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Moving house can be a complicated process, especially if you don’t give yourself enough time to plan things out. Renters, in particular, are more likely to fall foul of rogue landlords and dodgy properties if they move without thinking. On the one hand, you need a property that ticks all of your boxes in terms of location and size, but at the same time, you do not want to end up paying more than you have to for a substandard space.

According to the law, landlords are obliged to keep their rental properties up to a certain standard, not just to keep tenants happy but to keep them safe from harm. However, as the horror stories of the news keep reminding us, there are always landlords who try to get around these rules.

Experienced tenants can avoid any potential problems with their new properties simply by asking the right questions. Tenants must be prepared to ask landlords, estate agents and even themselves exactly whether a property is fully up to standard before making any kind of commitment.

Here are the most important questions to ask when moving house!

What to ask when moving into a new house or flat

What do the bills include?

When looking for a property, it is important to have a clear idea of the average prices for your local area. This will help you to avoid having to pay more than you have to, as well as avoid sub-par properties with landlords who try to hook people in with prices that seem too good to be true.

However, prices which are higher than average can often include several monthly bills, such as those for energy, water or even broadband. Similarly, flats with lower prices will often require tenants to arrange more bills themselves.

In most cases, tenants will need to find utility suppliers on their own after moving into a property, though former tenants will usually leave information about which suppliers they had been using before moving out. Be sure to take your time in comparing local rates if you want to get the most reliable suppliers for the best prices.

What is the area like?

When choosing a new locale, most renters think in terms of their commute to work, as well as access to local amenities like shops and transport links. However, a location that seems great on paper can still be miserable if you fail to consider what it will be like to actually live there!

For example, you may want to ask whether or not the location is noisy at night, or if the neighbours are disruptive. You will often have trouble with noise if there are pubs or nightclubs nearby, or if the area is particularly central. This can be especially important if you have young children, who incidentally, will also need a good quality school close by!

You can usually find information on how tenable a certain area is by asking online. It will also be worth checking crime statistics for the area; if break-ins are a regular occurrence, you may want to ask yourself if the low rents will be worth it.

Is it furnished?

This can be a major clincher when it comes to renting properties. Many tenants do not have a great deal of furniture and will rely on landlords to provide chairs, tables, beds, storage and so on. At the same time, many long-term renters enjoy being able to personalise their spaces and may want to provide their own furniture if the opportunity arises. Regardless of your preferences, it will be important to check whether a property is furnished in advance of signing a tenancy agreement.

You will usually find that unfurnished properties are cheaper to rent, as it saves the landlord having to buy furniture of their own. If you need to find furniture but don’t want to break the bank, there are also a number of places to get it cheaply. Freecycling websites like Freegle are usually a good way to go, particularly if you live in an urban area with plenty of renters looking to get rid of unwanted belongings. You also have the option of trying a retailer like IKEA or Argos, both of which offer options to suit most budgets.

If the landlord provides any furniture whatsoever, it will be important that you take good care of it. At the end of your tenancy, your landlord may charge you if they find that their belongings are damaged. You may even be asked to replace it if the damage is too severe to repair.

Even if a property is furnished, you can still ask your landlord to provide extra furniture if need be. For example, if you wanted to use one of the bedrooms as a living room or vice versa, you could ask the landlord to replace the existing furniture with something more appropriate.

How much is council tax?

Paying council tax is, sadly, unavoidable. Even if you wait to register with your local authority, you will still be asked to provide payments based on your exact moving day as a lump sum. In other words, there is no way to legally get around paying your dues.

As such, it will be worth asking your estate agent or landlord about how much you will have to pay in council tax before moving in. Failing that, you could always contact your new local council.

Are you allowed to decorate?

This is an important question if you are planning to live at your new property for a long time. After all, if you will be spending years there, you may want to make it feel more like a home than just a house. This can also be particularly important if you will have children living with you.

You may also want to redecorate if you find that certain rooms are not up to par. If it has been several years since the landlord has decorated, you could ask them to do so before you move in, or offer to cover the costs of doing so yourself.

In either case, you should always make sure that you have permission before you start decorating. If decorating will break the tenancy agreement, your landlord may even choose to kick you out of your new home.

How long is the rental period?

Before signing a tenancy agreement, you should always have a clear answer for how long you will be staying at your new property. A fixed term will be more stable for you than a rolling monthly contract, though if you are only planning to stay for a short time then the latter option may be preferable.

12-month agreements are the standard for tenancy agreements, but you should never just assume this. Your landlord may even be looking for short-term tenants, and the last thing you want is to be kicked out of your new home unexpectedly.

Will the landlord be making repairs?

If you are a tenant with a trained eye, you may well spot a number of defects when you go to view properties. Luckily, if you mention these to the estate agent of the landlord, they will usually be more than happy to arrange repairs on your behalf.

This is particularly important when it comes to category one hazards, such as exposed wiring or black mould. These faults will have the potential to put your life in danger if left alone, so be sure to mention them immediately if you spot them. If the landlord is not prepared to fix these issues, it will be best for you to look elsewhere.

You can also point out minor issues, such as chips in a window or a broken piece of furniture. You should not expect your landlord to update the property needlessly, but there is no harm in asking them to bring it up to an acceptable standard.

What is the pet policy?

These days, it is common for landlords not to allow their tenants to keep pets. Dogs and cats, in particular, are often seen as an unwelcome danger, both to furniture and general cleanliness.

However, if you have an animal that is well behaved or non-disruptive pets such as fish or snakes, your landlord may be willing to make an exception. You should also keep in mind that landlords cannot legally discriminate against disabled tenants with service animals.

Find out more about moving with a cat or moving with a dog.

How much will the deposit be?

Rental deposits are the standard for rented properties – there’s no getting around that! Luckily, they are usually fixed at one month’s rent, most of which you should be able to claim back (provided you keep the property in a decent condition).

Once you know the deposit amount, be sure to ask your estate agent or landlord about which deposit protection scheme they will use to keep it safe. This is mandatory for landlords, so if you find that you cannot get a straight answer, it will usually be a good idea to rent from someone else.

What is the energy efficiency like?

The energy efficiency of your new property will decide how much you need to spend on energy every month. Luckily, this is fairly easy to check; all you need to do is ask to see the property’s energy performance certificate (EPC). This should contain a rating for your property from A to G, with A being the best and G being the worst.

A high energy efficiency rating can indicate useful features like insulation, double glazing or even smart technology. Landlords may even be willing to install these features on your behalf, as the costs of doing so are usually covered by energy suppliers.

Keep in mind that, as of April 2018, it is illegal to let properties with energy ratings of F or G. If you view a property with a substandard rating, be sure to ask for an explanation from the estate agent. It may be that the EPC is simply out of date, but you should not take any chances if the landlord is simply stingy.

Find out more about switching your energy when moving house.

Moving? Don't Panic!
Get ready with our top tips.
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