Whether you’re a seasoned tenant or looking for your first property, finding a new rental property is an exciting time. But there’s a lot of think about before you can make your move. What are the transport links like? How much does it cost to run the property? Where are the local shops?
In this week’s blog, our lettings team runs through what you should be looking for during your search for the perfect property.
Listing the non-negotiables
As a starting point, give some thought to what you really need from your new property. After all, it should suit your lifestyle and be somewhere you’re happy to call home. For example, think about how many bedrooms you need, or whether you need a property that accepts pets. You might be looking to work from home, so high-speed internet connection will be crucial.
After listing your non-negotiables, think about the other factors you’d really appreciate. Is it important to have another room as a work space? How much storage do you need? How long does it take to get to the tube? Once you’ve thought about your priorities, you’ll be able to brief a letting agent and get started with your search.
Crunching the numbers
Work out how much you can afford to pay each month. Include rent payments, amenities such as water, electricity, phone, gas and internet connection, and council tax. Remember to leave enough money for other essential outgoings such as travel, food and household items. Put some funds aside for any regular activities such as sports or gym membership.
Before you move in, you might need to hand over a deposit, which should be no more than five weeks’ rent. Your landlord or letting agent should register this money with a government-authorised tenancy deposit protection scheme. They should also provide you with the right documentation within 10 days and return the money at the end of the tenancy, minus any costs for repairs or unpaid rent. If you’re not able to agree how much money should be returned, each scheme runs a free dispute resolution service.
Finding the right area
Spend some time exploring the wider area before you decide on where you’d like to live. Where are the shops located? What are the nearby cafes and restaurants like? Is the area going through a period of growth? If you travel to work using public transport, look at the local links and calculate the time (and cost) it will take to get to work.
Learn more about the area by speaking to any local contacts and seek guidance from our expert team at Townends. We’re embedded within our communities and are happy to answer your questions.
Make sure you view all of the properties that fit your initial brief and view them all. Take a list of your non-negotiables and ask questions of the landlord or letting agent. For example, ask to see a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) so you can get an idea of the average running costs. From April 2018, all rental properties should reach a minimum rating of E for all new tenancies.
Your safety should always come first. By law, rental properties that use gas need an annual gas safety check and the supporting certificate should be passed to tenants. Whilst at the property, ask the agent or landlord to show you a copy of the certificate and point out the carbon monoxide and smoke alarms. Landlords also need to make sure any electrical systems and appliances that are provided are safe to use.
If you’re moving into a shared house, make sure you feel comfortable with your prospective housemates. You’ll be entering into a legal agreement as a group, so it’s essential that you share with people you like and trust.
Speak to your fellow tenants and think about whether your lifestyles are compatible as a household. Your letting agent should also run detailed background checks on each tenant. At Townends, we use a professional referencing service The Lettings Hub.
Checking an agreement
Before you move in, it’s normal to sign an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement. This contract will list the obligations of both parties and state that tenants are ‘jointly liable’ – which means you’re all responsible for the rent. Check the detail of the contract as it will include key information such as when the rent needs to be paid.
The agreement should also include emergency contact details if something urgently goes wrong with the property. Check to see whether the contract also details any ‘non-negotiables’ you discussed with the landlord or agent whilst viewing the property.
Before you move into any rental home, always attend an inventory with the landlord or lettings agent to record the property’s current condition. A detailed report at this stage means you should only have to pay for any damage made during your stay. During the process, photos of any damage should be taken, dated and agreed in writing by both sides. Make sure your deposit is registered, as detailed above.
In England, the agent or landlord should also give you a copy of the Government’s How to Rent Guide (there are similar guides for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
Finding a letting agent
A professional letting agent will have the knowledge and expertise to help you find the right rental property. Our team at Townends are ARLA Propertymark trained and happy to help with your property search.