Time is ticking and student houses are being snapped up left right and now! It’s easy to get caught up in the property panic and dive headfirst into one.
But did you check for dripping taps? And now you think about it, spot some mysterious black spots on the bedroom wall?
There are some key things to be on the lookout for when viewing properties before you even consider your utility bills – things that could seriously plague your stay later on! So before agreeing to anything, follow this checklist so you know the warning signs to look out for and the questions to ask.
What to look for – the checklist
Damp and mould
A common complaint amongst students when renting. Damp and mould not only looks and smells seriously horrid! But it’s also really bad for your health, especially if you have respiratory problems like asthma or hay fever. So it’s really important to know what you’re looking for.
These are the warning signs:
• A damp, musty smell.
• Black spots or a grey/wet discolouration on walls (especially around windows, corners, ceilings and bathrooms – be sure to check behind furniture like wardrobes too!)
• Peeling or bubbling wallpaper.
Does the thought of things that go squeak in the night give you the shudders? Mice, rats, slugs and cockroaches are all common pests that can plague student digs. Make sure you’re on the lookout for some tell-tale signs when viewing.
These are the warning signs:
• Small, dark droppings.
• Unpleasant smells like urine.
• Chewed carpets and furniture.
• Traps – usually found in cupboards, behind furniture/bins and outside around the property.
• Slime trails on surfaces, floors and walls.
Unfortunately, student areas can be hotspots for crime, so it’s important to check and ask the landlord or letting agent the following questions:
• If there’s a burglar alarm system fitted.
• If there are secure locks on all the external doors.
• What the area is like and if there have been previous break-ins before.
If you’re still worried about security, ask if it’s possible to improve this through new locks and fittings – just like you, landlords and letting agents really don’t want any break-ins either!
Is there anything worse than waking up to a dribbly shower? Be sure to give it a quick blast to check the water pressure (and temperature) along with any taps – Don’t forget to give the toilet a quick little flush too!
Notice a leaky tap or showerhead? Raise this with the landlord or letting agency. Drips could result in a hefty water bill further down the line!
Make sure your potential house is kitted out with fire alarms. It’s super important to ensure they are fitted correctly and working. Ask your landlord or letting agent to test them for you if you’re unsure.
What to do if you find any of the above?
If you spot any of the things listed above, be sure to flag them up with your landlord or letting agent. It’s their responsibility to ensure the property is safe and fit to let before you move in. If you really love the house, make sure they can guarantee that any problems will be fixed in writing before an agreement is made. If they can’t, it may be best to look elsewhere.
Heating and insulation
No one wants to find out that they’re renting an igloo! A cold draughty house isn’t a fun place to live and could potentially cost you a bomb in energy bills.
It can be hard to detect – especially when viewing in warmer months – but there are a few things you can look out for that will help:
• Double glazed windows.
• A good heating system and a well-maintained boiler (ask when it was last serviced).
• Carpeted floors – no draughty floorboards!
• Gaps around doors.
If your house does turn out to be a total ice box during winter, freeze not! We have a few tips and tricks here (link to Saving energy for newbies blog) to help you keep that heating bill down and you warm and cosy.
Fittings and furniture
Check out appliances and furniture to see if it’s all in working order. Also, make sure you ask what’s included on the inventory list so you know what you might need to purchase prior to moving in and account for potential costs.
On another note, check that there’s enough appliances and furniture to cater for all housemates. One loo and 6 people? Arguments waiting to happen!
Bad phone signal
Seriously, would anything suck more? Be sure to walk around with your phone in hand to pick up any bad spots. Get your other housemates to do the same so you can see how different providers fair – some may be worse than others!
Are bills such as gas, electricity, water and broadband included in the rent? If not, don’t worry, this is pretty common and doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, see how Glide can help you, click here to find out how.
Houses next door to uni may be a little pricy, so it’s a good idea to look a little further out if you want more for your money. Just make sure you choose houses that are next to decent transport links, such as buses and trains. It’s also worth checking out the local amenities such as shops, newsagents and pubs!
Things to ask
Happy that you’ve checked everything off the list, and it’s all looking great? Now it’s time for a few questions!
Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme
Before handing over large sums for fees and deposits, be wary about how your cash will be handled.
The Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme protects your money and makes it easier
to get back at the end of your tenancy. If your house is privately rented accommodation (most will be), the landlord must use this scheme.
As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to ask the property owner for a copy of the inventory list so you don’t have to remember what is and isn’t included.
The tenancy agreement
Ask for a sample of the tenancy agreement form. As you know, all things important come in small print! Comb through it with your housemates and be sure to understand what you’ll be agreeing to. Most of the fine print will be standard clauses, but there may be a few extras lurking specific to that landlord that you might regret missing!
Chat to the current tenants
Are the current tenants in? Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about the property. You’ll get some pretty honest feedback that could help you decide whether it’s the house of your dreams or nightmares!
When you feel the pressure of securing a house, just remember to take a step back to think it through properly. Not rushing into a property could save you a lot of stress and hassle down the line. Happy house hunting!