Key questions to ask an agent when looking for a home to rent

Are you looking for your next home to rent? Are you short of time but need to move fast? OnTheMarket.com offers top tips on what to think about.

It’s important to ask your estate or letting agent the right questions when you search for a property to rent. “Competition can be fierce and time tight in the rental sector, so it is crucial to have your finances in order and be able to move quickly,” says Kate Eales, Head of National Lettings at Strutt & Parker. “It is also a good idea to have a wish-list of how many bedrooms you need, which areas are acceptable, what your transport needs will be, etc.”

Here are top tips for viewing a rental property and key questions to ask an agent before signing a rental contract:

1. Obviously, every tenant will agree a monthly rental cost but it’s important to confirm what is included, e.g. any bills. “Don’t forget that landlords will want evidence of your current earnings, as well as references from former landlords,” says Summer Swailes of Breckon & Breckon in Summertown, Oxford. “Tenants should also keep an eye out for hidden extras such as service charges.”

2. How much of a deposit will you have to pay? And which deposit protection scheme does the landlord use? Landlords are now legally required to safeguard their tenants’ deposits with one of three government backed protection schemes.

3. Are there any restrictive clauses in the rental contract? Can you, for example, sub-let the property? Redecorate one of the bedrooms if you want to make the property feel more homely? Keep a cat? “It is quite common for landlords to say yes to a cat, but then ask for a slightly larger deposit,” adds Summer Swailes of Breckon & Breckon.

4. How is the property heated? What are your monthly gas and electricity bills likely to be? Unless it is a new-build, it is worth asking for an indication of the potential bills.

5. Does the property feel secure? Are there strong locks on the doors and windows? This is likely to affect how much it will cost you for contents insurance to cover your possessions.

6. What is the condition of the property? Odd blemishes here and there need not be a problem but they should be identified before you move in or the tenant might be held responsible for them later.

7. Who is responsible for managing the property? “You need to ask whether it is the landlord or a professional managing agent,” says Kate Eales of Strutt & Parker. “Who will be your point of contact if there is a problem? Is there an out-of-hours number you can ring if the boiler packs up or the plumbing needs urgent attention?”

8. Is there enough storage space for your needs? It is easy to miss this point when whizzing around a property on a viewing but it can be critical to its viability as a home.

9. Does the property have broadband or wi-fi? You should not just assume that a well-appointed property will also have superfast broadband.

10. If the property has a garden, who is responsible for maintaining it? This is particularly pertinent in properties with shared gardens.

More often than not, you will get the answers you need to help you make the right decision. The key is to ask the questions and visit the property both during the day and at night. As with all potential moves, it pays to do your homework and to take advantage of the local expertise of professional estate and letting agents.

Content provided by OnTheMarket.com is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.

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