Once you've completed your property search and identified which rental homes fit your criteria, it's time to think about viewings.
As a prospective tenant, it’s likely you'll be attending at least one or two viewings before moving in somewhere. Let's face it, there's only so much you can tell from property descriptions and online images and videos. With this in mind, how should you approach viewings and what sort of questions do you need to ask?
1. How much are the bills, and will I need to pay them?
It's important to know whether a landlord intends to include bills in your rental payment, as this could significantly affect your monthly outgoings. If the landlord requires the tenants to pay the bills themselves, it's worth asking for an idea of how much each one might cost so you can determine whether this fits into your overall budget. If you're going to be sharing with other tenants, you'll also need to think about who pays the bills and how payments are split and organised each month.
2. How much is the council tax?
Once you've worked out whether your landlord requires you to pay council tax, it's essential to know how much it will cost as rates vary across the country. Properties fall under different council tax valuation bands, and each local authority will charge a monthly cost for each band.
If the landlord or agent showing you around the property doesn't know how much the council tax will cost, you can find out here.
3. What local amenities are nearby?
You may have found the perfect rental property, but if its provision of local amenities doesn't suit your needs, then it'll be of no use to you. Ask whoever is showing you around about the local area and what to expect. Ensure they inform you about transport links and local shops, plus any other things you need to be close to such as schools, gyms or parks.
On top of what the landlord, existing tenant or agent tells you about amenities, it's wise to carry out some of your own research to double-check and confirm what you've already been told.
4. What are the neighbours like?
They say everybody needs good neighbours, and it's certainly an important consideration for tenants looking to move into a rental property. Whoever is showing you round will likely inform you of who lives immediately next to, above or below the property, but it could be beneficial to push them for more details.
You'll need to think about what sort of household you're going to be and whether your lifestyle will impact those around you.
5. How long is the contract/rental term?
A high proportion of tenancies have 12-month lease agreements. However, it's still pertinent to ask how long the contract will be as some landlords may only be offering a short-term agreement such as six months. What happens after this period, will it roll over into a periodic tenancy? Check with your Landlord/Agent.
As well as the length of the contract, you'll also need to know the official start date so you can plan your move-in schedule accordingly.
6. When is the rent due, and how should it be paid?
Rent due dates vary, and although you may expect to pay rent at the start of a month, this is regularly not the case, so you'll need to plan your finances around this.
You'll also need to find out how the landlord or letting agent would like to be paid and if you're living with others, organise whether the monthly payment will be arranged separately or communally.
7. How much is the deposit, and is there a holding deposit?
The damage deposit is likely to be in the region of one month to five weeks rent and is commonly required to be paid up-front. Following the Tenant Fees Act, deposits are capped at five weeks' rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000 and six weeks' rent where the annual rent is £50,000 or more. It should be protected in one of the government registration schemes, and you should be informed of these details. Ask which deposit scheme your prospective landlord intends to use. To find out more, you can check out the gov.uk website.
Some landlords require a holding deposit. This is a sum of money to prove you are a serious prospective tenant. It is capped at one week's rent and refunded to you once you take up the tenancy or taken off your first month's rent.
8. What’s the policy on pets and redecoration?
All landlords will have their own policy on pets and redecoration, some more lenient than others. You need to know where you stand from the off, as it could stop you from getting into a dispute at a later date.
If landlords are unwilling to let you keep pets or redecorate at the start, this viewpoint may change over time if you prove to be a reliable tenant and approach them with your plans before carrying out a major refresh. Landlords may be open to you redecorating certain rooms to your taste if you agree in advance or for example, they may agree if you use professional decorators. However, they may still say no. If you really can't see yourself living in the property in its current style, it may not be the one for you. Redecorating a property without your landlord's permission is a sure-fire way to lose part of your deposit, as what you consider to be an improvement may not be the same as your landlord!
9. How energy efficient is the property?
It's beneficial for you to know how energy efficient the property is, as it could cost you more in bills each month. As a general rule, the newer the property, the better the chance of the property being higher rated; however, landlords can do many things to improve older properties to similar standards, so don't assume. Your key to understanding how energy efficient the house is is by viewing its EPC (energy performance certificate), which your landlord should provide you with at the start of the tenancy, but you should also ask when viewing the property.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) require landlords to make sure rental properties have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of at least an 'E-'. There may be exceptions to this, such as renting a listed or conservation building, but these are quite unusual.
10. Is there anything else I need to know?
There may be other questions you need to ask to figure out if the property is suitable for your specific circumstances, and you must do your best to get these queries answered, no matter how obvious or irrelevant they may seem.
When carrying out a property viewing, it's important to be curious and thorough. Remind yourself that this is somewhere you could be living for months or even years, so you shouldn't leave any detail to chance.
The list outlined above is not exhaustive - there are other topics to think about, including who is responsible for managing the property and who should be contacted in an emergency or for repairs. For even more information about viewing a property, do have a read through our '12 Questions to Ask When Viewing a Rental Property' blog post.
To help out with the moving process, we have created a checklist for tenants to remind you of all the information you need to know before committing.