Tuesday 20 July 2021

5 Things to Find out Before Renting a Property

There are many reasons why you’d choose to rent somewhere to live instead of going down the ownership route. Maybe you’re desperate to own your own home but you can’t get a mortgage, or you’ve done your sums and saving up for a deposit will take approximately eleventy billion years, even with sacrificing your daily Starbucks.  

Alternatively, you may be hoping to one day take advantage of the opportunities that help would-be home owners get on the property ladder, such as a rent to buy scheme in London.

Or perhaps you’re a free spirit and simply love the freedom renting brings. You don’t have the commitment of a mortgage and you’re not tied down to living in the same place forever (okay, you can sell a house and move but it’s not as simple as when you’re renting). 

Or maybe it’s cheaper to rent in the location in which you want to live. You might not be able to afford to rent a whole house or flat in a trendy district a stone’s throw from your favourite bars and restaurants, but you can afford a bedsit or a room in a shared house and that’s good enough. 

Whatever your reason for renting, there are certain things you need to check before signing on the dotted line and handing over a month’s deposit. 

Here are five of them. 

What bills are included?

If you’re renting a whole property to yourself, you’ll almost definitely be responsible for all the bills - gas, electric, phone, wi-fi, council tax, TV licence, the list goes on and on. 

However, if you’re sharing, then how you’re sharing will determine how the bills are paid. If you’re in an HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation), such as a bedsit or room, then the council tax will be paid by the landlord. Whether or not they pay the other bills is down to them and you’ll need to find this out before agreeing to rent a room from them. 

Although, if you rent a house or flat with friends as a whole unit, then you’ll all be responsible for the bills, including council tax. 

If you are sharing with friends, something to consider is how reliable will they be when it comes to paying the bills? You don’t want your utilities turned off because your flatmate’s not paying their share. 

And while we’re on the subject of bills, you might want to find out whether the gas and electric is pre-paid through a meter or will you be getting monthly or quarterly bills? Meters are great until you forget to top them up and the lights go off but, on the other hand, no one likes getting a big bill in the post. 

Basically, what we’re saying is: ask what bills are included. That cheap rental you’ve seen might not be such a bargain when you find out what else you’ve got to pay for. 

Find out what the local amenities are

You might already know the area you want to live in. You might want to live there because it’s handy for work or because it’s in staggering distance of your favourite pub. In which case, you can skip this bit. 

But if you’re interested in renting a property because of the price or some other reason that’s appealing to you - for example, it has a pink door (that would totally swing it for me) find out if the things you need are in the vicinity. For example, if you need public transport, you should make sure you’re not going to be stuck somewhere where the nearest bus or tube is two miles away. 

And if you’re someone who likes to be able to nip out to the shop when they feel like it, you need to make sure you’re not living somewhere where the local shop seems to make up its opening hours depending on how the shopkeeper feels that day. 

How long is the tenancy agreement?

If you like to be able to move on a whim, does the tenancy agreement tie you in to a year or can you give your notice before then without any penalties? On the other hand, if you like a bit of security, find out if your landlord can serve you notice before the agreement ends or if you’re guaranteed a place to live for at least a year. 

What’s included?

If you have your own furniture and the property you like the look of comes furnished, will the landlord agree to remove their furniture so you can have yours instead? 

Does the kitchen come with everything you need, e.g. washing machine, dishwasher, fridge-freezer? 

Furnished doesn’t necessarily mean ‘everything you could possibly need’, so if you don’t want to spend your evenings down the launderette, check there’s a washing machine, or at least plumbing for one so you can get your own, if not. 

Unless you like living as unconnected to the world as possible (and if you do, we don’t blame you), find out what services are connected - for example, TV aerial, satellite dish, cable, broadband, phone line, etc. because it can be costly getting these things connected if they’re not already installed. 

Are you allowed to make changes to the property?

You might have found the perfect rental property. The price, size and location is everything you need and more. But the decor is not quite to your taste and there’s nowhere to put your books, records and other paraphernalia. 

Will the landlord let you decorate and put up shelves? You need to ask before you start hammering nails into the wall and painting the walls pink, otherwise you may be waving goodbye to your deposit at the end of the tenancy. 

Keep in mind the above when you’re looking for somewhere to rent and hopefully you’ll find your perfect place. 

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