Renting Tips – 11 Questions You Should Ask Your Landlord Or Letting Agent

Posted: by June 19th, 2018

Most of us will have rented a property at some point in our lives; whether that was as a student, living abroad, waiting until we’re ready and able to buy or choosing it as an alternative to homeownership.

And while renting is a lot more straightforward than buying a property, it’s not as simple as finding a home, signing a contract and moving in. Before you make the big move there are some key questions to bare in mind to ensure you’re protected and know exactly where you stand before, during and after your tenancy.

Below we’ve listed the questions that we would advise you to ask your Landlord or Letting Agent. Although in some cases it might seem pedantic or even awkward to ask these questions – especially if you’re renting in a popular area and are just happy to have secured a property – it pays to be completely informed from the outset to avoid any problems or issues that could arise. Better safe than sorry, eh?

1. What Is Your Experience?

As a tenant, you’re usually better off renting from a landlord that has some market experience and who knows what is required and expected of them. This doesn’t mean that all new landlords have to be avoided at all costs, but if you have concerns about your new prospective landlord, you can ask, even in a conversational manor, about how many properties they currently rent out or how long they have been letting out the property that you’re interested in.

2. Are You A Member Of Any Trade Associations?

If you are using a letting agent, we would advise going with one who is a member of a professional organisation, such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). All are bound by a code of practice, that protects both the owner of the property, and the tenants moving in. We’d also ask if they are accredited with the local council private sector housing department.

3. Can I See The EPC?

Every landlord is required to provide an energy performance certificate (EPC) for each property they rent out for any tenancies they grant. The EPC should be made available to you before any agreement is signed, so that you can compare similar properties. The EPC covers things like how much it costs to heat the house, loft insulation, double glazing, boiler age, efficiency etc. It will give the house a rating like you get on fridges A, B, C etc. 

4. Which Tenancy Deposit Scheme Are You Using?

When you pay a deposit for your rented accommodation your landlord must protect it under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. This scheme makes sure you’ll get your deposit back when you move out if you looked after the property and paid your rent. This should be protected by one of three accredited schemes (Tenancy Deposit Scheme Northern Ireland My Deposits Northern IrelandLetting Protection Service NI ). Once you’ve paid your deposit, your Landlord has to notify you within 28 days, giving you information about your tenancy, your deposit and the scheme they are using. But, sometimes it is better to ask about this up front and before anything has been signed, to give you that extra peace of mind and assure you that your Landlord is aware of their responsibilities. 

5. Do You Have Permission From Your Mortgage Lender To Rent Out This Property?

When you get a mortgage for a property, you can’t just rent it out willy nilly. You can only rent out a property if you have a buy-to-let mortgage which is agreed upon with the lender, with the intention of letting the property out. If your Landlord does not have a buy-to-let mortgage or, alternatively, permission to rent out the property, you could be putting yourself at risk as a tenant. For example, if they fail to make the mortgage repayments, you could end up out on the street. It is of course, hard to bring this up with your landlord without sounding like you’re interrogating them, so if you’re finding it hard to broach the subject, you can check for yourself by paying the land registry to find out the mortgage lender, and who is down as living in the house. If it’s the Landlord then there’s a good chance they don’t have permission to let. 

6. Is This Property Insured For Tenants?

Although it’s not a legal requirement for Landlords, it is good practice for them to take out Landlord’s Insurance as it offers both them and the tenant greater protection. You should ask your Landlord or Letting Agent about the insurance and what it covers, as it will help you determine if you need to take out home insurance yourself. 

7. Can I Have A Copy Of The Tenancy Agreement?

When you urgently need somewhere to live, it’s easy to rush into things and just sign your tenancy agreement there and then to secure the property. However, we would strongly recommend asking for a copy of the tenancy agreement to read at your own pace before you sign everything. It means you can do research, check if everything complies with law and current standards and Google things that don’t make sense to you.

8. How Do You Handle Inventory Checks?

Inventory checks are essential whether you’re renting from a Landlord or with a Letting Agent. During the inventory check, they will detail the current state of the property; checking the walls, the floors, the carpets, the fixtures and fittings and everything in between. It’s the best way to minimise the risk surrounding disputes over deposits, as both you and the landlord will have evidence of the condition of the property when you moved in. Ask if you will receive an inventory check and how it will be formatted – for example, will it be itemised with photographs? You have a responsibility to go through the inventory check and also ensure that the property is indeed in the condition as stated in the document. If not, take photographs and notify the Landlord or Estate Agent, getting their signatures and making sure the correspondence is dated.

9. Can I Get References From Your Previous Tenants?

Although most Landlords will be professional and efficient, this isn’t always the case – some are more difficult to deal with than others. You can, if you wish, ask for references from previous tenants and in most cases, the Landlord will be happy to provide these – perhaps even giving you direct contact details. This way you’ll be able to suss out if the Landlord has a good reputation and history of being easy to contact and quick to react to any issues which might pop up.

10. What Fees Will I Have To Pay And Can I Get Written Confirmation Of This?

When you’re figuring out your budget for renting, you’ll probably have to take additional fees into account. For example, with a private Landlord, will be you be charged for a credit check or will bank statements or a guarantor suffice? Many agents require you to pay for application fees, credit checks, inventory checks and a tenancy agreement fee. If you can get written confirmation of what fees you will be expected to pay, including any potentially hidden charges – this will give you a good platform to stand on when comparing other agents.

11. Do You Carry Out Inspections?

It is commonplace for inspections to be carried out during your tenancy but the regularity of these will vary from Landlord to Landlord and Letting Agent to Letting Agent. Ask when these are likely to take place and the process for these – will you be given notice (24 hours is legally required)? How will you be notified? Will you have to be present during the inspection? Although inspections can seem inconvenient (as you go on a mad cleaning spree ensuring everything appears in tip top condition), these are very useful and a sign of a diligent Landlord/Letting Agent.

 

Useful Links

Housing Advice NI
The Housing Executive

Northern Ireland Environmental Health

Tenancy Deposit Scheme Information Northern Ireland

Land & Property Services
Citizens Advice Bureau Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Direct Gov

Stay at QUB website

Ulster university residential services
Gas Health & Safety

 

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