23 Jan 13 things to consider before renting a property
We’ve all heard the horror stories associated with renting a property, right? From properties in disrepair to unscrupulous landlords who take your deposit and disappear into the night, it’s certainly true that there are plenty of pitfalls when you’re renting.
But, in reality, there are plenty of precautions you can take to protect yourself in the rental market. And that starts with ensuring that everything is in place and above board before you even think about moving in.
So, here’s our run down of the things you need to consider before renting a property…
1. What are you looking for?
First things first, when you’re thinking of renting a property, it’s important to consider what you’re looking for from a property. Are you looking for a spacious home or a small apartment to accommodate you during the week? How many bedrooms do you need? And what other facilities would you like the property to have?
2. Where are you looking?
As well as what you’re looking for, you also need to think about where you’d like the property to be. Which areas would you prefer to live in? What amenities do you need to have close by?
Spend plenty of time researching the area. Although renting can be relatively short term and you aren’t committing to buying a property, you still need to make sure that any potential rental property is in an area that you actually want to live in.
As well as researching online, get out there and have a wander in the community – it’s a great way to get a feel for a place and imagine yourself living there.
3. What can you afford?
Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, you need to work out what you can actually afford. Look at properties in the area that you’re hoping to rent in and figure out what sort of property you can comfortably afford.
When you’ve found a property you like, work out exactly how much rent you’ll be paying before you sign anything. When converting the weekly rental price into monthly costs, always remember that four weeks don’t equal one calendar month – this is where many renters fall down.
4. Have you thoroughly viewed the property?
If you’ve found a property you really like, have you thoroughly viewed it? And we don’t just mean giving it a quick, five-minute whistle-stop tour.
Before you even think about signing up for a place, check everything carefully. Does it have central heating? What are the showers like? Are the windows in good condition? Are there any signs of damp or areas that would need attention before you’d be happy to move in?
It’s always a good idea to put together a checklist before you start viewing potential properties. That way, if you find one you really like, you can make sure it ticks all the boxes.
5. Is the property furnished or unfurnished?
There are a number of positives and negatives associated with furnished and unfurnished properties.
Whilst unfurnished properties are generally cheaper to rent than furnished ones, you will obviously have the expense of kitting it out. However, there are lots of ways to furnish your home for less, and an unfurnished property will also give you the opportunity to really make the place your own.
If you want to go unfurnished but can’t afford to commit a huge amount of money to kitting the place out, why not look for a property that is furnished with white goods only? This will mean that you won’t have to invest in a washing machine, oven, or fridge freezer.
It all comes down to personal choice and weighing up the pros and cons for you.
6. What other costs are involved?
When you’re renting a property, you obviously need to cover the rent. But before you move in, you’ll probably find that there are a number of other fees and charges to pay, and it’s better to be aware of these in advance so they don’t come as a nasty surprise on moving day.
Most landlords will require you to pay a security deposit, which tends to be equal to around one month or six weeks rent. This will cover any damage to the property and also protect the landlord in the event that you disappear without paying your rent.
Whether you’re renting through a landlord or a letting agent, you might also need to cover the costs of credit and reference checks. In addition to this, if you’re renting through an agency, there’s also likely to be admin fees involved.
These fees are nothing unusual but the key is to ensure you are aware of them as early in the process as possible.
7. Will your deposit be protected?
Following on from the point above, it’s also important to ensure that your deposit is protected.
In England and Wales, if you have an assured shorthold tenancy that started on or after 6 April 2007, it is a legal requirement that your deposit is secured in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 30 days of receiving it.
But, according to statistics from housing charity Shelter, over one third of private renters in England and Wales either don’t know whether their deposit is protected under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), or don’t know about the scheme at all.
It’s incredibly important that you ensure that your deposit is protected, as this will prevent any disputes when the tenancy ends, helping to ensure that you get your deposit back.
8. Will you be subject to management fees?
If you’re renting a flat or apartment within a large block, you should check whether you’ll be subject to management fees whilst you’re a tenant.
Management fees typically cover the upkeep of a property’s communal areas such as gardens and hallways and they can vary significantly from property to property.
If management fees are applicable, make sure you get written confirmation of exactly how much you’ll be paying each month and what the fee covers before you sign anything.
9. What’s in your contract?
Tenancy contracts can be long, confusing, and full of jargon. But it’s important that you understand what you are signing and that you are fully aware of your responsibilities, as well as your landlord’s – after all, a tenancy agreement is a legally binding document. If you are struggling to understand the terms of your contract, it might be worth seeking some professional advice before you sign.
10. Bills, Bills, Bills
What exactly is included in your rent and what bills and utilities will you be expected to pay on top? The vast majority of private landlords will expect you to pay for all utilities yourself, as well as council tax, but this isn’t always the case so make you find out before signing your contract.
Whilst looking round the property, think about utility costs. So, for example, whilst that period conversion with original oak floorboards and sash windows might be your ideal home, it will also probably be pretty pricey to heat! Whilst we’re thinking about energy costs, ask your potential landlord if you can see a copy of the property’s energy performance certificate – this will give you a good idea of how much energy you’re likely to use.
If you are responsible for the council tax, check how much it will cost each month. After all, if the property is in a high council tax band, you might find that the cost each month is just too high meaning you either have to look for a property elsewhere or find somewhere with cheaper rent to accommodate the monthly council tax.
11. Are you insured?
When you’re renting a property, the building’s insurance should be taken care of by the landlord but they won’t usually insure your personal contents. So make sure you’ve got insurance for any valuables such as your TV, laptop, camera, jewellery, etc. The last thing you want if the property is damaged or broken into, is to be left uninsured and without your most precious possessions.
12. Who will you be sharing with?
Of course, it’s not just about the property itself. If you’re looking at renting a property with other people, it’s important that you’re very careful when it comes to choosing who you live with. Never move into a property without meeting your new flatmates first. And, when you do meet them, trust your gut instinct, it’s usually right.
13. Complete a full inventory
Always, and that means always, complete a full and comprehensive inventory before moving into a rental property.
If you don’t go through absolutely everything with a fine tooth comb, you’re leaving yourself open to deductions from your deposit. So take the time to check the furniture, contents, carpets, curtains, and other soft furnishings, and note their condition and level of cleanliness. Make a note of any problems that you spot within the first few days of moving in and provide your landlord or letting agent with a written list (make sure you also keep a copy for yourself).
It’s also advisable to take dated photos in case of any dispute.
14. What is your landlord/letting agent like?
Lastly, you should always take into account how you have found the process of letting your property. Was it hard to get hold of the letting agents or was it a smooth process? Its really important to have a good relationship with the person managing your property – after all they will be the ones who keep the flat safe and in good condition!