If you have a list of apartments to view in London then it’s important to be armed with a handful of questions to ask the landlord or property agents prior to renting.
Here are our top recommended questions to ask…
1. What bills are included?
Probably one of the most important questions to ask the owner of the property or the agent. You should always check which bills are included in the monthly rental fee. Some apartments have all bills included but in London this is usually pretty rare. More often, bills will be an extra cost to add onto the monthly rent. Check which council tax band the apartment is located in as this particular tax can vary quite dramatically in different areas and you will find that you’ll often pay a higher fee, the more central the property. Also ask to see the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) which will give you an indication of how much you can expect to pay on energy bills as well as providing you with an energy performance breakdown.
2. Is the apartment furnished/part-furnished or unfurnished?
When you rent an apartment in London it will either be fully-furnished/part-furnished or unfurnished. If you have your own furniture then moving into a fully-furnished apartment won’t be wise as you will have to pay for storage. On the contrary, an unfurnished apartment can be very expensive to furnish as you will need to buy everything from a couch, bed, wardrobe, oven and refrigerator.
3. Am I responsible for outdoor areas?
If the apartment has its own garden or outdoor area then you will definitely want to check and see if it is the responsibility of the tenant to maintain it. If it is, then you will need to be honest with yourself about how much time you have to spend maintaining a garden. If it’s your responsibility then make sure to ask if the gardening equipment is provided.
4. Are pets allowed?
If you already own a pet then this is obviously one of the first questions you should ask – even before viewing the apartment. However, if you do not own a pet but plan on renting for a long period of time then you will need to look to the future – will you eventually like to own a cat or dog?
5. Can I redecorate?
Often landlords will allow you to redecorate the apartment, so long as you leave the apartment in the same condition afterward. This means that if you decide to paint the walls you will likely have to repaint them their original color before your contract ends. Some landlords do not allow any redecorating at all, so if you do not like the decor then this should be a factor when deciding whether or not you would like to live in the property. You should always ask in advance if you can put nails in the wall for shelves and framed artwork. If the landlord isn’t happy with this, then there are ways to get around this – you can use special glue stickers that hold paintings and shelves that do not cause damage to paint when used correctly. You can also buy temporary wallpaper that simply adheres to the wall and peels off when you want to return it to its previous style and special vinyl that covers kitchen tiles and cupboards.
6. Does the apartment come with parking and does it cost extra?
Parking spaces in London are a luxury and most rented apartments will not come with their own free parking. Check with the landlord or agency first but when it comes to parking, you normally need a special permit which costs extra.
7. What is the area like?
This is a question people often forget to ask as their focus is purely on the property itself. It’s important to know where you are going to be living. Is it safe? Ask the landlord for his or her advice and check crime rates online for the local area. Are there plenty of transport links? Will you have to walk far to the nearest tube or bus stop – how will this feel during winter when the evenings are darker much earlier? Is it an area for young people or families? Try to get a feel for the area before you agree to sign a contract. It’s always wise to experience the area in the daytime and also during the evening as areas can feel very different during different times of day.
8. When was the boiler last serviced?
Another important question to ask. The last thing you want is to move into an apartment and for the boiler to break. Cold water and no heating is no fun. An overly hot apartment can be uncomfortable too – so check if the windows open fully. Are they safe to open? Is it noisy outside? If it is then you might want to invest in a good fan like these featured on Unclutterer. Another thing to check is the humidity in the flat – ask the landlord if the apartment has any issues with damp. Again, to prevent this you could invest in a dehumidifier.
9. What is the minimum contract?
It’s always a good idea to opt for a 6 month contract if possible as then you are not committed to an apartment for such a long period of time. You can always extend this later on (but there may be a rent increase after 6 months).
10. What fees are required?
Once you have viewed the apartment you will normally have to pay a holding fee. This ensures that letting agents will not accept any more offers on the apartment. There will usually be other fees involved such as admin fees, credit check fees and more. If you choose to take the apartment, the agent or landlord will usually require a month rent in advance and a month deposit.
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