Before you agree to take on a tenancy, you need to be sure that the property suits your needs and the needs of your household. Remember, you’ll probably stay in this home for at least 12 months. Once you sign a tenancy agreement, it can be very difficult to extract yourself from the contract, even if you decide that the property is no longer suitable.
Location and space
Think about how you will get to work, school or any regular appointments you may have. Is the property serviced by public transport, and, if so, how frequently do services run? Check how late bus or rail services run if you’ll be relying on these to get you home at night. If you have children, how will they get to school or nursery from this location?
If you have your own transport, find out if any parking has been allocated with the property. If there is only on-street parking available, you may have difficulty getting a space during the day. You may be able to negotiate parking arrangements with your neighbours, but you should check this out before you agree to rent the property. This checklist can help remind you of the important questions to ask when viewing a property.
Your household’s needs
It’s important that your new home is appropriate for your whole household. This is particularly important if anyone in your household has specific needs relating to a disability or mobility impairments. If you have children, you may want to make sure there is adequate storage room for prams or buggies, as well as their toys. Check if the washing and bathroom facilities are going to be adequate for your household’s size.
In flats and apartments, you’ll often be able to hear your neighbours coming and going. If the property you’re living in is a popular area among students or young people, you should expect some noise in the evenings and night times. Keep your eye out for any open areas of ground where people are likely to congregate, particularly during summer evenings.
There are other things you should think about when considering how noisy a property is likely to be. Is the property near a train line or airport? Is there a fire station, hospital or police station nearby? Sirens from these may sound throughout the night and keep you awake.
Energy and heating costs
Find out what kind of heating is used in the property. Some types of heating are much more expensive than others. Consider whether a “pay as you use” meter system or a monthly or quarterly bill would suit your income best.
If your tenancy started after 30 December 2008, your landlord or estate agent must show you an Energy Performance Certificate. Ask to see this before agreeing to take on a tenancy. It should let you know how energy efficient the property is. Remember that homes without double glazing or insulation will be more costly to heat.
All properties available for renting should meet the Fitness Standards as outlined in the Housing (NI) Order 1981 (as amended). If a property does not meet these standards, it is deemed not suitable for human habitation. However, these standards are quite low. A property can be classed as unfit if:
- The property is unstable
- There is serious disrepair, for example, the roof is damaged
- There is serious damp (condensation usually won't count)
- There is inadequate heat and light in the property
- You have no running drinking water
- You can't prepare or cook food in your home
- There is no hot or cold water in the kitchen
- You don't have a suitably located toilet
- You don't have a bath or shower with hot and cold water
- Your drains don't work.
You may feel that the property is unfit, but if the property meets the fitness standard noone can force the landlord to carry out repairs. Have a good look around when you’re viewing the property to see if you can identify any possible issues. Check for poor drainage, mould and peeling paint. If you agree to take on the property on the condition that the landlord carries out certain repairs, make sure you get this commitment in writing before paying over any money.
Don’t let the agent or landlord distract you when you’re viewing a property. Make sure you check everything carefully.