I first moved out at the age of 18 to rent a house in York. Since then, I have lived in 3 student houses when I was at uni in Leeds and have rented a room in someone’s home as well as renting with my boyfriend. I’ve lived in a total of 8 rented properties over 10 years before Dave and I bought into the wood. I’ve learnt through experience what to look for in a rental property and what to do to ensure I have a comfortable stay and an easy exit when the time comes to move.
These are my tips and recommendations for what to do and what not to do when renting a room or house.
Decide whether to rent privately or through an agent
There are pros and cons to both. Renting privately often comes with more flexibility to the rent cost and contract terms. Dealing directly with the person who owns the house means you can negotiate more easily than you can with an agent acting for a property owner.On the other hand, agents are usually responsible for the maintenance of the property, so any issues are dealt with quickly. If your landlord is far away or can’t afford to fix the issue, then you can be left with a broken boiler, a leaky tap or worse, for days. If you choose to rent privately, ask your landlord whether they have landlord insurance so you have peace of mind that they are able to maintain the property while you are there.
Is your contract an individual contract or a joint contract?
Understanding the difference between the two types of contract are really important when choosing to rent a house with others. If you and your housemates share a joint contract, you are jointly responsible for the rent. If one of you moves out, the rest of you could forfeit their rent costs while their room is uninhabited. This situation can turn nasty if the person who leaves the property stops paying their rent and doesn’t find a replacement for their room. An individual contact is better; however, they are less used by letters.
Check that the shower works well
When you view a property, always test the shower to make sure it is powerful and the water gets hot. Trust me; a shower that dribbles is not worth living with.
Ask the current tenants for information
If you have the opportunity to speak to the current tenants of the house, ask them about their experience. For example:
Was their landlord efficient and reasonable?
Had they had any issues?
How much have their electricity bills being coming to?
Are there any ‘quirks’ about the property you should be aware of?
What are the neighbours like?
Check the council tax band for the house
Unless you are a full time student or receive support from the government you will have to pay for council tax. Lots of people I know have naively overlooked the cost of the council tax before signing for a property. Council tax is structured in bands A to H. You can find out whether you are exempt from council tax here.
Check the property can get a phone line
We made this mistake in our last rented house. We moved into a small annex on the ground of a beautiful home in the countryside. It was perfect at the time and we were thrilled to have found exactly what we were looking for. It wasn’t until we tried to have broadband installed that we discovered the phone lines leading to the annex from the main cables were broken. After months of being messed around by BT and several days taken off work, we were defeated. BT were unbelievably crap at organising anything so we gave up. For 9 months we lived without broadband!
Take photos of every room BEFORE you fill it with your belongings
This means you have evidence of any imperfections and issues you can refer to when you are having your property inspected before your bond is returned
The company that we rented my first student house from successfully retained our bond based on issues they found with the house that were there when we had moved in. We were truly taken for a ride by the company who clearly knew about all the issue prior to use moving in. We even reported the issue over the phone in the time we were living in the house However, there was no hard evidence we could provide so they won.
Introduce yourself to the neighbours
Hitting it off on the right foot with your neighbours is really important. You don’t want to first encounter them when they come round to complain about the noise levels of your party. Knock on their door and introduce yourself within the first few days of moving in. It’s also good to know your neighbours are looking at for you and that you feel safe asking them to accept your parcel form Amazon while you are out.
Clean your house thoroughly when you move out
If you leave the house unclean you will mostly likely be charged by the landlord or agent to clean the property and this usually gets deducted from your bond. Give the house a thorough clean from top to bottom before handing your keys back.
Tell your utility providers you have moved out
You must tell all your utility providers, including the council tax department, the day you are moving out of the property to ensure you don’t get charged after that time. Right down who you spoke to and the time of the call as evidence. From my experience, you will need it!
I hope you find these tips useful. I certainly wish I knew all of these things all those years ago before information on the internet was so easily accessible! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I will help you ask much as I can.
This post was written in partnership with Homelet and all words and thoughts are my own.
Thanks to Jessica Patterson for the feature image.