There are many situations in which group living can be a great idea. You might be a student looking for shared accommodation or you may like the idea of living with other people as a way of making friends and sharing bills. Cutting the cost of renting is a big factor in choosing an HMO for many people as rents are generally lower for a single room, than an entire flat. Whatever your motivation for choosing an HMO, here are a few questions to consider when you go through the process of finding the perfect property for you.
What area is right for you?
HMOs are to be found all over, so when browsing for a room it’s a good idea to have in mind what you want to have outside the four walls of the property.
- Transport links. How close do you want to be to the nearest bus or train stop? Does the property work, timing-wise, with your morning commute?
- What kind of road do you want to live on – a buzzy urban street in the centre of the action or a quieter and more residential location?
- How important is safety? If you want to make sure you’re living in the safer areas of your town or city then take a look at crime rates on police.co.uk and compare the different areas.
What about housemates?
There are many different types of HMOs, some of which are basically shared houses where people eat together and hang out socially and others that are very much separate households. As well as looking at the room and the property itself, try to find out what kind of people you’re likely to be living with.
- If you’re signing a joint tenancy with the other people living there then it’s especially important to get an idea of what people are like as you’ll be responsible for any rent payments that anyone else misses.
- Find out whether there’s a cleaner – cleaning is a big issue in any shared space and the easiest way to avoid the conflicts that can arise from different attitudes to house cleanliness is just to get someone else in once a week to deal with it. Cleaning may seem like a small issue but it can affect the return of your deposit at the end of the tenancy too so it’s a good idea to be clear about it from the start.
- What does your instinct say? If you don’t feel comfortable in the property or around the people living there then don’t take it. Ask a few key questions that might identify what kind of people the other tenants are and what kind of house it is – for example, asking what they do at the weekends will establish whether it’s a once a week party house, a subdued environment or filled with 24-hour party people.
There’s a lot to bear in mind when you’re viewing a potential property – here are a few basic tips on how to spend your viewing time effectively.
- Set your deal breakers before you start viewing. If you know you need a room of a specific size or somewhere unfurnished then don’t waste your time on properties that don’t even meet your needs on paper.
- Take someone with you. A second opinion is always useful and recruiting someone to check out the people you’re sharing the building with (if you get to meet them) while you chat to them can reveal a lot – our faces often show more to the person we’re not directly engaged in conversation with.
- Use an agent. Many HMOs are not agent advertised or managed but if you have concerns about HMO landlords then you should be able to find a local agent with HMOs on their books. Use an agent with professional body membership (ARLA, Property Ombudsman, NFOPP).
- Be proactive. You may walk straight in to the perfect property the first time you go on a viewing or it may take several weeks (or even months) to find the right place for you.
- Remember that in a joint tenancy situation it’s not just about whether you like the property – you also need to impress the other people living there. In joint HMOs, the other tenants will have a say over who moves in – if it’s a choice between two people then make sure they prefer you.
To make your viewings as efficient as possible, make sure you ask questions. You could even take some notes. Depending on who you are speaking to (other tenants/landlord/agent) Below are some suggestions you can adapt:
“Do you have individual or joint tenancies?”
“What broadband do you have and who pays for it?”
“Is there any shared storage?”
“Is there a cleaner and how often do they come/are there house rules on cleaning?”
“Is there a burglar alarm?”
“How much are the monthly bills each/are there individual meters for each tenant?”
“What is the landlord like when it comes to repairs?”
“Have you ever had problems with the neighbours?”
“Is there parking?”
“Can I see the Gas Safety check certificate?”
“Where are the deposits protected?”
“Why did the person who was in this room move out?”
“Have you had any issues with security or break ins?”
And finally, before you leave, take a look at:
The bathroom(s) – how many are there and what kind of condition are they in?
The furniture – is it new/old and how has it been maintained?
The boiler – does it look well maintained and is it making odd noises?
Security – are there locks on the doors and windows?
Rubbish disposal – are there enough bins for everyone using the HMO?
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