Viewing a property for renting is an exciting time – new house, new area, new neighbours, new school for kids and more – there is an instant emotional reaction to any property you view but it’s important to balance emotion with caution.
Why should you be cautious?
English Housing Survey shows that 35% of properties in the private rented sector are rated “non-decent”: nearly a fifth were judged to contain a hazard posing a serious danger to the health and safety of renters.
Shelter’s research showed that over 60% of renters have experienced at least one of the following problems in their home over the past 12 months: damp, mould, leaking roofs or windows, electrical hazards, animal infestations and gas leaks. One in ten private renters claim that their health has been affected by problems with their property which their landlord has not dealt with.
Few minutes during your viewing is only time you get to find out if the property you may rent will not have problems described above. Here are few tips which may help you make most out of your viewing:-
1) Look thoroughly for signs of mould/condensation: Checking near windows will help, condensation around window area is most common. Look out for any signs of mould (small black spots) or surfaces which appear to have been patched up. Checking behind the sofas, beds and big pieces of furniture may be a good idea as mould forms in areas where air circulation is low. Bathroom & kitchen extractor is a must have especially in flats. If you suspect humid conditions, it would be a good idea to take a humidity meter and check if humidity is between 30-60%. You can measure humidity with a humidity meter purchased from your local hardware store or online.
2) Check for signs of Rodents/moths etc.:- A house with rodent or other infestation problems may give some clues. Look out for mice trap/repellers, droppings, insect repellent bottles and moth sprays bottles in the bathroom. If possible look out for black spots on mattress – this could be their dried faeces of bed bugs. Check out if the carpet surfaces at edges look eaten up. Carpet moths love woollen carpets and they like to stay in the corners so checking the carpet around corners may give you clues. Carpet moths don’t just chew carpets they may fly all over your flat/property which causes distress to most tenants.
3) Parking and Traffic: – Most professional tenants view properties on the weekend when they do not get a realistic view of traffic and parking situation. Check around the times you will need to park. Similarly, on traffic taking a drive down in rush hour may give a completely different picture than over the weekend.
4) Noise: – Try opening a window to see the noise levels. Look outside if the aircrafts are flying too low or you can hear the cars on the road. Flight paths keep changing during different times of the year so it may be a good idea to check online if the property you are viewing is on the flight path. A flat with a beautiful balcony or a house with an amazing garden may not be pleasing if during summers you have constant aircraft/traffic noise.
5) Brightness: – The sun rises in the east, swings south throughout the day, to set in the west. Typically a south-facing home gets sun for most of the day, especially at the front of the house and is therefore usually brighter and warmer. A north-facing home gets sun at the back of the house and is typically darker and naturally cooler than a south-facing one. Direction of the flat/house can be found out by using a compass which is readily available on I-phones or other devices. Apart from direction, higher floors generally get more sunlight. Its highly recommended to have one of your viewing in daylight, viewing in daylight not only gives you idea of how bright the property is but you pick up things in natural light better than artificial light.
6) A quick word with tenants living in the property? It may be good idea to find out why the current tenant is leaving. If this is voluntary, a quick follow up question on the lines of “Is there something to be worried about the property?” or “What was the biggest problem you faced during your stay?” might be good idea. Sometimes tenants will not speak up as estate agents maybe watching over the shoulder so finding the right moment is key.
7) Area Check: – It is important you research the area and block you are renting well. Visit to the website http://www.police.uk/ offers crime map. You must look up your street and carefully check the crime records. Similarly, school reports, demographic information can be useful to find out more about social and cultural backgrounds of people living in the area. www.asktenants.co.uk offers social,cultural mix, crime summary by month and information on schools all in one place on its website. All you need is a property address you are looking to rent.
8) Works: –If any works are being carried out at the property when you visit make sure you find out if it is decorative or remedial by asking probing questions and use your judgment.
9) Flooring: – If the house has carpets it’s not unreasonable to ask the agent or landlord to have it professionally cleaned. The best time to ask for this is at viewing or just before the offer. If the Agents or Landlord accept this you must follow up in writing for records.
10)Certifications – One thing to check is if boiler has annual maintenance and a breakdown cover. While Landlords have to provide Gas safety certificates before tenants move in, a package which combines annual maintenance and breakdown will be good peace of mind. Any other equipment under guarantee or extended warranty is nice to have.
EPC certificate is important to check to get an idea about energy bills, UK national average is between band E and D for both ratings. If you like the house but banding is low you should see recommendations on EPC, it tells you what remedial action can be taken. Some things might be reasonable cost-wise. Since tenants also qualify for green deal you may consider exploring the option of following recommendations.
Hope this gives some useful information and helps tenants making an informed rental decision.
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