You should have all of your bases covered when renting a property in London. Whether you're moving to the city for the first time, or going from one home in the capital to another, there are a set of questions you should ask the letting agent or landlord.
There is a stigma that goes with renting. Because you're not buying a home, some people think renters view properties as simply 'somewhere to live in the short term’. But in London's renters' market, tenancies are lasting for at least two years on average, with some staying for as long as five years.
Just like buying a home, renting is an emotional commitment. It's entirely understandable that you might not think practically and easily find yourself swayed by an instant connection with the property. Looking at the long-term picture is always more beneficial, however.
We're here to provide you with a checklist of questions so you can make informed decisions. You can move into your property with complete peace of mind, ready to embark on a new adventure.
Here are the essential questions to ask before viewing a London rental property.
Pay the cost to be the boss
Nine times out of 10 the rental price features in the listing information. Yet it’s still worth having a conversation about the cost with the agent or landlord. Is the listed rent correct? Will the landlord negotiate on the price? How much is the deposit? These are all vital details that you need to know.
You might find that the landlord is willing to accept a lower offer. But unless you ask the question; you won’t know. There are also some occasions where the asking price has dropped between the time you booked the viewing and turned up to see the property.
The agent should tell you if the price has reduced, but it’s always worth double checking all of the info. The last thing you want to be unsure on is the rental price.
All the furniture
Does the property you're viewing come furnished or unfurnished? Sometimes rental homes are advertised on property listings with lots of lovely furniture, yet when you turn up for the viewing you find that it's empty.
The side of the coin is you not wanting some of the furniture that is advertised with the property. Choosing what you do and don't want to remain in your potential new home isn't usually a problem. It's vital that you get any requests to add or remove furniture written into the tenancy agreement. That way you have an agreement in writing with the landlord.
Previous tenant questions
If you're about to move into a property that is currently tenanted, it's worth asking why those tenants are moving out. More often that not, their reasons for leaving are normal enough - from expanding families to moving because of a new job.
It's always good to double check their reasons for leaving, however. You don't want to find out that the previous tenants left because of problems with neighbours, the area is noisy, or another reason that is going to impact your stay in the new property.
Talking of neighbours: it can be hard to find out who your neighbours are and what they're like on a 15 minute viewing. If, however, you can get some info about who you will live next door to, it can help to make a decision about taking the property.
You won't need to worry about this section in the future, after the recent announcement that lettings fees for tenants will be banned. For now, though, those who rent a property through an agent are liable to pay fees.
Not all letting agents display their fees on the listing page. Which is why it’s vital that you ask the right questions to the agent you’re dealing with, so they can give you a clear breakdown of all up-front costs. How much is the admin fee, what is the holding deposit price and are there any extra costs that aren’t transparent.
town home red
Landlords are gradually easing towards the idea of giving their tenants more freedom when it comes to decorating a rental property. It’s still essential that you ask about what you can and can’t do before moving, however. Establish your decorating flexibility beforehand to avoid any disappointment.
Perhaps you want to put some pictures on the wall or maybe even give one of the rooms a different colour of paint. Ask your agent (or landlord if you have direct access at that stage) to find out what they’re happy with you changing.
You might even be pleasantly surprised with the answer. Many landlords have a, ‘as long as you leave it looking the same as when you first moved in when you leave’ mentality.
By law, landlords must conduct safety tests when a new tenant moves into a property. This includes checking that both gas and electric work correctly and making sure smoke alarms also work. Despite these factors being a rather big deal, they often act as an afterthought for many tenants.
Before you move into a property, ask about the safety measures. It’s also worth enquiring about the electricity rating so you have a better idea about potential costs of future utility bills. If it's a houseshare, check if utilities are separate from rent or if they're together.
Sometimes the gas and electric details are included in the listing information, but it’s always worth double checking when you view a potential new home for the first time. You can even do postcodes searches on properties to check its EPC online.
Sign on the dotted line
So, you’ve found your dream rental. Now it comes to the contract. The last thing you want to do is sign something that you don’t fully understand. You could be in for a nasty surprise at a later date. Make sure that you are fully aware of what each point of the tenancy agreement means.
If there is anything that you’re not sure about, ask the agent. It’s also worth having a third party look over the details to make sure everything is in order. Enquire about break clauses, as well as break clause lengths.
Who, where, and how?
Ask about the landlord on your viewing. Who is he/she and what do they do? Do they have a collection of properties, or is the one you're viewing their only one? It's good to know where they live. Will they be local or do they live far away, perhaps even abroad?
A local landlord may be more inclined to directly deal with any issues in the property, while a landlord based abroad will probably use some form of managing agent. It's also good to know a bit about the person who owns the home you're living in.
Get to fixin’
Fixing a broken boiler or faulty electrics are often the landlord's responsibility. Still, it’s good practice to know what they will and won’t cover if something breaks down. Ask the agent questions to make it clear which items fall under the landlord’s responsibility, as well as what you will be liable to fix.
Also, check who is your go-to contact for repairs. Sometimes the landlords directly take care of problems. Other times the property might be managed by the agent, or there is a managing agent for the building. It's always good to find out before hand who is responsible for managing a property and who your direct point of contact is.
Lets with pets
If you own a pet, it’s vital that you find a landlord who is happy to allow animals. Even if you don’t currently have a pet, there may come a time during your tenancy where you want to welcome a furry friend into your home.
There is plenty of research that you can do before moving into a new home, but it’s always worth having the conversation with an agent. Ask whether pets are allowed in the property. It might even be a good idea to offer the landlord the chance to meet little Rex or Rover. That way, they might feel more comfortable with them living in the property.
If the landlord does allow pets, you will probably have to pay a higher deposit. It's standard practice to pay more, but it’s worth checking how much more you will have to pay.
Sharing is caring
It may be that you’re taking a room in a flatshare, rather than moving into an entire home. If that’s the case, sometimes one of the sharers will be the one who shows you around the property. Ask them the same questions that you’d ask an agent.
If, however, you’re all moving together, the best thing to do is make sure that everyone is listed as a tenant. It’s possible to rent properties but only be listed as an occupant. The tenant is liable for the rent, and if you’re the sole tenant with an occupancy of four, that means you’re culpable if the rent is late from people other than yourself.
Ask to have all names included on the tenancy so there are no occupants. That way everyone is directly responsible for their own rent.
My home is your home
Occasionally, you might want to have friends and family come and stay with your for an extended period. Most rental contracts allow for this kind of flexibility and state a maximum stay length for guests.
It’s still worth asking questions around guest allowances with the agent, though. This is especially important if you have relatives that live far away and plan to have family staying with you for longer than a few weeks.
Sure, you might think the landlord won’t find out, but that’s a risky strategy to take. Any guests staying longer than the permitted amount of time would break the tenancy agreement and potentially leave you in a vulnerable situation.
London’s in-demand rental scene can often feel like the agents and landlords hold all the cards. That’s not the case, however. The tenant has power and rights.
You’re going to be the one living in the home, and no one is doing you any favours - it’s a service. And as a service, you deserve a high-end experience as a customer, whether you’re the customer to the agent or the landlord.
Hopefully, with our extensive guide, you will be fully equipped with the questions that you need to get the right answers and help you feel ready to move into your new home.
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Main image credit: http://browntape.com/