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Finding a Home: Viewings

Last week we discussed how to prepare for finding a home in the London rental market. Today we are going to discuss what to do when you have shortlisted your properties and are ready to view them.

How to View

If you can, do try to view any property you are considering in person. However, this is not always possible for our international students. If this is the case for you, you should ask the landlord or agent to conduct a virtual viewing. Preferably this will be a live viewing as opposed to a pre recorded tour so you can ask to see things again and ask specific questions. Also, remember, you cannot legally be charged any fees for viewing a property.

Inspecting the Property

You may only get the chance to see the property once so it is vital you check as much as you can in terms of the condition of the property so you are not surprised by something when you move in. Below is a list of things to look at:

  • Walls and Ceilings. Look out for discoloured or mouldy patches. This could indicate dam, which, trust me, you do not want to live with. 

  • Electrics. Check if there are any loose wires or broken sockets. This could indicate an unsafe environment.

  • Doors and Windows. Make sure they are secure, have locks fitted that work and that the windows are double glazed.

  • Smoke Alarms. There should be at least one on every floor of the property.

  • Furnished or Unfurnished? Check with the landlord/agent whether the property is coming furnished or unfurnished, you’d be surprised at how many people forget this and are surprised that the sofa they saw at the viewing has now disappeared on move in date. If the property is furnished, check the quality and ensure nothing is too old and broken.

  • Kitchen. Look out for signs of mice and check all the appliances work.

  • Exterior. Check the roof and guttering is in good condition, looking out for broken/missing tiles, overflowing water etc. Also, if there is a garden, make sure you know who is responsible for the upkeep of it and that the rear of the property is secure.

  • Local Area. If you can, have a walk around the local area, find the nearest shops/transport links and get a feel for the place.?

Questions to ask

It is important that you ask the landlord/agent conducting the viewings the right questions so you have a full picture of what taking the property will involve. If you can, it is also good to speak to any current tenants as they can give an unbiased view of the property. Below are some questions you should definitely ask:

  • How much is the rent? You should already know from the advertisement, but it is important to double check. It is also important to ensure that the rent on offer is fair and reasonable for the local area. Use online property websites to check the rental price of similar properties in the area. If the property you are viewing is considerably more (or less) than those, that is a red flag.

  • Who manages the property? Is it the landlord or is there a managing agent? This will ensure you know who to pay the rent to and who to report any repairs/issues to. 

  • How many people will you be sharing a bathroom/kitchen with?

  • Are bills included? If not, how much are they likely to be? (You should do your own research on this anyway, looking at average household costs in the area online).

  • Furnished or Unfurnished? What is provided in the property? This is vital you check so you can budget for things you will need to buy.

  • Will the property be professionally cleaned before you move in??

Negotiation

If the property is to your liking and you would like to take it, you can attempt to negotiate, although it is unlikely you will be able to negotiate a lower rent. It is more likely you’ll be able to negotiate smaller things such as extra or replacement furniture, redecoration or refurbishment before you move in, professional cleaning, things such as that. One thing you may want to negotiate also is a ‘Break Clause’. This will insert a clause into your contract that will allow you to end the tenancy early if you should want to. We will discuss this more in the next blog but it is something to think about. Anything you agree with the landlord/agent, make sure to get in writing!

Holding Deposits

So you want to take the perfect property you have just viewed. It is possible that the landlord/agent may ask you to pay a Holding Deposit to reserve the property. This is legal and not uncommon, however it cannot amount to more than one weeks rent and must be paid back to you (normally by deducting it from the first month's rent). For any payment you make, ensure you get a receipt! A Holding Deposit receipt should always include:

  • Amount of the Holding Deposit.

  • Address of the property and proposed rent.

  • Proposed start date of tenancy and length of tenancy.

  • Requests for the landlord (ie cleaning service).

  • Deadline for agreement.

  • Refund rules.

Once this Holding Deposit is paid, the landlord or agent must stop advertising the property and the landlord will then have up to 14 days to choose whether to accept you as a tenant or not. If they decide not too then your Holding Deposit should be refunded in full as soon as possible. If you pay the Holding Deposit and then change your mind, you may well lose that money. Check this with the landlord/agent before paying.


Next time we’ll be discussing full deposits, references and contracts!

 

Blog written by Laurence Mackavoy.

 

Laurence works as an Advice Caseworker in the LSESU Advice Team.

 

The LSESU Advice Team

The LSESU Advice Team is based on the 3rd floor of the Saw Swee Hock Building and we provide free, independent and confidential advice to all LSE students on academic and housing matters. We also administer the Hardship Fund, the Childcare Fund and the Graduation Gown Support Fund (GGSF).

Our service is currently operating using a hybrid working pattern. We are still open and can be accessed by emailing su.advice@lse.ac.uk. You can also book a telephone or Zoom appointment with an adviser through Student Hub.