Choosing a property to rent - tips for first time renters
Once you have chosen the area you would like to rent in, work out how much rent you can afford to pay and stick to it. View properties whose rent is affordable. Consider if you have enough money for the deposit, often one month’s rent. Make a list of additional spending such as utility bills, council tax, any furniture you might need and insurance for your personal effects. Make sure the rent is well within your means because there may be unforeseen expenses after you have moved in.
Before viewing the property do your research and check the letting agent or landlord is bonifide. Make sure you meet the landlord or agent in person.
You may be living in the property for more than 12 months so it is important you concentrate at the viewing and take your time. Look closely for signs of mould or peeling paint. Is there adequate ventilation for bathrooms and kitchens as this will help reduce the build-up of condensation. Look at the condition of any electrics and ask if there is a recent electrical report you can see.
If there is a gas supply to the property there should be a gas safety certificate so ask if you can see it. Look at the boiler - does the boiler work? Is there hot water? How much are the utility bills? Are utility bills included in the rent? Remember to take the meter readings as soon as you move in. Are the enough radiators – do they work? Ask to see the Energy Performance Certificate and the gas safety certificate if the property has gas. Are the toilets, sinks, showers and baths in a good state of repair? What is the internal flooring like? Do any carpets need cleaning? Does the property have good security locks and is there a burglar alarm? In the kitchen are white goods supplied? Where are the smoke detectors and is there a carbon monoxide detector, do they work?
Try your mobile phone to check there is reception. Is there a connection point for a phone line or internet and if not, would you be permitted to install one?
Do not forget to look at the outside – is it well maintained? Are you responsible for looking after it and if so, will tools be provided? What condition are the gutters and drains? Do the windows fit well? Where is the rubbish bin stored and when is rubbish collected? Are the neighbouring properties clean and tidy or noisy? Flight paths, trains, night clubs, pubs, and fire stations are just a few examples of potential noise disturbance so check out the local area for anything that might disturb your sleep. Parking may be important to you if you own a car so ask what the arrangements are and if parking is on street, revisit the road at a time when neighbours are home from work to see if you would have difficulty finding a space.
Find out what the current tenants own and what belongs to the house. If you have an opportunity to speak to the vacating tenants, ask them why they are leaving and what the property management is like.
Does the property have good transport links to get to work or school? Is the internal space enough for your needs? Would the outside area be suitable? Is there storage for bikes if you have one?
Make sure everything you agree with the landlord or agent is in writing and both parties sign. Ensure you read the whole contract, there may be special clauses in it which will affect your lifestyle, regarding pets, smoking, gardening or parking arrangements. The lease agreement should outline what maintenance the landlord is responsible for and the areas that are your responsibility. Never transfer any money without signing proper documents. Check all documents with a legal advisor to minimise the risk of dealing with a fraudster.
Once you get the keys, read the inventory. Make a very detailed list with photographs of any marks on walls, furniture, cupboards, appliances damage and anything that does not work very well, even if you think it is insignificant. Check taps work, open cupboards and drawers, flick the light switches and try all the sockets with an electrical device to see if they work. If there are shelves and cupboards on the walls, check fixings.
All the checking will take a long time but may be very important back up in the event there is a dispute over your damage deposit. It is also an opportunity to get things fixed before you move in. Request an inventory, read through it thoroughly and if there is anything you disagree with put it in writing and before you hand over your deposit, check it is protected. Also remember that you may be able to negotiate a slightly lower rent especially if the property has been marketed for a while.