When looking at rental properties – whether flats or houses - it can be easy to get carried away by the excitement. But there are number of practical things to consider, and if you don’t ask these questions at the viewing it might be hard to get the answers otherwise. Here are reallymoving’s top questions to ask when viewing rental properties, as well as some things you can check yourself beforehand.
Questions to ask the estate agent
Who is responsible for what?
This is a vital question whatever the situation. If you’re renting a room in a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO), you’ll want to know who is responsible for maintaining the shared kitchen. If you’re renting a flat with a communal garden, who’s responsibility is it to mow the lawn? If you’re renting a house and the boiler goes, whose job is it to organise repairs? Being sure of what your responsibilities as a tenant are as well as those of the landlord, estate agent and any housemates you might have is vital in deciding whether it’s the place for you.
It’s also worth checking what happens specifically in an emergency. What if a pipe bursts, or there’s a gas leak? Is there an out-of-hours number you could call?
There’s nothing worse than turning up at your new place with bin liners full of bedding only to find you don’t have a bed, or suitcases of books only to find you’ll have to store them on the floor. It should be obvious from the property listing, but always check whether the place is furnished just in case. If it’s partly furnished, find out what is included and what isn’t. And if it isn’t furnished, do your best to see past the way the current tenant has furnished it and think about how your stuff would fit in.
If you need it, you should also ask whether the rent includes a parking space. If it doesn’t, question how easy it is to get a permit and what that costs.
What can I do to the place?
When deciding whether you could make a place your home, it’s important to know what you can and can’t do with it. If you hate the décor then you might not want to move in if you can’t repaint, and if feels plain then you’ll want to check you can hang things on the walls.
It’s also good to think practically – could you put shelves on the walls, or hooks on the back of the doors? If not, think about whether you’d be able to store you belongings adequately.
What will the rent be?
Again, this should be obvious from the listing, but it’s a good idea to double check. It's also important to be sure what this includes – a high monthly payment might be okay if it includes bills, but if not you might be able to get a better deal elsewhere.
What’s the heating/water situation?
Check the type of boiler, and what the protocol is if it breaks. You can also ask about the water pressure – you could even ask the estate agent to turn the shower on to show you. There’s nothing worse than a weak shower in the mornings!
Ask about any repairs
If you see anything that needs repairing, whether it’s a chip in the wall or a broken door handle, ask if it can be fixed before you move in. If the estate agent says yes, sent them an email afterwards asking to get confirmation in writing.
What is the EPC rating?
The Energy Performance Certificate will tell you about the energy efficiency of the property, which means you’ll know roughly how easy – and therefore how expensive – it is to heat. If you’re not already provided with one, ask to see the EPC.
What’s the contract?
Knowing how long the rental agreement is for, what the renewal conditions are and if there is a break clause is very important. If you need flexibility, you may want to request a break clause halfway through a year contract, so you are able to move on if you need to. Whilst renewal fees should no longer be a requirement from estate agents, if you are asked to pay a fee, ask what it’s for.
Also check if you are able to sublet or if you’re renting a property with friends, if you are able to replace one person without ending the whole tenancy. One person moving on when everyone else is happy to stay shouldn’t cause problems, as long as you confirm it in the rental agreement!
Questions to ask the current tenant(s)
The estate agent is a great source of information – they know official information about the property and they’ll be able to tell you about the landlord and the contents of the contract. But there are some things that only people who have lived in the property will be able to tell you.
Why are you leaving?
If they’re moving to a different town or moving somewhere bigger, that’s fine. But if they’re moving because the heating is temperamental or the property is draughty, it’s definitely not.
What are the neighbours like?
Most people’s relationships with their neighbours will be totally fine. But once in a while they might tell you the neighbours have lots of loud parties, or are difficult when it comes to shared fences or walls. Whatever it is, it’s best to know now so you can take it into account.
Is the landlord/estate agent good?
All estate agents and landlords will claim to be brilliant, but the people who will really be able to tell you are the tenants. Again, the likelihood is that it’ll be fine. But if they take ages to fix things or turn up for viewings unannounced, that might impact your choice.
What’s the area really like?
Be specific here – think about what you really want to know and be aware of what you can check yourself. You can use police.uk to look up crime rates in the area, but do the current tenants feel safe walking home on their own at night? Google can tell you how long it takes to get to the nearest supermarket, but does it actually have everything you need? It might also be a good idea to ask the tenant(s) their favorite and least favourite things, either about the area or the property specifically.
What do they pay for bills?
The EPC will tell you some useful information, but it’s still a good idea to ask if you get the chance. If the current tenant tells you their electricity or gas bill is very high, it could indicate the property is difficult to heat.
Confirmation of anything you’re told
If there’s something you’re particularly concerned about you could ask the current tenant(s) for confirmation of things the estate agent tells you. For example, they might tell you the boiler is brand new and works perfectly, but is that true, and do the radiators all work as well?
Ease of parking and other transport options
Being near a train station is all well and good, but current tenants will be able to tell you how reliable the services are. Also, if you have a car but there’s no parking included with the property, you could askhow easy it is to find an on-road parking spot nearby.
Things to check yourself
There are some things you can check yourself, and it’s a good idea to do this before you go – there's nothing worse than finding a property, falling in love with it, but then realising afterwards that it’s in a WiFi dead zone.
You can use U-Switch's postcode checker to see what signal – and price – is like in any particular area.
Council tax depends on the local authority the property is in as well as what band the property falls into. The government website has a tool to check your council tax band, and then you can view the rates for each band on your local authority website.
Because you’ll be renting, it’s easy to think the decision of where to live requires less thought than if you were buying. But feeling comfortable and safe in your home is vital however long you intend to stay there, so it’s good to get it right.