What to Do when you find a Home to Rent
You’ve found it! This is the one. You (and anyone else who will be living in it) thinks this property is just right (or close enough). What now?
A. Repeat viewings. See it at least twice, three times if possible. Go back at different times of the day and evening, weekdays and weekends so you truly see the property in different lights, in different contexts.
B. Act like a Detective. Aswell as viewing the actual property internally at different times, go back to the area and street, without the Agent and make like a detective. Visit daytime, evening and night if you can. Look for things such as kebab shops or bus stops nearby that can attract youngsters loitering. Walk around the neighbouring streets and notice for whats going on.
C. Research everything you can! Use the following resources for further research. If you don’t have time to this before making an offer at least do these checks yourself if you have an offer accepted on the property and preferably before you incur solicitor and survey fees.
Google Type in the full property address. Then just the street name. Then just the postcode. Look at the results on the first 3 pages. You might find very valuable information about the property or even the landlord if they have been a naughty boy! Planning applications often come up here too – you don’t want to rent next to a building that’s about to be refurbished for 6 months.
Police Crime Mapping This may not be full proof and you have to take it into context, as no area is untouched, yet checking the Police website for crime statistics in the road or area you are buying in is very insightful.
Mobile Phone Masts Mobile phone masts are situated all over London. Often they are hidden (sometimes even in fake trees) as the public don’t like their presence. While we love using a mobile phone, the masts that pick up and send the phone signals have been linked to negative health effects by media reports.
Whats for sure is that it’s better to be away from a mast if possible (not so in central London) or at least know if they are close by to you. Check their locations on the government website here.
Water Sources. Lakes, reservoirs and especially ‘running water’ such as rivers, streams and even canals can affect the perceived ‘flood risk’ of a property. Aside from being worried about the real risk of flood given the UK’s new unpredictable weather patterns, the presence of water close to a property can raise insurance premiums. Ordnance survey maps are the best way to check, although walking for half a mile in each direction around the property and entering the address into Google Earth is probably easier.
Electricity Sources. Electricity sub stations and overhead powerlines are commonly regarded as having negative effects on health. Certainly their presence near properties tends to reduce values. Walking around the area you should be able to see any overhead powerlines. Do check more carefully for electricity sub stations as they can be well hidden behind fences, gates and bushes or trees.
D. Enquire about Management of the property. Who will be responsible when there are problems with the property? Whether it is a broken washing machine, blocked drain or leaking roof? Usually there are 3 options:
Private Landlord: some owners take responsibility themselves (to keep costs down). In this instance you need to ask if they will be giving you a mobile number, if you can contact them 24 hours in an emergency, who to contact at weekends and evenings and who will cover for them if they are on holiday. Sometimes landlords will try and remedy problems themselves, so it’s best to ask for an agreement that if they can’t fix an issue on day 1, then they will always call a professional by day 2. Also check they have call-out cover for the gas boiler or heating – any issues during the winter will need resolving asap.
Commercial Landlord: Large landowners in London such as Portman, Grosvenor and Cadogan have so many properties rented out that they will have full time staff to deal with issues and a 24hour emergency line. Some commercial landlords will have their own maintenance staff including plumbers, electricians and handymen, others will send out contractors they have service agreements with. Usually these services are very good and the landlords don’t hold back on service because of costs, as they want to keep the properties in top condition and tenants happy.
Managing Agent: Private Landlords and smaller commercial landlords often enlist managing agents. Sometimes this is operated by the Letting Agent, othertimes it is an independent agency. Service won’t be as first class as the large commercial landlords, yet it’s usually pretty fast and professionals will be sent to deal with problems, rather than just the landlord turning up with his toolbox. You should also get 24hour coverage when appropriate.