Choosing the right property
So you've got your viewings booked, and you're off to look at potential future homes. It's exciting, but try not to be distracted by the size of the rooms and deciding who gets which bedroom - there are some very important things you need to look at first...
Take pen and pad with you, and download and print our choosing the right place factsheet (PDF, 85KB) to remind you of what to look for, along with the NUS house-hunting checklist (PDF). At your viewing, have a good look round and make a note of the good and bad points, if you're viewing several properties this can help you remember what you have seen at each one.
- Open cupboard doors and look behind furniture.
- Check for signs of damp or condensation on walls and ceilings. Living in a damp property can affect your health.
- Ask to see appliances or boilers working, eg turn on the hot taps to make sure hot water actually comes out.
- Landlords are required to carry out safety checks on gas boilers and appliances by law. Ask for evidence of the latest gas safety certificates.
- Ensure there are adequate smoke alarms and that a carbon monoxide alarm is fitted in any room containing a functioning solid fuel burner, see the information on fire safety advice from Shelter.
- Ask to meet the current tenants and ask them for their experiences.
- Ask what furniture comes with the property and what belongs to the current tenants.
Check locks and access
- Non-PVC front doors should have a rim lock (eg. Yale lock) and a deadlock that operates with a traditional key.
- Rear doors should have a deadlock and preferably good strong slide bolts top and bottom.
- Locks should be fitted on all accessible windows, especially in basement flats.
- Look for an unrestricted view of the front door from the road, ie no trees or bushes a burglar could hide behind. Be especially careful about access to basement flats.
- Is there any outside lighting? Avoid properties with poorly lit entrances or alleyways.
Get promises in writing
Always ask for written confirmation if the landlord or agent says they will make changes eg. re-decorate or clean the property, or supply you with extra furniture. If you can't get it in writing at the time, email the landlord or agency straight afterwards and ask them to confirm what was agreed. If building work is planned, ask for a schedule of works. You should not have to full pay rent for any period you cannot live in a property.
Your safety and security
Tips to keep you safe and your money secure when viewing properties:
- Go to viewings with a friend or in a group, try not to go alone.
- If you go alone, let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back.
- If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable while viewing accommodation, trust your instincts and leave at once.
- Do not carry large amouts of cash with you.
- Never hand over any money before you have viewed the property or read the tenancy.
- Be certain you are dealing with the landlord or his agent.
- You may be asked to pay an agency fee but do not hand over rent or deposit money until you have signed a contract.
- Never transfer any money to a third party or box number.
Check if your property is part of the Rent with Confidence Scheme. This scheme encourages landlords to uphold specific standards. It is overseen by local authorities including Bristol City Council. If the property or landlord do not adhere to the accreditation standards you can complain to the organisation who approved them.
Also check if your landlord or agent is a member of the Bristol Ethical Lettings Charter. This charter was created locally by a community organisation, Acorn, to help create a fair, professional and ethical private rental sector across Bristol. Participating landlords have signed up to this good practise charter, with bronze, silver and gold categories of commitments. The University of Bristol and Bristol SU support the Ethical Lettings Charter.
Download our renting safely factsheet (PDF 427KB) and remember - be careful of people pretending to be landlords in order to cheat tenants out of money and never transfer money unless you are 100% sure that the situation is authentic. If you are in any doubt, contact us for advice immediately.