What you should look for when renting a property
Whether it’s the first property you’re renting, or you’re an old hand at the renting game, it can still be difficult to find the perfect property.
Here we take a look at what you need to check before signing a lease on a property – from considering what you need, to make sure the landlord has all necessary safety requirements in place.
Consider the area
There is a lot of rental property to choose from in Aberdeen, and when renting – as with buying – it is important to make sure that you choose the location of your accommodation wisely.
Whether you’re renting a room in a student flat or a three bedroom accommodation for your family, you need to make sure that the property is in the right area for you, with access to all the amenities you need, such as good transport links, local shops and near schools if required. Those apartments may look fantastic – but if you don’t drive and the local shop is over 30 minutes away, it might be better to look for different accommodation.
How well is the property maintained?
The landlord will be responsible for maintaining the property, so it’s good to check the conditions of the gutters and windows as well as items such as showers – it’s also worth making sure the windows open. If the shower is dripping when you visit, check if this is a one-off, or if there is a constant drip. You do not want to have to constantly chase a landlord to get items fixed.
If there are any other tenants in the property, see what they think of the place and how it is maintained.
It is also a good idea to take a look at how the property is heated and if it is insulated: you will need to pay the utility bills so this can make all the difference.
Bear in mind the interior condition and the condition of furniture and fittings. The Landlord may impose a maintenance obligation in the lease, so ensure the obligation reflects the actual condition at your time of taking entry.
What is included?
You may be seeing the flat in a fully furnished condition, but check exactly what will come with the rental. White goods normally come as standard, even in unfurnished properties, while part furnished properties will also have a wardrobe and a dining table. Fully furnished, as the name suggests, will feature a bed and a three piece suite. Sometimes items such as crockery and cutlery are also included in a fully furnished property. There should be a full and complete inventory for you to check before taking over. Note on this any missing items, damaged items or items in disrepair. And sign the list. Ensure the Landlord or the agent countersign.
Nowadays, it is also advisable to check on internet access. Some rental properties will already have internet set up, with this covered in the rental price, while in other properties, this could be an additional cost.
It is also worth asking about additional bills, such as utilities and council tax. These are not included in the rent. Make sure to find out if there is a standard utility payment, or if it will change depending on usage, as well as what Council tax band you are in.
Ask to see the gas safety certificate – landlords need to maintain this yearly - and check that all appliances appear safe. It is also worth checking if all the operating manuals are available.
If there are any soft furnishings in the flat, check that these meet fire safety regulations. The fire safety label is normally found underneath the seat cushions of a sofa.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms need to be fitted in rental properties by law, and in many cases will be wired to the mains. This should be checked however, otherwise you will have to replace the batteries.
Is it a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)?
If it is shared accommodation, the property should have what is known as a ‘house in multiple occupation’ (HMO) licence from the local council. This usually applies to property where there are three or more occupants that don’t belong to the same family.
You can check with your landlord or the local council if there is an HMO for the property.
To meet the standards of an HMO, the rooms must be a certain size, all gas and electrical appliances must be safe, there must be a phone line installed and the property must be secure.
If you are living in an HMO, you should ask to meet the other tenants, to make sure that you get along.
Even if you’ve found a property that ticks all the boxes for you, there is one more thing you need to check: how long is it available for?
Under Private Rented Sector plans by the Scottish Government which have recently finished consultation, landlords will have to offer a minimum tenancy of six months. Of course, if you are a student, you may want to sign a tenancy for a whole academic year, to ensure that you don’t need to move again midway through a semester!
In many cases, the minimum six month period will then lead to a rolling contract, but depending on circumstances, some properties may only be available for 12 months e.g. while the owner is travelling or in a different country for work purposes.
On the other hand, you may only need the property for a short period, perhaps for work reasons. It is therefore advisable that you check when viewing if the property is available for the required time.