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Viewing potential private housing

You will probably only have time to see three or four properties in one day, and less if they are far apart, so work out travel times and routes before you go. If you are visiting several properties on one day the cheapest way to travel is to consider buying a one day travel card or Oyster card - see the General travel information| page for more details.

You should always inspect a property during daylight hours because it is safer to travel to an unfamiliar destination during the day and much easier to inspect a property by natural daylight rather than by artificial light. If possible visit the area in the evening as well so that you can get an idea of whether it is safe to travel to and from the property at night.

Have a look around the area of each property so you can be sure all the local facilities meet your requirements, ie how far is it to the shops/supermarket, launderette and local transport?

It is helpful to go with someone else as together you can remember more about what you have seen. If this is impractical take notes as you go around or when you have left. You should make an appointment with the landlord to view the property - DO NOT call round without an appointment.

WARNING! For safety's sake, we recommend that you take someone with you when viewing property. If this is impossible let somebody know where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Even if there are more than one of you, always arrange to meet the landlord/estate agent at the property and never get into their car. (Meeting the landlord/estate agent at the property also gives you a good opportunity to try out the local transport network.)

Check list

When viewing a property you should check that the property:

  • has adequate and safe heating;
  • has adequate and safe cooking facilities to which you have access;
  • has adequate means of escape in the event of a fire; 
  • has electrical fittings that are safe and in good repair (make sure there are enough sockets in each room as well as adequate lighting);
  • has adequate security, eg door locks and window locks;
  • has enough bathrooms and toilets for the number of residents (there should be at least one bathroom to five residents), and that the toilet flushes and the shower works;
  • is in a good state of repair (if there are signs of disrepair it may mean that the landlord does not maintain the property well);
  • if there are any gas appliances, check that the landlord has GAS SAFE registered certificates to prove that they have been serviced in the last year (you are entitled to a copy of this document);
  • check all the doors and windows open and close;
  • look for smoke detectors - if the property does not have any ask the landlord to supply them (if he or she refuses, you can always purchase them yourself and take them with you when you leave). Note: in 1997 regulations regarding the fire resistance of furniture were introduced. These state that all furniture in rented property, whether second hand or newly acquired, must satisfy standard combustion tests and carry a specified display label. Ask your landlord to prove that this is the case. 

Always ask

  • How much is the rent; what does it include; and to whom is it payable and how often?
  • How will you be expected to pay the rent, ie cash, standing order, cheque or direct debit? Try to avoid paying in cash as it is not wise to carry large amounts of cash on your person or keep it in your room. Direct debits can also be problematic as they are instigated by the landlord and the amount paid can be altered without notice. Payment by standing order and cheque are preferable.
  • Is a deposit required; how much is it; who holds it; and under what circumstances would it be retained, in part or in full? For more information about this please see the Costs page.
  • What type of tenancy agreement will you have (see the Types of rental agreement page)?
  • Is there an inventory? See the Types of rental agreement page for more details.

If you will be living with the landlord (or with other tenants who are unknown to you) ask:

  • Which parts of the property are shared and whether there are any parts/facilities of the property to which you will not have access (eg garden, washing machine, telephone and living room).
  • For an agreement (preferably in writing) detailing house rules, eg are you allowed visitors and overnight guests; how are the bills divided; are there any cleaning chores expected of you; etc.
  • You should also ask what else is provided

Telephone

There may be access to a telephone but you will need to ask about this. It is important to discuss with your landlord how the telephone bills are divided. It is usually easiest if calls are itemised on the bill, (particularly if you will be using the phone to call long distance). Some resident landlords will only allow you to use the phone for incoming calls.

If you are renting a whole property, you may need to pay for a telephone to be connected or installed. British Telecom (BT) will not charge for reconnection to an existing line.  It charges about £124.99 if no phone has ever been connected there. If you have not had an account with BT in your own name before then you will be subject to a set call level of £100 maximum per quarter. To find out more about BT services and charges, call the Residential Sales line on 0800 800 150 or see the BT website|.

The telecommunications sector within the UK is deregulated and it is advisable to check out other suppliers of phone lines such as, but not limited to, Virgin Media.

Furniture

This varies enormously between residences as apart from the basics, such a bed and a cooker, there is no legal minimum. If your landlord promises to provide more furniture, you should get this in writing before you move in. Make sure that all the furniture you see during the inspection will be there when you move in (don't forget the fire resistance of furniture regulations - see the Fire safety| page for more information). With regards to a desk, you may need to request this if the landlord has not rented to students before.

Blankets, duvets and sheets

These are not often provided in self-contained flats/houses but are usually provided in bedsits and rooms sharing the home of the landlord.

Cooking utensils

Cooking pots and pans, crockery and cutlery may be provided but you will need to check exactly what is there. Sometimes resident landlords will only allow limited use of kitchen facilities.

Electrical appliances

A vacuum cleaner, iron and kettle are usually provided, it does not hurt to request these if they are not. It is very unlikely that a television/DVD player will be provided but these can also be rented. You will need buy a television licence, for prices and information on how to purchase these, visit the TV Licensing website|.

Washing machine

When these are not provided they can be rented from various high street shops. But do check that your landlord will give you permission to have one plumbed in. It might be more suitable to ask where is the nearest launderette. If there is a washing machine provided ask who is responsible for the maintenance.

Heating/cooking

Costs will vary according to facilities, however electricity is generally more expensive than gas.

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