee or commission for the provision of a let property.
Before you give your landlord his deposit, make sure you're in the best position to claim it back. Ask the landlord for an inventory of everything in the place, check it yourself, and raise any discrepancies at the outset. Once you have agreed on the inventory, both parties should sign it, and keep a copy each. Taking photographs of the accommodation and its contents on the day you move in can also be helpful. If your landlord refuses to give you an inventory, be very suspicious - if you still want the property, ask a friend to compile an inventory with you and to sign it as a witness.
When you hand over the deposit and rent, make sure you get a rent book or other form of rent receipt, and ensure that the previous tenants have returned all the keys. If any repairs need done, inform the landlord in writing immediately. You are legally entitled to know your landlord's name and address - demand it.
The next thing to do is read all the meters, take a note of the readings and the date, and inform the electricity, gas and telephone companies - you don't want to be chased for a previous tenant's bills. Make sure you tell the council you are the new occupant - they will catch up with you eventually and make you pay any outstanding Council Tax in arrears, as well as starting your ongoing payments. And get a television licence.
Now make a cup of tea - and welcome yourself to your new home.