Are you buying? Goto your Buyers Viewing Checklist here
Renters begin here:
* Write down your personal list of requirements so that you can check them off as you walk around (for example: storage space, double bedrooms, natural light in the bathroom, car parking space). It’s easy to forget what you need in a home when you are viewing several properties in a rush – a check list is best.
* Make a note of the size of your rooms at home and grab a tape measure for your viewing. As many rental properties don’t have floorplans, you might think a room is smaller than it is. Get out the tape measure, do a quick check on the room size and compare to the notes you have. Especially when rooms are different shapes to those you currently have, they can seem smaller than they actually are.
* Write a list of dimensions of key furniture you wish to put in your new home, if you are seeking an unfurnished property: Sofa, Dining table, Bed, Wardrobe. When you are looking at a room, measuring how these items fit in gives you a good sense of proportion and space. This avoids you being tricked into thinking a room is large just because it is very bright, or square in shape, without any furniture. Remember to take a measuring tape!
Should you be looking for a furnished property, still take along measurements of furniture in your current home. Why? Well if the wardrobe is smaller at the new property – will all your clothes fit? If the sofa isn’t as wide, will it be as comfortable? We like familiarity and we compare to what we have – don’t move in and then find out all the furniture in your new rental is smaller (a common trick to make homes look bigger).
* Viewing kit: Tape measure, notebook (good for sketching floorplans aswell as notes). Digital camera, or camera phone. Torch.
Below are 2 checklists for viewings. A short list for the first viewing and a more comprehensive list for your second viewing. This one is important if you think you will make an offer on the property. Although you don’t have to worry about the same things you would if buying a property, if you rent a property with alot of problems, you’re unlikely to get out of the contract before your break clause, so better to be confident you have made all the right checks in advance of moving in.
Questions to the Landlord or Letting Agent
Should you encounter the current tenant while viewing – ask them everything you can – as they’re likely to be more honest.
Why are they moving? What is good about the property? What is bad about it? Is there alot of noise from neighbours, or above? Does the street get noisy at certain times of the day? Can they recommend their cleaner to you? Just fire off lots of questions!
Blocks of flats – is there a porter? If so, are they on duty just in the day or can you call them 24 hours (some live in the block). Do they help with accepting deliveries, small maintenance (blocked drains, sticking taps) or only look after common parts?
Ask if there have been any issues with security, neighbours, noise or other disturbances. Be aware landlords and agents may not tell the truth, or even know – best to ask the tenant if they are available.
Enquire as to which furniture, fittings and appliances will be left behind and which belong to the current tenant. It may seem as if the microwave is part of the kitchen, or a rug part of the lounge furnishings, yet they might belong to the tenant. On the other hand, even if the property is described as unfurnished, sometimes a large piece of furniture (wardrobes) is included.
Enquire as to service charges, ground rent and council tax.
Which bills are included in the rent – if any. Water, gas, electric? Service charges and ground rent should never be charged to a tenant – always paid by the landlord, as are any maintenance fees, for the house, garden, flat or common parts.
Is heating or hot water from a communal system (blocks of flats). If so, ask if water is hot all the time. Does hot water run out at any time? Is heating available all year round, or is it only turned on at the mains in certain months?
How is the property heated (gas central heating, electric storage heaters, air heating system). Storage heaters can provide poor warmth in the winter.
Utility bills. Want to understand how much utility bills could be? Ask the tenant what their gas, electric and water bills are like. Everyone lives differently, so you can only take this as a guide.
Does the property have single or double glazing? Heating bills will be very different according to which. If you are sharing a house and intend to use the dining room as an extra bedroom beware – if there are single glazed doors into the garden, the room will be very cold at night.
Is there cavity wall insulation or loft insulation (for houses or top floor flats with pitched roofs). If so your heating bills will be much lower. If not, would the landlord consider adding insulation into the loft space?
Flats – basement flats will be much colder in winter than other levels. Ground floor is next coolest. First floor flats and above benefit from the rising heat of flats below – it makes a big difference. On the flipside, you’ll get more space in a basement flat. Just check that you are ok with lower levels of light.
Basement flats – check light levels, security and damp (smell) – beware air freshner etc. can make clothes in wardrobes go musty and hard to shift smell out of bathrooms
Houses – is any part of the front or back garden (including driveway) shared with neighbouring properties.
Building work – is anything planned on the property or neighbouring properties. Sometimes landlords, especially large estates (Portman, Grosvenor) do regular maintenance works to the outside of properties. This might mean scaffolding covering your windows, balcony or terrace in the summer months. Landlords and agents should notify you about works nearby if you ask – should next door be about to add a basement or renovate, the noise and disruption could last for months. Tenants are good to ask as they may have received notice for works on the building or nearby. Also look for letters posted on lamp posts or doors of local properties which may be planning notices from the council. It’s wise to have a clause added to your contract which reduces your rent for any period of work on the property or neighbouring properties which disturbs your quiet enjoyment of the home.
Better is to look at (or ask about) the elements that increase or reduce bills: Double glazing or single glazing? Sash windows in particular can leak alot of heat. Insulation in the walls and roofspace? Lots of halogen lights will drive up your electricity bill, whereas lots of LED lights (mandatory in newer builds) reduce electricity bills. Electric storage heaters are expensive, as is electric underfloor heating.
Gas fired central heating or underfloor heating is much cheaper. Basement flats will be cold in winter and need more heating. If you have flats below you then their heat will rise and heat your flat for free! Terraced houses tend to be warmer than semi-detached or detached houses in winter.
Finally, ask why the tenant is leaving. If it sounds suspicious, probe further.
Ask the agent or landlord how many viewers have been to see the property and how recently. Also ask if any offers were turned down (for example just below the asking rent). If the property is empy
Storage space. Is there enough space to store all your clothes and junk, or to install cupboards and wardrobes for this. This should include a storage cupboard for the ironing board and hoover. Space for winter coats. Shoe storage near the entrance door. Storage space for prams, bikes and kids toys.
Kitchen – is there a full size fridge freezer or just a small half unit? Is there a dishwasher and microwave? Is cupboard space sufficient? Be aware of a boiler hiding in a cupboard.
Is there a washing machine (and a dryer if you need one)?
Lounge – can you fit enough seats (sofas, chairs) and a dining table if there isn’t a separate dining room. Will this leave enough space for a bookshelf or an area for children to play? Should the property already be furnished, is anything missing that you would need – bookshelf, table, desk – is there enough space to add them?
How does the layout feel? Is the kitchen too far away from the dining room or lounge? Is the bathroom next to the bedrooms?
Bedrooms – is there space for the size of bed you have or want (double beds vary from 140cm to 180cm in width) and enough wardrobes and drawers for your clothes?
Bathroom – how much storage space is there? Is there a power shower. If there is and it uses a pump, turn the pump on and turn the shower on – will it make too much noise early in the morning or late at night when others are sleeping (the pump is usually near the water tank so the noise will be loudest there – often this is in a bedroom).
How good is the water pressure? Is there an extractor fan? Is heating provided by radiator, heated towel rail (rarely enough to heat a bathroom on their own) or underfloor heating.
Where is the boiler, hot water tank, cold water tank. Are they located where they may disturb you – for example in bedrooms.
Ensure you open all cupboards and wardrobes to ensure a wall of wardrobes isn’t hiding a fireplace, hot water tank or something else which reduces storage space.
Communal areas – in a block of flats or house converted into flats, go top to bottom, using the stairwell. You will quicky see if there are any untidy neighbours, you can look out for mouse traps (these days they are often small grey or black plastic boxes).
Security. Check for the types of locks the property has, alarm systems and other security measures like a door entry system with camera (especially for flats) or security CCTV.
Look through every window (open curtains and blinds or ask the agent to do so). Look up, down, left and right. You might spot an ‘unofficial terrace’ for the flat below (noisy in the summertime), an eyesore such as a view onto rubbish bins (watch out for smells in summer when the windows are open) or spot that neighbours can see right into your property.
Parking. Is there off street parking. If it’s a car park are you guaranteed a space or is first-come, first-served. If you have to park on the street, are there enough free spaces, or will you have to drive around for 10 minutes every time you want to park up? With on street parking where the council has introduced residents bays are they 24 hour? If not, will you get a space on weekends and evenings when they are not in operation.
How many properties look onto the windows of the house or flat? Will you feel you are always being watched? If office blocks are close to the flat, can office workers see straight into your home.
Can you see any ‘wet patches’ or discoloured paint or brick – a sign of damp. If there are patches of new paint, this could be hiding damp.
Look in garages and any areas only accessed from outside the property (side passages, sheds).
Do the front and back gardens slope towards the house (potential for flooding after heavy rain) or away from it. For flats this is also important for ground floor and basement properties.
Is the house at the bottom of a hill or at the lowest point on the road – again a flood risk. Speaking of this, if there is permanent water in local area – a river, lake, even streams or large ponds, this can send contents insurance premiums up as your flood risk is deemed higher.
The reason to be so thorough on a 2nd viewing (always do at least 2 viewings before making an offer) is that mentally we assume certain things to be in place. So we dont notice that there wasn’t a radiator in the kitchen, or that there are no ceiling lights in the bedroom, because this is “normal” to have. Once you’ve signed a tenancy contract it’s too late – so check first.
Check every room has a smoke detector or ask for them to be fitted – be sure to test them when you move in.
Ensure carbon monoxide detectors are fitted by any fuel burning appliance.
Kitchens must have a safety blanket and fire extinguisher (this is a legal requirement).
Furniture provided by the landlord must Fire and Furniture Regulations – ask if they do (soft furnishings like mattresses and sofas mostly).
Government guidance on safety for tenants can be found by clicking here.
Does the front door and any external doors look safe and strong? Front doors should have a five lever mortice lock.
All windows must have locks.
Houses, ground floor and basement flats should have burglar alarms – ask if one will be fitted if not.
Are there bars over lower ground floor windows, to prevent break-ins? If not ask for them or security gates inside the windows which you can pull across at night or when you are out.
Do ground floor windows or patio/ french doors leading onto gardens need security gates on the inside? If you think so, ask for them.
Will there be sufficient light when you come home late at night? Is there strong street lighting or a security light?
Turn everything on and off! It’s surprising how many broken items aren’t fixed before a property is put up for sale. The right attitude is to get small problems fixed before you sell but many sellers think “all these issues won’t be my problem soon.”
Turn on all lights, test dimmer switches, ovens, open fridges.
Open all doors and windows – ill fitting windows or doors that don’t close properly will leave drafts and can be a security concern. Both are expensive to replace, a few new windows will cost thousands of pounds! With wooden frame windows, press your finger into the frame. if you make an indent, the frame is rotten. You can also see this if the wood is splintering/ splitting.
Open every kitchen cupboard and built in units/ wardrobes.
Open Doors. Every door in the property should be opened – including those hiding storage spaces and closets. You never know what you will find.
If the property has any roofs directly above it (not always the case with flats, but always with houses) inspect them (houses or top floor flats, or flats that jut out with nothing above part of the flat)
Visually check pitched/ tiled roofs to ensure the tiles are all there.
Flat roofs easily leak. Can you see any signs of this, such as fresh paint on the ceiling or dark patches or bubbling paint.
Old roofs may contain asbestos, which is dangerous when it breaks up and costly to remove and replace. Ask if the landlord knows of any asbestos in the property.
If there is a loft, look in it if you can. Take your own torch and a face mask if you don’t like dust. Don’t wear your best clothes and if you have a small portable ladder, take it too (many owners wont have one, or claim not to, to avoid you looking up there). Be polite and ask if you should put newspaper or a dust sheet down before opening the hatch. Look for daylight coming in (missing roof tiles). Anything else wrong will look obvious – for example loose wiring running everywhere is a fire hazard.
Water, Electric, Heating
Water pressure. Turn on taps. Test showers and bath taps – is there enough pressure. Are noisy pumps installed that will wake up family members if you are showering early in the morning or at night? Pumps are often placed next to the water tank. If this is in a bedroom, it could be super noisy. Stand by the pump while someone turns the shower on to check. Also check outdoor taps – if there isn’t enough pressure, you won’t be able to water the garden quickly or wash the car.
Is there heating in every room? Especially check bathrooms, kitchens and smaller rooms like a guest bathroom or WC. If rooms have one or more outside walls, they wont be warm enough in winter unless heated. Check for water leaking, stains or rust around radiators. Electric heaters can lose their power so ask when they were installed (if known) and if they were ever serviced.
Look at the boiler, ask when it was last serviced – often it will have sticker on it with the date (this should be no more than a year ago). Landlords need to provide a certificate of gas safety from a Gas Safe Registered engineer (no more than a year old).
Is the boiler in a bedroom or lounge? Will it be noisy when switched on (something you won’t notice in summer)? If in doubt, ask them to turn the heating on (even if it is summer!).
Turn on lights. If they don’t fully light the room, adding extra lights will cost. Does every room have ceiling lights?
Ask to see the fusebox. Does it look safe?
Check that each room has enough wall sockets – it’s not safe to use lots of extension plugs and extenders if a room just has one plug socket.
Ensure every room has a radiator and ceiling lights (you would be amazed how many don’t).
Where is the TV point for the aerial, Satellite or Cable television? Is it in the room you want to place the TV?
Check for signs of damp on walls and ceilings – look for water marked (brown/ discoloured) walls, peeling or bubbling wallpaper or paint. Also peek behind furniture – it’s often moved around to hide problems. (patches of discolourment, bubbles on paint or paper). Check around windows and radiators to ensure no signs of damage like damp or cracking (this can be really expensive). Any crack you can fit a coin into will be a major repair. Patches of paint are a good indication that damp may be behind the surface. Mould is another indication of damp and very unhealthy.
Touch walls that are exposed to the outside (not internal walls), especially near corners, to feel for dampness or paper bubbling. Outside look for grey mould. Sniff – your sense of smell can usually pick up damp, especially in basements. Be aware that in basement flats, sellers often use air freshner, scented candles and other aromas to mask smells.
Fresh paint anywhere, rather than the whole wall or ceiling painted is usually a rush job ahead of marketing a property for sale. What is it hiding?
Check for vermin – look for droppings in corners and dark areas (take your own torch). In a block of flats check if there are traps left in the hallways or staircases (if you take the lift up, take the stairs down).
Walls and Floors
Wooden floors? Houses: if they are in upstairs rooms will they make alot of noise for those sitting downstairs. In flats, ensure the owner had permission to install them and ask if they used noise dampening materials. If not, or if they are unsure, you may have to rip up those wooden floors if neighbours below you complain. Knock on the door of the upstairs flat and ask them if they can walk around for you so you can check there is no noise intrusion into your property. Heels on wooden floors are one of the biggest noise disturbances.
Shared walls. If the property shares walls with any other property then knock on the wall. You want it to be solid. If it sounds hollow you could end up hearing everything going on next door (especially their TV and stereo) and they will be able to hear you. Noise proofing standards only got serious in recent years, so it’s worth checking.
Floors – check exposed floorboards or any exposed timber, like beams, for small holes that may indicate woodworm. Get down on your knees and inspect wooden floors for stiletto heel marks. Womens high heels often damage wood, you may not notice when standing, yet sitdown and you may have an unpleasant surprise. Ensure these marks are noted so you aren’t accused of causing damage and forefit some or your deposit.
Do carpets look clean enough? Always ask for steam cleaning if they look dirty.
Ensure each window has secure window locks (for your safety and to validate contents insurance policies). Are the curtains and blinds staying? If so are they good enough to keep light out (shut them to test). Ask for curtains to be steam cleaned if the landlord will pay for it. Are blinds dusty and dirty? Ask for them to be cleaned.
Street lighting. Street lights infront of your house or flat – even across the street can beam light straight into a lounge or bedroom. In lounges this can be so strong it disrupts television viewing (just like srong sunlight). Bedrooms can be lit up by street lights, meaning you have to buy blackout blinds.
Your view. When viewing property in Autumn/ Winter, look at any trees nearby. Will the leafs block your view in Spring/ Summer, reducing your viewing distance and making rooms feel claustrophobic? If you have a nice view of plants, trees and bushes in Spring/ Summer, will the view look very bleak in Winter?
Natural light. South, South West and West facing is best for rooms and gardens. Bedrooms facing north or east will keep cool in summer. if need to put lights on in daytime in the main rooms (especially the lounge and kitchen) then that lack of natural light will raise your electricity costs and feel detrimental. Natural light in the bathroom makes a big diff when applying makeup too!
This alerts you to noise from roads, pedestrian crossings (the ‘beeping’ sound can be annoying at 3am!), children playing and so on. In the summer when you want to leave the windows open for cool air, you’ll encounter a huge problem if that road noise that the double glazing blocks out, suddenly drowns out the television.
Who is responsible for maintaining and keeping clean outside spaces – especially gardens. Make sure you know if you are on the hook for weeding, cleaning and keeping the grass trimmed!
Boundaries and Beyond
Regardless of the property check what adjoins each side of the building or gardens. Backing onto open space, like parks and golf clubs can be a security hazard. Backing onto a school puts purchasers off. If the back garden has a road on any side of it, this reduces property value on the basis of safety again. Houses with garages at the rear, backing nto alleys are deemed less secure. Sometimes it’s possible to get together with other residents and install security gates, but it’s costly and you’ll need council permission.
Look on a map to see what Landmarks are close by to the property. Many homes in London are near football grounds like the Emirates in Holloway or Stamford Bridge in Chelsea. Restrictions for car parking on match days (requiring residents to purchase special permits) and the large crowds make these properties noisy and less valuable. The same applies for being close to exhibition venues such as Earls Court or Olympia. Bus stops outside the property or rail lines running close by mean reduced prices for properties too.
If the property is above retail premises or on a street with businesses and retail consider what is there already: will a pub mean noise every evening, or in the early hours? Could a shop change to become a noisy restaurant with smells wafting up? Living above retail premises, especially bars and restaurants will increase insurance costs and can make a mortgage harder to obtain.
Do all rooms have natural light? Women in particular prefer natural light in bathrooms. Many newbuild properties sacrifice natural light to build more properties in a given space (flats or houses).
Kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms to suffer. This is ok if you know what you’re letting yourself in for, but always discount the value of a property without natural light in the main bathroom or the kitchen against a similar property flooded with natural light in every room.
For bathrooms lacking light is there enough space to install a dressing table near a window in the master bedroom, or a spare room – and is that close enough to the bathroom to be practical?
Furniture sizes: if you wish to use your current furniture, measure everything up, write it down in a notebook (or on your smartphone) then take a tape measure. Think about where each piece of furniture would fit in the new rooms and measure up to see that they will be ok. Larger rooms dont neccessarily accomodate more furniture… a common issue is with through lounges (two lounges or a lounge and dining room knocked into one). With a gap where the wall used to be, one wall having a door and another often having a fire, your large L-shaped sofa might not have enough space!
If you will be buying new furniture, get an idea for what you need (e.g. if you need 2 sofas to have a minimum seating for four), goto a shop and measure up (just use something as an idea, not necc the one you will buy). a key consideration for flats is the new trend of wider beds. if you have a 160cm or even 180cm (6″) wide bed, measure the new bedroom… you may find there is only space to walk on one side of the bed… does that really suit?
Landlords should have the property cleaned before you move in. Ask to ensure this will be done and ask if cookers, curtains, carpets and so on will be cleaned.
Make a note of any tired areas of the property and ask if the Landlord would redecorate before you move in. While they won’t repaint the whole property, they may well repaint a tired bedroom or repair a broken door. If you want more work done, ask if they will do it and if not, perhaps offer to pay slightly more in rent as incentive for them to do so (especially if you like the property and the only thing putting you off is the need for some decoration).
How is traffic? Does it change dramatically during peak commuting hours, or is it busy in the daytime because of local businesses.
In the evening listen out for neighbours, their noise, see which houses occupied, do all the parking spaces suddenly fill up, meaning you will have to park in a different street?
In the early morning (in weekdays) and late at night (at weekends) it is always worth going along and sitting outside the property in your car for half an hour or walking around and noticing what is going on – are there business deliveries that may disrupt you, is the street a cut through for people going home from the pub. Do delivery trucks and lorries use the road?
Chat to the Locals
If you can speak to neighbours and anyone else close by (shopkeepers, postmen, police on patrol. People walking dogs are usually very happy to talk. Ask them: how do they find the area? What is not so good, is there a noise nuisnace etc.
Now you have studied the property, does it “feel” right? lot to be said for this. You have to feel comfortable. Properties hold different energies, so if it doesnt feel right, walk away, even if you can’t rationalise it – your gut instinct knows best.
What you must bear in mind is that in a ‘fast market’ where there is lots of demand for the same property, you will be time pressured and will likely forego (or feel you have to forego) some of the following. In this case, do the Number 1 checks. Then once you have agreed to rent, go back (even if it means a time off work) and do all the other checks.