10 Questions To Ask When Touring Your First Flat
When renting your first flat, especially as a student, there will definitely be things you don’t even know to check or be mindful of in the flat hunting process, which is where landlords and letting agencies can often take advantage of students. To make sure that your first flat is one that you actually want to be living in, and to protect yourself, these are 10 questions you need to ask when touring your first flat or apartment.
1. How much will we pay in bills?
Despite the high cost of rent, bills usually aren’t included in the set monthly rent you pay, and the price of bills can vary based on where you’re living and how many people you’re living with. If current tenants are showing you around a place during the flat hunting process, be sure to ask them how much they pay for bills and utilities, which can include water, gas, electricity, and wifi, and factor this into the rent price so you’ll know whether you can afford the place you’re interested in.
2. How are the neighbours?
When flat hunting in person, you’ll usually be able to get an idea of the neighbourhood the flat is in just from the drive or walk over to see it, including how residential or urban the area is, whether you’re near any shops or restaurants, and how far it is from your school or work. However, you won’t be able to know what the neighbours are like until you move in, so definitely ask the current tenants about this if they’re touring you around the place.
Some specific questions you can ask include whether it’s mostly student neighbours or families, if the other neighbours throw a lot of parties or make a loud noise, how friendly the neighbours are, and how they react when the current tenants have parties or people over.
3. Can we put things on the walls?
The answer to this honestly depends place to place; some flats will let you put nails in the wall and add decorations, while others refuse even the smallest piece of blu tack. If decorating your room or living space is important to you, be mindful of this while flat hunting and make sure to ask landlords and letting agencies about the details of what’s allowed, especially if the lease doesn’t specify.
You can also ask current tenants how strict the landlord is with things being put on the walls — the lease could say otherwise but the landlord may not care about wall decorations — but be careful about going down this route because you could still get in trouble for this even if past tenants didn’t.
4. Is the landlord reliable with maintenance repairs?
Depending on your financial situation, it is probably wiser to pay a bit extra for a place whose landlord is reliable about maintenance repairs than pay less and have to live with something broken all year. Student letting agencies are particularly infamous for being horrendous with maintenance repairs, so this is something you must ask current tenants about at every place you visit in the flat hunting process.
And, if you do get stuck with a place that isn’t reliable with maintenance repairs, ask the current tenants what never got fixed and be sure to have it dealt with in the first week of your move-in. Even if a letting agency or landlord isn’t reliable with repairs, they will usually be diligent about this in the first month of your tenancy so as to establish a good relationship with you and avoid you moving out in the first few weeks.
5. Are we likely to get the deposit back?
If you’ve never been flat hunting before, you’ll be surprised how strict your landlord will be about giving you the entire deposit back when you move out. Even if you were a superb tenant who left the flat better than you found it and never caused problems, the landlord will try to find any tiny scratch or mark and blame it on you in an attempt to keep your money.
This is an important question to ask to see how the landlord reacts: are they quick to answer and inform you that you’re likely to get the deposit back if you don’t cause any physical damage, or are they are shy about the subject and avoid answering you directly?
A quick note to mention if it is your first time with flat hunting is, when you do move into your flat, take pictures of every room, any speck of physical damage, and all the furniture that was there when you arrived, and ensure the photos are dated. Additionally, take dated notes of any appliances that did not work properly when you arrived. This will give you the best chances of getting your deposit back and protect you legally.
6. How is the water pressure?
Water pressure is something most people will forget about because, when you’re flat hunting, you’re more interested in looking around the place and checking if the beds are single or double, and rarely do you actually test all of the flat’s appliances. However, having low water pressure can make you miserable for the duration of your tenancy, and you don’t want to dread having a shower every morning in your new flat because the water pressure is dreadful.
Make sure you not only ask the current tenants about this when flat hunting but test it for yourself as well.
7. Will we have to set up our wifi?
It’s normal and quite justified to assume that your wifi will already be set up for you on arrival and included in your bills, especially for what you’re paying in rent and utilities, but for many flats (especially student flats), this isn’t the case, and you’ll be stuck without wifi upon move-in and needing to set it all up and pay for it yourself.
Definitely clarify whether this is the case with each place you visit while flat hunting, whether you’re asking the current tenants or the landlord, and if you do have to set it up yourself, prepare this early so you won’t be without wifi for too long upon moving in.
8. What’s included?
In terms of the flat itself, you’ll want to be aware whether the places you’re visiting while flat hunting is furnished or unfurnished, and whether anything comes with it, like silverware or pots and pans. Before you set out to see flats, double check the situation on whether it’s furnished, as there’s virtually no point in touring a flat without furniture if you’re on a student budget and don’t have furniture already, and vice versa.
Additionally, if you’re interested in a flat while you’re touring it, ask about whether certain things will come included so you know what to buy or pack and what you’ll already have upon move-in.
9. How much notice will we receive about inspections?
Most letting agencies and landlords are required to give you at least a 24-hour notice before they stop by to inspect your property or do repairs, but others won’t have the same regulations in place. When flat hunting, ask current tenants about their experience with inspections and the notice that the landlord gives, and also ask the landlord about their policy on this.
This information is also usually available in your lease, so be sure to read this thoroughly when signing for any flat.
10. What are the lease terms?
Most of these tips have mentioned the terms of your lease, and for good reason: this is the most important step of the entire flat hunting process because it will determine what you are legally responsible for throughout your tenancy and what’s prohibited. Definitely read this all the way through, and even ask your parents or any lawyers you know to read it for you as well.
Some things to look out for in a lease agreement are whether pets are allowed, when rent is due and how much it is, whether you can have people stay over, and the other points mentioned in this article.
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