Knowing what questions to ask at a rental viewing can be tricky. Especially if this is your first time renting. You’ll want to tick off some key boxes before agreeing on any rental.
Whether you’re viewing an apartment or a house, there are things you’ll want to be clear on. You need to know exactly what you're signing up for, so here are a few questions we think you should ask.
What is included in the monthly/weekly rental price?
Make sure you’re clear what items will be included with your rental. A furnished home will save you money on furniture. Whereas a part-furnished place could save you money. The more expensive items could be included such as fridges and washing machines.
If the rental is unfurnished, you may want to budget for furnishings. This can be a big blow to savings if you haven’t planned for furnishing in advance.
If the property is furnished but you wish to use your own furniture, there may be room for negotiation.
You may want to ask about the maintenance of provided furnishings and appliances. If something is damaged or broken through wear and tear, you’ll want your landlord to cover the costs. Often, you’ll be required to purchase a replacement, which your landlord will reimburse. However, make sure you’re clear about these terms in advance.
What bills will I be responsible for and how much will they cost?
You may find the cost of utilities are included in your rent. It’s not overly common but it is happening more and more. Make sure to ask if this is the case for the property.
If your bills aren’t included, ask if they know roughly how much utilities cost per month. If you have to manage your own utilities, ask if the landlord has any preferred suppliers. You can also ask about amenities such as the internet or phone lines. The landlord will know the providers available in the area. They may even have recommendations based on past tenants or personal experience.
How long is the rental agreement?
You’ll need to know how long you’ll be locked into a contract. The most common tenancy agreements are around 6-12 months long. However, there are some agreements that can be made on a running monthly basis.
Make sure you know what kind of contract you’re looking for before you go to your viewings. Are you looking for long or short-term rentals? Do you need to be able to move at short notice?
How and when do I need to pay rent?
Most rental payments these days are done through direct debit. If this doesn’t suit you, then there are other methods you may want to ask about.
Standing orders are the next popular and make it easy to pay regularly. Both direct debits and standing orders are the best way to make sure you never miss a payment.
You can also ask if it’s possible to pay on the phone, via a post office or even online. This should be agreed early on so it can be included in your tenancy agreement.
Also, ask about the date your rent will be due each month. There may be a fixed date by the landlord. But it could be whenever the first payment is taken, once you’ve officially moved into the property.
How much is the deposit?
Your deposit should be no more than 5-weeks of rent, if the annual rent is less than £50,000. For annual rent over £50,000, this is capped at 6-weeks of rent.
This is in accordance with the government’s Tenancy Fees Act. It applies to new and renewed tenancies after 1st June 2019. Your deposit may be less than this, but it should not be more.
All deposits should be placed into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. This protects your deposit throughout your tenancy.
What is the local area like?
Knowing what the local area is like can be a hard thing to grasp from one viewing. Even driving around or visiting can only give you a glimpse. Asking the landlord or letting agent will give you a better idea of what it’s like to live there.
Ask about shopping and amenities. Enquire about how long it takes to get to the nearest supermarket or shopping centre. You can also enquire about transport such as buses, trains and even taxis. Even if you have your own transport, there may come a time where you need help from public transport.
Lastly, ask about the locals and neighbours. It's a good idea, if possible, to see the property at different times of day. Visiting in the middle of a working day may not highlight how noisy the property is. Taking a look when all your neighbours are home will give a much better representation of the area.
What is the policy on decoration and pets?
Landlords are becoming a lot more flexible with their rental policies. But, some may still have strict rules. Ask how much freedom you’ll have when it comes to decorating and making the space your own. You may not be allowed to decorate at all, or you may have permission as long as you return it to its original state.
If you have pets or plan to, ask about their pet policy. Although the government are trying to make it easier for renters to have pets, it’s still hit and miss. Some landlords may ask you to cover any cleaning or damage costs. Some may dismiss the idea completely. It’s always worth asking. Plus, if you can prove yourself a good tenant, you may be able to request permission in the future.
Who will be my first point of contact if I need maintenance or have questions about the property?
Make sure you have a clear point of contact should you need any maintenance doing. It’s also worth asking for a backup contact so you always have someone to call.
It may be that in emergencies, such as a leak, the landlord will have someone you can call directly. Again, they may offer to reimburse you for this cost. Ask who has responsibility for sorting these emergencies out and who pays upfront.
Will I have to maintain the garden myself?
If the property has a garden, see who is responsible for looking after it. If you’re not a keen gardener it may be an extra chore for you. Usually, any garden included with the property will be yours to maintain. It’s worth checking though what you’re free to do with this space.
Although it may be up to you to maintain it, you may be limited when it comes to planting. Check what you can and can’t do to the garden and decide if it’s something you want to take on.
If you’re just starting out on your rental journey, you may want to check out this blog on which documents you’ll need. We walk you through everything you’ll want to get together in order to rent in the UK. Or, if you’re keen to make renting as easy as possible, why not take a look at our Essential Living locations?