As mortgage interest rates continue to rise, first-time buyers may have to turn to renting as it becomes ever more difficult to get on the property ladder. If you’re making the switch, the rental experts at Essential Living have listed the questions every potential renter must ask their landlord.
The demand for renting in the UK has increased dramatically over the past 12 months. In fact, according to Google Glimpse search data, ‘renting the UK’ has seen an 18% rise in searches when comparing data from November 2020/2021 – November 2021/2022. Meaning that almost 1 in 5 more people are now considering renting.
Moving to a new property, especially as a renter, can often seem like a stressful minefield, as it has an array of boxes to tick and tasks to cross off.
However, the rental experts at Essential Living have compiled a list of the most important topics to cover with any potential landlord before signing any paperwork to make the process easier.
Which council tax band is this property in?
A very important point to consider is that all properties fall into different tax bands, some being considerably more expensive than others.
Each band comes with a different meaning, with band A being the cheapest (and referring to properties with a market value of £40,000 or less in 1991) while band H is the most expensive (and applies to properties with a market value above £320,000 in 1991.).
To accurately estimate your bills and spending predictions before moving in somewhere, you need to know your monthly tax outgoings to calculate the affordability of the property.
How energy-efficient is this property?
With the looming energy bill crisis only worsening, it pays to know how much you could be forking out for heating. Some properties, especially those converted into flats, may have very old radiators and no double glazing on their windows, meaning this wouldn’t be the most efficient house to heat.
Some flats even have ‘storage heaters’, which attempt to heat a room overnight and switch off during the day – meaning they cannot be turned on and off whenever you please. You do not want any nasty surprises once contracts are signed, so never overlook the smaller details.
Are utility bills included with rent?
Similarly to the first point, you will not be able to budget properly unless you know your monthly bill costs. Some people – usually students or those in large houseshares – will have the opportunity to have utility bills (water, electricity etc.) included with their rent, meaning that they do not have to contact individual companies themselves.
It also offers the peace of mind that somebody else is doing this paperwork for them. However, it always helps to be clear about these things, so ensure you have a detailed list of utilities.
Is there a holding deposit?
Holding deposits are sums of money that let a landlord know that you want to move into the property. Paying a holding deposit reserves the apartment for you and is usually taken off the first month’s rent.
Realising a holding deposit is required after setting your heart on a property is guaranteed to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to budgeting, so it is better to contact the landlord or letting agent before viewing the house or flat. That way, there will be no disappointment.
What are the amenities like in the area?
Nobody wants to walk miles to pick up a loaf of bread, so it is crucial to be aware of the essential shops nearby. Lots of blocks of flats are conveniently placed next to major supermarkets, while others are situated near small independent corner shops.
However, if this has been overlooked and the nearest shop is within driving distance – and you do not have a car – this could be massively inconvenient for you in the future. This also applies to veterinary clinics if you have a pet, GP surgeries, hospitals, post offices and venues for entertainment.
What kind of neighbours do I have?
Depending on the kind of lifestyle you lead, you may not want to move somewhere that comes with neighbours that will potentially cause you problems. For example, if you have work every morning, it would not be ideal to be situated near people that stay up all night with their music blaring.
On the other hand, if you have moved to a city to experience its nightlife, you do not want to be receiving complaints from elderly neighbours about you coming home too late. This can often be forgotten but can be the deciding factor on whether your tenancy is pleasant or not.
Are pets allowed?
Thanks to the Model Tenancy Agreement, announced by Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP in January 2021, landlords will no longer be able to issue blanket bans on pets by default.
With consent for pets now being the default position, it will be easier for potential renters to find a home for them and their furry friends.
However, landlords can object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason. Although tenants can challenge a refusal, it’s always a good idea to ask your landlord whether they allow pets before moving in, even if you’re only considering getting a pet at that stage.
Can I decorate, and to what extent?
Some lucky tenants will be faced with landlords that allow them to do whatever they like to a property, whether that refers to changing wallpaper, painting, or even hanging paintings up with nails.
However, more often than not, it will be stipulated in your contract that putting anything on the walls, even with command strips or blu tac, is not allowed.
While this may be irritating and means you will not be able to make your flat reflect your personality, it is important to bear in mind that paintwork could end up being damaged, leading to you having some of your deposit deducted at the end of your tenancy.
If your landlord says ‘decorating is fine’, always ensure that you have it in writing. This will avoid them potentially denying it when you move out and provide you with proof that you had permission.