1. Budget for upfront fees
One renter who took a two-bed flat in Coventry warned to factor fees into your budget:
“Your initial deposit, which can be as much as six weeks’ rent, is a lot of money to find but at least it’s refunded when you leave the property. However, there are lots of administration fees that are not refundable – for example to carry out credit checks or collect references. Some were just called ‘lettings fees’ with no obvious purpose!”
Letting fees can add up to few hundred pounds and can blow the budget if you’re not prepared.
2. Find out about your energy supplier
Another renter who took a flat above a shop in Holloway, north London, warned to get straight on your energy supplier before you move in:
“I live in a flat above a shop that’s been split into two. But, although the property deeds were split, the electricity and gas supplies were not and we ended up on a business rate with a bill for more than £1,500! It took eight months to get switched onto a domestic account with British Gas so that we could then switch suppliers to EDF.”
Always check the energy supplier before moving into a rental property. And make sure you take the meter readings on the day you move in and update the supplier as soon as you can.
3. Check your broadband speed (and network reception)
Another renter who moved to a ground floor two-bed flat in Brentwood, Essex, said:
“It wasn’t until the day I moved in that I realised I could only get reception on my phone if I crouched by the window in the front room. Broadband speeds in the area were also very slow. As I work from home a lot neither of this was useful!”
Mobile reception and broadband capacity can vary greatly across the UK. Regulator, Ofcom has a handy interactive map which enables you to zoom into a postcode area and find out signal strength and broadband speeds – definitely worth checking out first.
4. Investigate noise levels at different times of day
Another renter who moved into a flat in central Leeds warned:
“I knew the flat would be relatively noisy as it’s on a busy road. However it wasn’t until my first night (a Sunday!) that I realised just how bad it would be. People yelled at each other in the shop downstairs, were loud leaving the pub on the corner of the road and the next door neighbours had all-night parties. It took me months to get used to it and finally get a good night’s sleep.”
It’s not always easy knowing how noisy your area will be or what your neighbours are like. And once you’ve moved in it can be too late to do much about it. Do a recce of the area at different times of day – perhaps even head to a local bar or pub for a drink one evening before making the final decision to suss out how noisy it can get.
5. Check your public transport and parking restrictions thoroughly
Two more renters, both of whom signed up to rental flats in west London, warned to check out the reality of public transport (and any temporary closures or restrictions) before you sign up…
“I was really excited that my new flat was close to the Tube station. However what I didn’t realise was that that part of the line was central line was closed every weekend for a whole YEAR for engineering works! It was very frustrating!”
Another renter had a problem with the buses instead. She said:
“As a woman who often works late, it’s important to me to have a safe route home. My train station was a 15 minute walk from my new flat in Ealing, but it didn’t worry me as I thought at night I could just catch a bus from the station. As it turned out the bus only took me two stops closer to home. I didn’t think to check and it cost me a lot in taxis over the year I lived there”.
Even if you are not relying on public transport but have a car, check for the costs of parking permits – and even if there is space at all to park it in the same street. Especially in the capital, this is a major consideration.
6. Get a nose for damp
And, finally, this is what one renter who took a two-bed flat in St Albans, Hertfordshire, had to say about damp:
“I noticed a faint smell of damp when we first looked at our flat, but it wasn’t bad enough to put me off. However, after a week that faint smell became really noticeable and I even starting thinking I smelt of mould when I left the house! It was very unpleasant!”
Even a minor case of damp or condensation can make your clothes smell, damage furniture, and in some cases can even cause health problems. If you smell or feel damp when looking around, trust your instincts and turn the flat down.
Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.