9 things to ask when viewing a property
Will it come furnished?
Don’t assume that any furniture already in the property is included, it might belong to the existing tenant or the landlord might be intending to remove it.
If the property is empty but you’d like some furniture included, there’s no harm in asking the landlord/agent if they will buy you essentials such as a bed, sofa, dining table and chairs.
Are the white goods included?
By this we mean large kitchen appliances such as a washing machine, oven and fridge. They are usually included in rental properties, even those that are let unfurnished, but they aren’t always.
Again, if there aren’t any appliances included or you’d like an additional machine, such as a dishwasher or tumble dryer, it’s worth asking if these can be provided.
You should also verify that they are all in good working order; if not, you should ask them to be repaired before you move in.
Check too who will be responsible for maintaining the appliances as it might say in the tenancy agreement that it’s you, not the landlord.
How much are the bills?
Costs such as council tax, water rates and energy bills can add ££s a year to your living costs, so ask how much these are likely to be.
The landlord should be able to tell you the annual council tax charge and, unless the property has a water meter, they should also be able to tell you the annual water charge.
In London, the council tax charges vary enormously, even between neighbouring boroughs, so you could save ££s a year just by moving to a different street!
The property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) should give you an idea of how much the property will cost to heat, but ask to see recent energy bills. If the existing tenant is there when you look round the property, you can always ask them to dig out a bill, or ask the landlord for an estimate of the monthly cost.
Obviously, properties with double-glazed windows and modern boilers will be cheaper to heat, so check these out.
Can you redecorate?
If the property’s décor is shabby, you could always ask the landlord if they’re prepared to redecorate before you move in, but if you simply want to change the colour of the walls – for example, you might love the place but hate the powder pink bedroom walls! – then ask if it’s okay to repaint. The landlord might agree but ask you to return the décor to the original state when you leave.
You should also check if you can hang your own pictures or posters etc. If you do this, it’s best to use picture hanging strips, like these rather than nails or Blu-Tack, as these should cause less damage. However, you might be expected to repaint the walls when you leave if this causes shading, which often happens.
Similarly, ask if you want to put up bookshelves etc, otherwise you might have to remove them and fill in the holes when you leave.
Can you keep pets?
Don’t assume that if there’s a pet in the property when you view, you will be allowed to keep one too. There might well be a clause in your tenancy agreement stating you can’t keep a pet without the landlord’s permission, so it’s best to ask for this before you commit to the property.
If your landlord or agent says no, you could always offer to have a pet clause inserted in the contract, making you responsible for any damage caused and any extra cleaning required at the end of the tenancy to see if you can persuade them to change their mind.
Will the property be professionally cleaned?
Note that if the property is professionally cleaned before you move in, you will be expected to pay for it to be cleaned when you leave.
Will any damage be repaired?
If you spot any damage, ask for a commitment from the landlord that this will be repaired before you move in. Make sure you get this in writing. If the landlord doesn’t commit to carrying out repairs, we suggest you find another property.
Is there parking or somewhere to keep a bike?
You might need to apply for a parking permit, so find out how you do this and how much it will cost. If you have a bike, check where you’ll be allowed to store it.
How long is the contract?
Tenants with a standard Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (AST) are entitled to a minimum six-month term, but it can be less if both you and the landlord agree. If you or the landlord wants a longer contract, you should still ask for a break-clause at six months in case things don’t work out.
Remember that whatever you agree verbally during the viewing should be verified later in writing, before you sign the contract.