When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Going to a viewing

It’s important to view a property before agreeing to rent it for a period of time. There are a number of things you should look out for when you attend a viewing.  Take your time when you’re viewing a property, don’t let the estate agent or landlord rush you.

Check if the landlord is registered

All landlords must be listed on the NI Landlord Register.  Landlords have been required to register on this database since February 2014, so if a landlord hasn't registered this could be a sign that he or she is not very professional. 

When you're viewing a property ask the agent for the landlord's registration number.  If they don't know this, ask for the landlord's name.  Before you commit to take on the property, check the online database to see if the landlord is registered.  You can also check by entering the property's address. 

Exterior checks

When you arrive for your viewing, take a moment to check out the exterior of the building. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the roof and gutters in good condition?
  • Does the building appear structurally sound?
  • Is the property single or double glazed?
  • Is there any outdoor or garden space and who is responsible for the upkeep of this?
  • Does the property seem secure, is there a burglar alarm?
  • What are the neighbouring properties like?
  • Is the property close to any buildings or services that are likely to cause noise at night, e.g. train tracks or a police station?

Interior checks

When viewing the interior of a rental property it’s easy to be swayed by attractive decoration.  You should remember that some of the items you see in a property may belong to the current tenants.

Don’t be afraid to ask the estate agent which items will be included if you agree to rent the property.  Ask yourself the following questions as you make your way through the property.

  • Are there any signs of damp in the property, such as mould or flaking paint?
  • Is the property in good condition?  Are there any obvious signs of damages or disrepair?
  • Is there any exposed or dangerous looking wiring?
  • What type of heating system does the property have and are there enough radiators in each room?  Will you be able to afford to heat the property sufficiently in the winter?
  • Is there enough room to accommodate your household comfortably?
  • Are the washing facilities adequate? Some properties may only provide a shower and no bath, will this suit your needs?
  • Is there enough space to store all your belongings?
  • Does the property have a phone connection for a landline or internet?
  • Has the landlord provided a washing machine or laundry facilities?
  • Is there a smoke alarm in the property and is there an adequate fire escape route?
  • Has the landlord provided amenities such as a washing machine, cooker etc?

Don’t allow yourself to be rushed or distracted during a viewing.  Often tenants take on a property because they are scared it will be snapped up by another person, only to find it is not suitable after they move in. This checklist can help remind you of the important questions to ask when viewing a property.

Once you sign a tenancy agreement, you will usually have to stay in the property for at least 12 months, regardless of the condition it is in.  This is your chance to suss out any problems with the property.

Questions you should ask

In addition to inspecting the property fully, you should feel free to ask the agent or landlord who is showing you the property for further information.  Try to get absolute answers to your questions or ask the agent to find out the information from the landlord if they don’t know the answers there and then. If the agent promises that certain repairs will be done or tells you that the landlord is planning to get new fittings, get this in writing. 

Remember, once you sign the tenancy agreement you will have to stay in the property for the duration of that agreement, so it’s important to learn as much about the property as you can. It’s a good idea to get the answers to the following questions:

  • Does the rent include rates and, if not, who is responsible for paying rates on the property?
  • Which items in the property belong to the landlord and will be provided with the property?
  • Are utilities prepaid, by card, or billed to the tenant every month or quarter?
  • Who is responsible for managing the property, the landlord or the estate agent?
  • Where is the rubbish bin for the property and how frequently is rubbish collected?
  • Will the landlord allow you to redecorate the property?
  • Does the landlord have any objections to you putting up a satellite dish?

If the property is a flat, you may wish to find out if the adjoining properties are occupied and who lives in them.  If, for example, the property next door is let to students, it would be reasonable to expect some noise at night. If the current tenants are present at your viewing, try having a quick chat with them to see if the property will suit you.

All properties which are available to let should have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This certificate must be shown to any prospective tenants by the landlord or estate agent.  An EPC will let you know how energy efficient the property and will include recommendations on how the energy efficiency of the property could be improved.  It will also contain estimates of the annual cost of heating the property.   If the property has a poor rating, it will be much more costly to keep warm during the winter months.

Agreeing conditions?

During a viewing the agent or landlord may try hard to sell the property to you.  Don’t be swayed by them.  Be realistic and remember what your needs are.

If you agree to take the property on the condition that certain repairs are carried out, make sure you get this promise to carry out repairs in writing from the agent or landlord. You may be entitled to a refund on the rent you pay or to get out of the contract if you can show that you only took on the property as a result of certain promises that were made, and the landlord or agent hasn't followed through on these commitments.