Friday, 24 October 2014
5 questions you should ask when viewing a rented apartment!
Viewing rental properties isn't easy going, especially when your a first time renter with little to no clue about what kind of questions you should be asking when you attend a viewing. I've been there, stood in front of the letting agent, nodding like a dog in the back of a car, silent, only realizing after the viewing (which are over before you know it!) finding my voice and wishing I'd asked more questions! And when you're part of a group viewing? You've got to fight just to be heard!
The more places you get to see, the more questions you end up having, but are you asking the right questions? I'm no expert that's for sure, but here are just 5 questions I asked that really helped me make the final decision when it came to choosing the right place for us.
What do you know about the building?
If you're looking at living in the city center, especially with a University nearby, this is a pretty important question if you care about what kind of neighbors you could potentially have. Most apartment blocks are not just private residents. I found most buildings had holiday lets (also known as serviced apartments), offices and student lettings. Some buildings will contain serviced apartments to one floor, but others, we found, had them mixed in among the private residents. Chances are during the week, this wouldn't matter, but come Friday and into the weekend, when stag parties and visitors descend upon the city, you might find your temporary neighbors less than agreeable! Buildings with offices are a great choice as most offices will close up by 5pm, and nobody will be around over the weekend. Also, now is the time to ask about concierge, does your building have one? Is there a caretaker? Are there any restrictions, e.g pets, smoking, visitors etc.
What's included in my rent?
Does your rent include any or all bills? (e.g water, electricity). What about a service charge? This is more common in buildings with a concierge. Service charges cover things like the concierge and building maintenance. If that;s not included in your rent, find out how much a month you will be required to pay, it could push the place out of your price range. Now would also be a good time to ask about council tax, what band does the building come under? You'll pay council tax 10 out of 12 months, so you need to factor this into what you can afford.
You should also ask if there is any wiggle room on the rent, i.e, will the landlord take a lower monthly amount in return for a longer tenancy? Our landlord accepted a lower offer than advertised in agreement for taking on a tenancy twice as long as was originally advertised. Note, if more than one party is interested in taking on the property, you will effectively enter a bidding war, where all parties involved will offer various rents and lengths of tenancy, so you could end up paying more than was originally advertised if you go up against others.
What's included in the accommodation?
If you're looking at furnished accommodation, find out what you get. Chances are the flat you are looking at is currently being lived in, so not everything you see might belong to the land lord. Most furnished placed will include white goods; fridge, freezer, cooker, washing machine, and your basic furnishings; bed, wardrobe, couches, etc. You might get the tv stand but you probably won't get the swanky 42" plasma you saw at the viewing. If you already have a tv to bring along, if not, then there's one more thing you'll need to budget for. If you have furniture of your own, you will want to find out if the land lord is happy to remove/store any of the current furniture to make way for your own. And if you don't like how the place is furnished? Ask what you're allowed to remove. For example, we wanted our own mattress in the bedroom, but there was already one there. We asked if it would be possible to have it removed - they gave us permission to get rid of it but we had to do so ourselves. If you do get rid of any of the furnishings, you might have to replace them before you leave or risk loosing money from your deposit.
During the viewing, if the walls look a little shabby or the carpet worn down, mention it to the letting agent. They will pass this information onto the land lord. In our case, the carpets were replaced for us. We have also been told we are more than welcome to paint the walls if we wish, as long as we keep it to neutral colours. So ask, you never know.
What's the deposit?
Generally, most places will ask for a month and a halfs rent as the deposit, then an additional months rent up front. You need to know before you put an offer in for the property, as you could end up in a sticky financial situation if you don't have the money ready. You also need to find out what fees the letting agent charges as you will be required to pay that upfront and it is generally non-refundable. Fees cover the cost of the agency doing background and credit checks on you. Most agency's will charge a set amount for one person, then a lesser amount for each additional occupant.
Ask your letting agency if the deposit goes into a tenancy deposit scheme. When your tenancy comes to an end, if the landlord or letting agent raises any disputes, e.g they claim you have damaged the property or not fulfilled your tenancy agreement in any way, then you could risk loosing part, or all, of your deposit. The evidence is reviewed by an external, impartial body, such as the TDS, who will decide how, if required, the deposit is split between yourself, the landlord and the letting agency.
What can you tell me about the utilities?
You need to know if your water and electricity are run on top up cards, or through a meter. Most find that a meter system is cheaper in the long run. You can also ask who your providers are, e.g EDF for your electricity, United Utilities for your water. Most people stick with whoever was in place when they moved in, but if you're looking to shop around, you will have to find out if you're allowed to pick and choose your own providers. Now would be a great time to ask about the likes of internet and digital tv providers if those are things that are important to you. There's no point buying yourself a sky package if it turns out the building is not equipped for the installation!
Got anything to add that might help others out when viewing rental properties? Let me know in the comments below! I'd also love to know if any of this has helped you out at all! I know when I was viewing places, I was completely overwhelmed and if it hadn't have been for others who had gone through it all before helping me out, well, I'd still probably be bumbling my way through viewings!
Until next time,