There are key things to watch out for when viewing or considering a property to rent –
Regulations on the standards of rented housing are improving, but recent accommodation survey revealed 35% of students suffer from severe damp and black mould. Don’t be fooled into thinking damp just looks a bit gross – it also smells gross, can ruin your clothes and furnishings, and can cause serious health problems (especially if you suffer from hayfever, asthma or other conditions which can affect your breathing). When viewing a house, check all walls and ceilings – particularly around windows, corners and behind wardrobes. Look out for flaking paint or wallpaper, black mould patches and a musky smell, as these are all tell-tale signs, too.
Infestations are another big problem in student houses. Common pests include mice, slugs, fruit flies, pigeons, cockroaches and sometimes even rats! To be fair, this is often due to previous tenants leaving food and overflowing bins lying around. Don’t be afraid to check kitchen cupboards, work surfaces and around bins. Look for traps, droppings and slug trails.
The location of the property
We all know how important location is when choosing where to live (the less time it takes you to roll out of bed and get to your lectures, the better, right?). If a house near university is a little too pricey, it’s important to figure out close properties with decent transport links to your university or college. But proximity to university (or a way to get to university ) isn’t the only thing to consider when looking at locations. On your journey to the viewing, keep an eye out for local amenities like newsagents, supermarkets, doctors and, of course, pubs.
Security and safety
Security is something that every student should take seriously when viewing a property. Ask if there’s a burglar alarm system (bonus!) and check that the doors are adequately secured – particularly that the main door to the building has secured entry. Also, remember to check that the property has working fire alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets.
Electric appliances and white goods
Don’t be afraid to check if appliances are adequate and in working order. Be clear on what’s included in the tenancy agreement and inventory. It’s also worth making sure that there are enough appliances to cater for the whole group. For example, if you’re moving in as a group of six and there’s only one fridge-freezer, this probably won’t work.
The water supply
When there’s a whole group of students using the bathroom several times a day, poor water pressure does not make for a happy household! When viewing, give the taps a quick turn to make sure there’s more than a dribble. You might also want to check the toilet flush to make sure it’s working as it should.
Furnishings and fittings
As mentioned above, make sure you have a clear idea of what’s included in the inventory and what’s not. It’s also worth noting that some estate agents recommend that landlords letting to students should provide each tenant with a suitable desk and chair. If possible, you should also check mattresses for broken springs as these can become dangerous and uncomfortable over time.
Check that the house is well-insulated
Everyone knows that energy bills are one of the biggest costs as a student (if you don’t have them included in your rent). Making sure that the house is well-insulated could make a difference of £100s in bills throughout the year. Your main concerns should be double-glazed windows, secure doors, and a good heating system.
Resist freebies and gimmicks
Some landlords will offer ‘freebies’, such as a massive TV or no utility bills for the year in order to draw you in. Be cautious of these kinds of gestures, as despite seeming like amazing deals, the landlord could simply using these extra frills as an excuse to rent the property at a higher price.
Talk to the current tenants
Nobody has a better idea of what a house is like to live in than its current tenants. They’re likely to offer an unbiased and realistic account, as they’ve got nothing to gain (or lose) by telling you any different. Speaking to the previous tenants after moving in, chatting with them beforehand could save you a lot of stress further down the line.