Looking For a Rental – A Beginners Guide



What should you look out for when viewing a Property for rent? Most of us can cope just fine when it comes to the aesthetic appeal of a place but what about the less glaringly obvious aspects such as security standards and safety issues? Below is a 12-point detailed guide to the various things you should keep in mind when you view a property for rent.

1. Before You View

If it’s possible, try to go to a property viewing with someone else even if it’s just you renting. If you are new to the area and don’t feel confident that you will fully understand all terms or phrases that may come up in conversation with the leasing agent, ask a friend or colleague to come with you. Not only is this safer and will help you avoid being caught out, but it also means a second opinion, and an extra pair of eyes to pick up on any flaws you may not have noticed. As an extra precaution, particularly if you’re renting from a private landlord rather than a leasing agency, tell a third party where and when you’re meeting, and when you expect to be home.

2. The Viewing Process: Take your Time

Don’t let anyone try to rush you through a viewing. In the current high-demand rental market. This is probably your only opportunity to judge the place, so take your time and ask any questions that spring to mind. It’s a good idea to be as prepared as possible before you view a property.

Draw up a check list to take along: this may save you from getting so carried away by the wow factor wet room that you forget to look at the wiring. Remember, when you view a rental property, you’re generally agreeing to take it “as seen” —meaning that the landlord or letting agent is under no obligation to change anything once the lease is signed.

So, beware: if you’re unsure about the heliotrope walls during an initial viewing, think carefully before agreeing to live with them for the next six months. More crucially, if you didn’t bother to test the water pressure or pay attention to the immediate vicinity, there’s not a lot you can do about it once you’ve signed on the dotted line.

3. The Local Area

  • Local Vibe: Try and show up slightly early to allow yourself a look around and feel for the neighborhood, and of the exterior of the property itself. Is the general area well-lit? Does it look like a well-populated and safe environment or would you feel isolated and vulnerable?
  • Local Amenities: How close is your nearest shop, park, bus stop, cash-point, garage etc, and, where relevant, are their opening times suitable?
  • Parking: If you’re a driver, how easy is it to park in the area? Are you likely to have to park far from your front door? Is it a safe place to leave a car?
  • Public Transport: How far is the nearest stop? Will it be a safe route to walk in the dark? How frequent and reliable is the service, is it easy to get to work or your college/university, does it operate in the evenings and at weekends? How much is a weekly ticket – have you factored the commuting cost into your monthly outgoings?

4. Exterior Matters – The Property

  • The Roof Over Your Head: Check the condition of guttering and roofing – as much as is possible short of turning up with a ladder. Are the gutters firmly attached? Can you spot any loose slates or tiles on the roof?
  • Doors and Drains: Look at the state of drainpipes, and the outside of the door and windows for an overall impression of building maintenance.
  • Peeling Paint? Avoid anywhere that needs a lot of repair work – this suggests an unreliable landlord.
  • Garden To Care For? Is the garden tidy and well-kept? Great, if it is – but who is responsible? If it’s you, are you capable of doing it? If it’s not you, is the cost included in your rent or will you be expected to pay extra to maintain it?
  • Landfill Site? Are there proper bins or is the entrance strewn with rubbish bags – not only is this unsightly but it can be a magnet for birds or cats to attack, depositing the contents all over your doorstep; worse still, it can attract vermin.
  • Desolation Row? Are the houses nearby in good repair? Avoid, if possible, moving next door to anywhere that’s covered in graffiti or has boarded-up windows.

5. Interior Issues: The Property’s Overall Condition

  • Rising Damp? Check for signs of damp in all the rooms – typical signs are a musty smell, loose wallpaper, flaking paint and mould spots.
  • Rat Trap? Look for any signs of infestation such as mice droppings, traps or poison baits – don’t forget to check for this in ground floor cupboards.
  • Flat Or Fridge? Is there central heating, and do all the radiators work? If the property doesn’t come with central heating is there an alternative source such as storage heaters/electric heating? Bear in mind this will probably be more expensive than gas central heating.
  • Rattle And Hum? Is there double glazing? If not, this may cause higher heating bills, and will also be a noise factor if the property is on a busy road. Similarly, enquire about roof insulation – without it, your heating bills will be higher.
  • Decent Décor? Are the general decorations – paint, wallpaper, carpets, floorboards – in a reasonable enough condition for you to live with? If not, would you be allowed to carry out any decorations?
  • Will Your Stuff Fit? Is there adequate storage space in the property? Does the kitchen have enough surface & storage space for your needs? Is there room in the bedroom for anything other than a bed, and if not, can you cope with this?

6. Fire Trap?

  • Smoke Alarms: Does the flat have smoke alarms? Can the landlord vouch that they are in proper working order (keeping the batteries charged will be your responsibility once renting, however).
  • Escape Routes: Do you have adequate escape routes if there is a fire? Do you feel confident that you could get out – from all floors of the property, if applicable – should there be a fire?
  • Fire Fighting: Are a fire extinguisher and fire blanket provided? Although not mandatory in private sector accommodation it would be a good indication of a conscientious landlord.

7. Security – Safe As Houses?

Does the building seem secure from the outside? It’s worth thinking how you’d get in if you’d left your keys inside – if you identify a window within easy reach inspect it to ensure it cannot be opened with a bit of force – if it’s easy for you, it’s easy for a burglar.

  • Alarmed? Does the property come with a burglar alarm – if it does, ask the letting agent to show you that it works. If not, are there any objections to you installing one?
  • Main Entrance: Is the front door solid enough? Does it have a door-chain? Would you feel secure once you’d locked it for the night? Have a look at the door frame around the lock, is it split or are there signs of the door having been forced open in the past?
  • Good Locks? Are there enough locks? Are they firm and in good condition? If it looks as if there are actually too many on a main door, enquire about it – this could be an indication of several attempted break-ins.
  • Secure Windows? Do the windows have locks, particularly on the ground floor? Are they secure and tight? Can you feel a breeze through them?
  • Outside Lighting: Is there adequate outside lighting? Would you feel secure getting from the front path to the inside of your home?

8. Electric Shocks: Wiring

  • Loose Wires? Is the wiring in good condition? Look out for any fraying or if it looks particularly old. Are there enough plug sockets for your needs or would you be running the risk of overloading the existing sockets?
  • Dodgy Plugs? Check that the plugs don’t overheat when switched on or don’t have yellowy stains.
  • Working Lights? Switch on all overhead lighting to check that it works.
  • Appliances Working? If appliances such as a fridge freezer or oven are included, check that they work.

9. Gas & Electricity

  • Properly Checked?
  • Gas Attack? Gas appliances can carry the risk of carbon monoxide – test for this by ensuring that flames burn blue rather than yellow or orange (except for gas fires which are designed to display these colours), and look out yellow or brown stains on or around appliances, or for a pilot light which blows out frequently, both of which can indicate a problem. Some landlords provide carbon monoxide detectors but this isn’t (yet) a legal requirement.

10. Bathroom Issues

  • Running Water? Run all the taps (this also applies to the kitchen), flush the toilet, and turn on the shower to check the water pressure is in good working order – you want a strong, steady flow of water – and check that there is hot water from the hot tap.
  • Down The Pan? Make sure the toilet doesn’t leak, and the bath and wash basins aren’t cracked.
  • Well Sealed? Check for clean and undamaged sealant around the bath or shower.
  • Bathroom Or Sauna? Is there a window or de-humidifier in the bathroom? If not, ventilation and damp may be an issue. If there’s a de-humidifier, turn the bathroom light on, the de-humidifier’s fan should start shortly afterwards.

11. Furnished Premises

  • What’s Included? If you are renting a furnished property, check exactly what items of furniture will be included.
  • Check The Condition: Make sure you try out the bed, the sofa, the chairs, and check any other substantial pieces that come with the flat – if anything is broken, wobbly, or stained, either ask for a replacement or have the extent of the damage written into your inventory, or you could find yourself paying for someone else’s carelessness.
  • Is the furniture fire retardant? This is a legal requirement of the Fire and Furniture Regulations 1988 and furnishings should be clearly labelled to show that they meet standards.
  • Pots And Pans: Some furnished flats provide crockery, cutlery, saucepans etc – again, check that this is in a good enough condition for you to use, and before you sign an inventory, ensure that the correct number of items are listed.

12. Making It A Home

  • Your Own Stuff? Can you put up your own pictures or bring in furniture of your own? If you have floorboards or laminate flooring, it may be worth buying some coasters to put under the bottoms of the legs on your dining table, sofa and even floor standing speakers, they often leave noticeable marks or gouges which you will have to repair when you leave.
  • Furry Friends? Are you allowed pets, big or small? Are you allowed to change any of the décor? Within reason ie no zebra-striped walls , for example, many landlords are happy for a tenant to do this as it can increase their chances of re-letting afterwards but you will need to seek permission first.
  • What’s Allowed? It may also be worth clarifying if there are any other no-nos that you should be aware of before making your decision – it’d be annoying to discover too late that your particular landlord had a ban on barbeques or an aversion to garden furniture.

Keep It Real

It’s important to be clear about exactly what is important to you, and to be sure your requirements are realistic. Figures taken from a recent survey of our tenants show that almost half (46%) viewed no more than three properties before choosing the one they currently live in, with a significant number (12%) choosing the first property they saw. These people were all clear about their priorities — be they location, parking, size of rooms or quality of fixtures and fittings. However, viewing figures tended to be higher, for example ten viewings or more, when people were looking for an unrealistic combination of features such as properties with high quality fixtures and fittings in good locations but for low rents.