Ain’t nothing going on but the rent…
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a tenant (or tenants if you’re looking to move with your partner!) setting out to find your first home, finding the right property to rent can seem like a daunting task. You’ll have heard all the horror stories, from landlords that refuse to stick to their commitments to poorly finished properties that pose all manner of health risks.
To avoid joining the long list of unhappy tenants, there are a series of considerations you should think about before signing on the dotted line. This will save you time and money and give you the best possible chance of having a long and pleasant tenancy.
One of the first and most essential considerations is the contract term. Typically, a landlord might be more susceptible to offering you a good deal if you’re willing to sign a longer tenancy agreement. This is usually because many landlords have buy-to-let mortgages, so they’d rather get the guaranteed income over a predetermined period instead of worrying about void periods.
On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of opting in for an extended rental contract that you might not be able to commit to in the future. Perhaps you’re on a temporary work contract, or you’re still trying to find the right area to live in. If you’re not sure you’ll want to stick around for the contract duration, always opt for a shorter term to avoid the consequences.
How much does renting a property cost?
Perhaps the most important factor behind your decision will be rental cost. Be realistic about what you can allocate towards rent and how it will affect your daily living. Suppose you’re spending most of your salary on rent. How will you factor in other costs such as transport, living expenses, and entertainment? The UK’s current average rental price stands at £1,060, largely propped up by London’s average of £1,752 per month.
A good rule of thumb is that your monthly rent cost shouldn’t surpass 30% of your monthly income. You might find that this doesn’t leave you with many options in certain areas, but as we’ll discuss later in this article, looking for a quality property that matches your price point is always better than paying over the odds to be in a more expensive or desirable area.
One of the first things you’ll think about when looking for a rental property is the location. You should first consider what transport links are near your property. This is especially important if you don’t drive. If there aren’t any, it should be reflected in the rental price. If you have a family, consider what the closest schools are and if there’s an easily accessible supermarket for weekly shops.
You should also consider whether there are green spaces nearby, the overall safety of the area, and how far you’ll have to walk/drive to get to the nearest high street.
Does the property come furnished for tenants?
Do you have furniture you’d like to move into the property, or will you be needing all the essentials? This is another factor to consider since some landlords don’t provide anything. In contrast, others won’t remove any existing furniture from the property.
In some cases, landlords can be accommodating, so if you want to use your own furniture, make sure to communicate this to the estate agent early on in the process.
Has the property met all safety and security requirements?
Landlords must adhere to specific safety requirements if they’re planning to rent a property. For instance:
- All gas equipment must be installed and maintained by a registered engineer.
- All electrical equipment provided must be safe for use.
- It’s a legal requirement to have a working smoke detector on each floor.
- Property must be adequately ventilated to avoid mould.
- Locks should be up to standard and safe.
- The property must be in a habitable condition.
You should avoid any properties that are lacking one or more of these points.
How much is the tenant’s security deposit when renting a property?
In order to land the rental property, the landlord will request a security deposit. This protects them if you don’t leave the property in the same condition as when you first moved in. The deposit can be up to 6 weeks rent and is typically held in an escrow account until the end of the tenancy.
Note that some landlords will also ask you for a month’s rent in advance, so bear that in mind when you’re factoring in costs.
What’s the property condition?
You shouldn’t settle when looking for a rental property, so ensure that you’re happy with the condition before agreeing to a contract. Ask yourself:
- Is it well insulated?
- Are the fittings in good condition?
- Is there mould?
- Is the furniture clean and usable?
- Are the bathrooms up to standard?
Unless you’re happy risking encountering issues such as damp and broken equipment, don’t risk going for a property in poor condition just because it’s in a good location. This could be your home for a long time, after all.
Does it have double glazing?
Another factor to consider is double glazing. Now, it’s not a legal requirement to install these, so some older properties still use single glazed windows. When visiting the property, take note of the temperature and whether it’s pleasant to be in. If the property is not well-insulated, you’ll find yourself paying over the odds on heating to keep yourself warm in the winter periods.
Alternatively, if you’re staying for an extended period, you could potentially look to replace the windows yourself if the landlord is willing to cover the cost.
What are the neighbours like?
This is difficult to determine, and the estate agent showing you the property will likely not know what the neighbours are like. However, it’s always worth asking as there’s a chance the landlord made a comment on it. You might want to avoid living next to noisy students, or perhaps you’d like to live in a more social environment. Either way, it’s always good to know who you’ll be living next door to.
What letting agents are available?
Traditional estate agents don’t exactly have the best reputation. Their model is outdated, and the cost of services can eat into your budget. As a result, you should always make sure to use a reputable property company that has plenty of reviews and a history of providing services.
You should also consider new and exciting proptech companies introducing new ways of conducting business in the property market. These often have lower fees and less bureaucracy when it comes to paperwork.
How much are the bills?
Another important cost factor is bills. Take into account council tax, gas, electricity, water, and TV license. Depending on where you want to live, these will fluctuate from area to area and your usage. In London, for example, council tax depends on the borough and property type, with the most expensive being Kingston-upon-Thames at £1,693 yearly, and the lowest being Westminster at £463.90 per year.
Some landlords offer rent prices already including bills, which can make the rental process more manageable. Also factor in the cost of the internet, or a service charge. Add these costs to your rental price in order to work out whether a property is financially viable for you.
Is the property managed?
In some cases, landlords will work with a property management company to handle the entire tenancy process on their behalf. This can be a massive benefit for tenants since you’ll be dealing with professionals instead of a landlord that might be busy for long periods and unable to fix issues immediately.
A property management company will also oversee rental payments and deposits, so you don’t have to worry about situations where the landlord asks for more money and refuses to pay your deposit back. Typically, managed properties fetch higher prices, so bear that in mind when looking.
Is it pet friendly?
If you have pets, you should communicate this to the estate agent from the get-go. Some property companies don’t like to deal with prospective tenants that have pets since many landlords won’t approve. This is usually due to the damage potential to the property. However, in most cases, an agreement can be made, especially if you’re willing to be flexible on the rental price.
If you have small, well-trained pets, chances are the landlord will be okay with you renting the property. Either way, it’s best to mention this early and avoid disappointment.
What white goods are included?
A landlord will be required to provide an oven and hob for cooking. Although not a legal requirement, they’ll also usually provide a fridge, microwave, and dishwasher. In most cases, this is all the equipment the landlord will be providing, so if you need a tumble dryer or a dishwasher, let the estate agent know or ask if the landlord is willing to offer it.
If they can’t provide those extra items, tenants are usually okay to buy your own if you have the room.
Can the landlord repaint before the move-in date?
In some rental properties, you’ll find that the painting and finishing can feel tired and in need of a new coat. This is especially true for older buildings in the UK, which have been rented out for years. For the right tenants, most landlords are willing to repaint; however, you might be asked to cover the cost.
An excellent way to avoid this altogether is to find a suitable quality property that’s already up to standard and ready to go. This will likely require you to look at different areas where the price might be more affordable.
Conduct a thorough inspection/inventory
When you find the perfect property, it can be easy to forget everything and sign the contract as soon as possible. This is not a good idea since there can be underlying issues that you’ve missed, which could potentially turn the property into a nightmare.
Try to visit the property more than once and check it thoroughly to avoid these problems. You can even bring a checklist to ensure you’ve done a proper check for double glazing, signs of damp, quality of the furniture, and finishings. On the other hand, when moving into a rental property, ensure there’s been an inventory check to protect you at the end of the tenancy.
If possible, chat with the current tenants and ask them what it’s like to live at the property.
Do you need a guarantor?
There are some situations where the landlord will require a guarantor on the property, who will be responsible for covering rent if you can’t. This usually applies to tenants looking to rent their first property, if they are students, or if they come from abroad. If you don’t have a credit history or references, landlords will ask you to provide one. You can always put down a family member if you’re from the UK.
If you’re coming from abroad you can use guarantor services that will act on your behalf, although they are costly to use.
Are you happy with the contract conditions?
Before signing the contract, take a good look at the small print and ensure you’re happy with the conditions. Check that the rental price corresponds to what you agreed on. Is all the correct information included? This is vital if something happens and you need to use the contract as proof of your agreement with the landlord.
What are the landlord’s responsibilities?
What aspects of the property will the landlord be responsible for? In the UK, landlords are legally responsible for ensuring that the property is habitable and safe for tenants to live in. Therefore, they’re obliged to repair things like the bath, hot water systems, and heating.
On the other hand, they might also agree to oversee other responsibilities, such as arranging garden maintenance or providing a cleaning service for communal areas. Make sure that any agreement you have with the landlord is in writing and in the rental contract as proof.
What costs are you responsible for as tenants?
Finally, what will you be responsible for in the property? Tenants are typically accountable for doing minor repairs, such as changing light bulbs and maintaining the property’s cleanliness. You’re also responsible for any damage done to the property or items provided by the landlord at the time of moving in. Refusing to cover such costs could result in legal action.
Tenants or Landlord? Live in an Oasis
If you’re a landlord, online letting agents are a great aid in keeping your property running and profitable and offer greater value to landlords. With reduced service costs and no commissions, they are more affordable alternatives to high street agents. Moreover, if you’re a tenant, we can help you find a property that suits your needs. Contact us today for more information!
Need more tenant tips and info on moving out? Read our blog on What fees and deposits must a tenant pay?