How the process works

1. Preliminary Investigations
This can be prior to your arrival in the UK, by telephone, email or by visiting our office. We can discuss your property requirements – this will include:

  • Your rental allowance (rent cap) of which we can access the current rates.
  • The type of property you require i.e. 2 storey/3 storey; detached/semi-detached (duplex).
  • Size of property and it will come as a shock how small English houses are in comparison to American houses.
  • Age of property. Older style properties tend to be slightly larger but will have less up to date furnishings and slightly higher utility costs.
  • The location. Most personnel prefer to be within 10-15 miles of the bases. You must be aware that English roads are smaller country roads and you will travel to the bases for work, schools, shops and social activities. The postal address for most of the towns and villages in this area includes the regional postal town (e.g. Bury St Edmunds) but it does not mean that the property is located in the regional town.
  • It will be accommodation which will include number of bedrooms and bathrooms etc (English cloakroom or toilet is a half bathroom).
  • Some of our landlords will accept pets, we will need to know the key details and an extra deposit will apply.

2. Establishing a short list of potential properties
This can be prior to your arrival in the UK, by telephone, email or by visiting our office. Our staff will discuss your detailed requirements and advise on the suitability of our available properties. Our property details in both hard copy or on the internet will include the various features for each property including room sizes and photographs to assist you in preparing a short list. When you have established a short list of potential properties and this may be a single property or several, we will set up a series of showings/viewings.

3. Viewing/Showing arrangements for properties

  • Viewings need to be pre-booked (although we can quite often do at short notice) as some of the properties will have existing tenants still occupying at the end of their tenancy.
  • Some agents or companies will charge you to view their properties. All viewings via Balmforth are free of charge with no obligation (or hard sell)!!
  • If you do not have transport on your arrival in the UK or would prefer us to provide a collection and return service, we are happy to do so, again free of charge. We can collect you from any pick up point on the USAF bases.
  • During the viewings we will explain the type of neighbourhood and will show you the property outlining all the key features. Most viewings will take 15-20 minutes per property.

4. Reserving or holding a property

  • We will accept a verbal request to hold a property for 24 hours (with the landlord’s permission).
  • In order to confirm the holding of a property we will need to have a written application to confirm your key details.
  • We take a copy of your military ID or Orders for civilians and contractors (to prove you are USAF Military).
  • On guidance from the Housing Office most USAF personnel will take an initial 12 month lease. This does allow you the option of moving after 12 months if you so wish (you can normally extend the lease at any point).
  • We take no application fee as part of the tenancy process,  all our costs are paid by the landlord. Most agents charge an application fee that can run into hundreds of pounds.
  • In order to hold a property we will require £300 to hold the property for you which can be paid by cheque, cash, credit card (or dollars). When you move into the property this will form part of your security deposit. This is non refundable as the landlord will agree to remove the property from our rental list and we will commence the preparation of all the documentation. At the landlords consent a pro-rata refund may be possible if your circumstances change beyond your control. In the extremely unusual circumstances where there is an issue with the property that prevents you renting it the £300 will then be refundable.

5. Preliminary Documentation

  • You will be given a copy of your application form which confirms the key elements of the proposed tenancy.
  • You will be given a provisional lease. This will allow you to confirm with the Housing Office that our leases meet Housing Office standards (we have done over 1,000)! And to carry out various other processing tasks.
  • With the provisional lease you are able to make your application to the Housing Office for your OHA (Overseas Housing Allowance). This will normally provide the monies that you require prior to moving into your rental property.
  • If a property has not yet passed the Housing Office life and safety inspection this will be arranged by Balmforth with immediate effect. For most of our properties this inspection is carried out as the properties are listed. Your OHA application cannot be processed until this inspection has passed.
  • If you require any loan appliances we will assist with the completion of the FMO form to submit to RAF Feltwell in order to arrange the loan of white goods, wardrobes and transformers. This form will need to be signed by Balmforth (who will advise on the size and type of items) and either sent or taken to RAF Feltwell.
  • From completion of the application form until move in date it takes around 7-14 days for your OHA to be processed and for Balmforth to prepare all the other documentation.
  • Your move in date may on occasions be delayed or advanced, subject to the satisfactory processing of the documentation.

6. Lease Signing Appointment
This is a pre-booked appointment which takes around an hour in order to complete all the documentation, handle payment of monies and give an overview of the main aspects of the property. The key points are as itemised below:

  • Both yourself as tenant and Balmforth as agent will sign 2 copies of the Assured Short-Hold Tenancy Agreement (AST “Lease”). One copy is for yourself, the second for Balmforth.
  • You will sign copies of the Tenancy Deposit Registration forms. This will confirm that your security deposit is held under our approved government scheme and is protected. You will also be given a certificate to confirm the deposit has been registered. At the end of the tenancy this money can only be used for payment of damages to the property with your consent.
  • We will set up a standing order for the regular payment of your rent. This will need to be given to your bank (community bank) in order that they will regularly pay your rent on the appointed day. This will need to be a “pound account”.
  • We will take full payment of the first months rent by debit card, credit card, (there is a small charge), cash or cheque.
  • We will then take the balance of the security deposit which will reflect the initial £300 that you paid to secure the property by debit card, credit card  (there is a small charge), cash or cheque.
  • If the property is directly managed by ourselves we will arrange a part month rental payment (apportionment) to ensure the rent pay day will be on the first of the month.
  • You will be given a comprehensive inventory on the property which will include a full description of the condition of the property together with photographic evidence and also the meter readings again with photographic evidence. You are able to take this away and check against the property and within 7 days report back any discrepancies noted.
  • We will recommend you take out contents insurance to protect your own possessions.
  • You will be given 2 sets of keys to the property.
  • We will explain and assist the processes to set up payment of utilities. The accounts with providers may not be arranged for a number of weeks but this will not stop their supply and the bills will always be correct based on the readings provided in the inventory. It is your responsibility to ensure these utility accounts are satisfactorily set up.
  • We will complete the council tax registration form for you to sign. We will then send this to the local council to ensure that the property is correctly registered, although military personnel are exempt from payment (the form must still be filled in).
  • We provide details on the trash/rubbish wheelie bin collection days and the colour coding of the bins – this is a free service as part of the council tax.
  • We will give any other general guidance you may require.
  • For properties directly managed by Balmforth you will be given a copy of the house manual which will contain instructions for all the key appliances.
  • A full copy of all the documentation is either retained by Balmforth or sent to the landlord.

7. Ongoing Activities during the Tenancy
The items outlined below will apply if Balmforth are directly managing the property. If the property is managed by the landlord there may be some variation in how and when these processes are carried out and the tenant must contact the landlord:

  • For minor issues at any stage in the tenancy we will provide free telephone support to assist with issues at the property.
  • When repairs are required we will inspect and arrange for appropriate contractors to visit in order to rectify problems.
  • We will visit the property approximately every 3 months (notified one week in advance) in order to confirm the property is being cared for in an appropriate manner.
  • We will renew leases when required by the landlord and the tenant.

8. On the ending of your Tenancy
The items outlined below will apply if Balmforth are directly managing the property. If the property is managed by the landlord there may be some variation in how and when these processes are carried out by your landlord:

  • We will confirm the serving of your notice in order to end the tenancy (30 days).
  • On the ending of the tenancy and returning of the keys we will inspect the property and report any proposed deductions to you (normally within 2-3 days of the keys being returned).
  • As soon as any deductions have been agreed we will return the balance of your security deposit and sign the Housing Office Check Out paperwork.

9. Protection and reassurance for USAF tenants
In securing your home it is a daunting and worrying task. How do you ensure that you are protected and not misled or deceived by your Agent or Landlord?

    • The Housing Office is always available to give you advice and guidance.
    • Balmforth are members of ARLA (the Association of Residential Letting Agents). This is the national body with highly regulated procedures to ensure we act in a fair and legal manner.
    • United Kingdom law gives you good protection through the type of Lease (Assured Shorthold Tenancy) as does our Deposit Security Registration Scheme.
    • Balmforth’s services have been built on our reputation which emphasises quality of service and fairness. We could not be the most successful agent in the area without such high service standards.
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