Here are some tips to help you find your perfect place.
Never, ever, part with any money until you have inspected the flat for yourself, and have seen the landlord’s proof of ID and ownership. (It is easy to get hold of the landlord’s proof of ownership from the Land Registry website for a nominal fee.) A genuine landlord will ask to see your ID, after all, so shouldn’t have a problem with returning the compliment!
Some scammers advertise properties online which are not theirs, then tell excited prospective tenants that they are not currently in the UK and cannot show the property, but if the tenant wants to send them a deposit (often via a fake AirBNB transfer) they will hold the property for the tenant until they return to the UK. In practice, of course, they disappear into the sunset with the poor tenant’s deposit.
Can you afford it?
You need to be realistic. It might be your dream home, but can you really afford it once you have added on all the bills, council tax, broadband etc. Don’t forget that you will need to find about six weeks’ security deposit upfront, as well as the first month’s rent. On a monthly rent of £850, you might need to find £2,206 before you move in.
Shelter UK, the housing and homeless charity, has set up a useful rent calculator which can help with this. Although you’ll see that Shelter’s calculator factors in agency fees; of course here at I Am the Agent, the UK’s leading online estate agent, we never charge agency fees on our online lettings.
Always check what’s included.
Some landlords will expect all bills to be paid separately by the tenant on top of the rent; some will include bills in the rent. Check what yours plans to do. You will need to think about arrangements for separate meter readings if you are paying them yourself.
Most landlords will leave behind white goods, so check they are in working order before you move in or ask for broken appliances to be replaced beforehand. If it’s unfurnished, check that your furniture will fit in. You don’t want to find that you can’t get your sofa through the front door on move-in day.
How long for?
Most tenancy agreements last for twelve months but some landlords like to have a six month break clause. Check whether your potential landlord is going to ask for a break clause, so that you can decide whether you want to take the risk of having to move again after six months.
Will you get on with the landlord?
You may have to deal with the landlord from time to time if there are maintenance or other problems. Do you like the landlord and would you be comfortable dealing with him on a business footing? Could you manage a landlord who likes to ‘drop in to see how you are’ on a regular basis?
Landlords have a legal obligation to check gas safety at their property every twelve months. Make sure you ask to see the current gas safety certificate before you move in.
Landlords also have a legal obligation to have an energy performance certificate (this lasts for ten years). The certificate will be a good indicator of whether the heating bills will be high, so it is worth asking to see it before deciding whether to take a property. (A copy can be obtained free from the EPC register online.)
Some landlords will arrange for a professional inventory to be carried out when you move in. Both parties need to confirm they agree with it before it is finalised, so with luck this should help avoid disputes about the condition of the place at the end of the term.
If the landlord doesn’t fix up a professional inventory, consider taking photos yourself (with the date included on them) when you move in to record the condition of the property.
Check the cleanliness when you move in. If the home has been professionally cleaned before you move in, the landlord will most likely expect you to pay for a professional clean when you move out.
It’s also an idea to record (those photos again!) the state of appliances when you move in, such as the detergent tray on the washing machine or the inside of the fridge, so that it is clear how you took it on.
Landlords must pay the tenant’s deposit into a government approved deposit protection scheme within four weeks of you handing it over, and must also provide evidence that this has been done. The tenancy agreement you sign has to state which scheme is being used.
And finally, don’t forget our Tuesday's Tenant Tips! We will be live here on Tuesdays between 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm. Share with us and our online users little snippets of knowledge, tips and ideas. We will answer queries you may have, live online, so join us next Tuesday. Mind you, we hope we have covered a lot of them in this blog!