In this article:
- Research your rental online. Use your landlord’s name or the property address and look more details.
- Give more priority to landlords who are members of any large association like the NLA, RLA or HOS
- Prepare for your meeting with the landlord. Asking the right questions will let you leave with more information than otherwise.
- Ask about the deposit, gas and electricity safety checks and EPC.
- Make sure the deposit is protected and your landlord knows the procedure.
- Ask how the property’s condition – recent damages or failures, any ongoing problems, the building’s health.
- Measure your landlord’s reactions and answers to gauge their honesty.
Good tenants deserve good landlords; learn as much as you can about a prospective landlord in order to make a clear judgment before you sign that tenancy agreement.
Research your property online
Before you head into your first meeting with the landlord, you want to pull in as much information about them, as the web has to provide you with. Google their name, the property’s address, your letting agency and other information that is shared in the listing.
Read carefully, and look for commentary of past tenants.
See if your property is rated on Ask Tenants! It is a directory of rental properties and reviews from their current or past tenants. There you can find information your landlord may not want you to know from the start like ongoing repairs, problems with damp, heating, gas, etc. Additionally, you may find information about the vicinity like crime level, schools and demographics, allowing you to make a better choice.
You can also rate and review your rental right now and help the next tenants know exactly where they are about to live in.
Questions to ask your landlord
In order to assess whether your landlord is aware of her or his legal obligations you need to ask the right questions. Listen carefully to the answers you receive and don’t simply take the landlord’s word with regard to certificates and memberships – always view documents, check dates and be prepared to do some research for verification.
Will my deposit be protected in a tenancy deposit protection scheme? Which one ?
May I see a copy of the energy performance certificate ?
If you have had success and had good responses asking direct questions then you can take your appraisal of the landlord to the next level.
A more natural conversation should ensue and you should feel comfortable asking them the following:
Have there been any problems with the property in the past? What repairs have you had carried out in the last twelve months? – An honest landlord will have something to say, even if it is only about minor problems.
How often do you visit the property? – Good landlords will keep their distance except when there are problems. You don’t want your landlord stalking you or trying to control you in your home, but you want them to fix problems quickly. The ideal answer is, ‘Only when there is an issue, then I’ll be round as fast as I can.’
Do you have a property portfolio or is this your only property for rent? – Some landlords manage one or two properties in addition to having a full time job. Others are professional full time landlords. Consider the impact this may have on how quickly issues or repairs will be responded to.
Do you do repairs yourself or do you use a preferred handyman service? – Some landlords consider themselves DIY experts. It might be difficult to tell your landlord that their repair work is not up to scratch.
Who will conduct the inventory report ? – Often landlords prefer to do their own inventory, but whiz through it without properly describing the condition of the property. Other times they may strategically miss some details in hopes of getting some refreshments paid by the tenancy deposit. Always remember to check the inventory and sort out any inaccuracies.
Can I redecorate or modify the layout of the rooms ? – Tenants, especially those who stay for a longer period, should be allowed to personalise the property, at their own expense. There are landlords who are too strict about it and some can even charge you to return the original look or deduct money from the deposit. While it’s not illegal to do, it’s not reasonable and you want avoid trouble from the start.
Are the utilities included in the price ? – Some utilities will probably be included in the price and others may not. You want to ask about them and calculate their price into your monthly budget for renting. Make sure all the utilities are accounted for.
Are there any extra fees ? What are my startup payments ? – It’s common to have to pay a month’s worth of deposit + your first month’s rent + your last month’s rent, totalling 3 rent payments just to move in. However, some landlords also charge small fees for credit checking, application processing and even down payments to take the property off the market. These can sum up to a few hundred pounds and you will want to know exactly how much you’ll have to pay.
Do you use a break clause ? – A break clause is a section in the tenancy agreement that allows the landlord to terminate the contract before the fixed-term has expired. The break clause can be used after a set amount of time and is irrefutable. Make sure to know how and when the landlord can evict you, so you are prepared.
What are the landlord contact details ? – Your landlord should provide you with full contact details, including their current address and full name. An honest landlord should not be hesitant to give them to you.
Can I contact your leaving / ex-tenants ? – If your landlord is difficult about providing you the names or phone numbers of the previous occupiers, the landlord might not want you to hear what they have to say about the property. You can ask the neighbours as well, but even if you don’t, just measuring the reaction of your landlord would be an indication.
How to spot a bad landlord
You can learn a lot about a landlord’s standards from the condition of their property.
Landlords are responsible for:
- The upkeep of the structure and the exterior
- Heating, hot water, plumbing and other equipment
- Fire safety
- The safety of gas and electrical appliances
- All sanitary equipment including toilet, sinks and baths
- Complying with all the laws and regulations about letting a property such as safeguarding your deposit
Questions that landlords may ask that are perfectly okay:
- What do you work ? Who is your employer ? What is your income ?
- Do you have formal education, what level ?
- Are you living with (bringing in) more people ? What are their names ? Can I meet them ?
- Do you have pets ? Do you smoke ?
- Can I do a credit check on you ?
- What references do you have ? Can I speak with your past landlord ?
It’s perfectly okay for your landlord to request additional information. Based on it, they can judge you as a potential tenant and decide for themself if you’re the right person to rent their property to. Be open about aspects of your life that might be a subject of dispute further on.
Questions that landlords may ask and you should be WARY of:
- Are you single / married / divorced ?
- Will you have more children ?
- What is your ethnic background / religion / sexual orientation ?
- Will you have guests or family visiting ?
The landlord may sometime ask personal questions. Don’t feel obligated to answer them, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing this information with your landlord. Personal information should and cannot be demanded as a requirement for renting. You also cannot be denied accommodation based on the answers to these questions, although the landlord is free to arbitrarily choose their tenants.
If the landlord pushes you into sharing personal information, you should be wary of them.
What to avoid
Landlords do not like properties to sit empty and may show you one as soon as it is available rather than wait until necessary repairs have been carried out. If the property is in bad condition or you notice something that looks like it has required fixing for a while, it is worth asking yourself if the landlord is serious about repairs and maintenance.
Do not accept verbal promises that the damp issue will be fixed or the broken washing machine will be replaced after you have signed the tenancy agreement. It is likely you will end up paying full rent for the same problems that forced the previous tenants to move out. If the landlord is promising to fix something, ask what day the tradesmen are expected and have it added to the tenancy agreement. The landlord is not obliged to do anything that is not stated on this legally binding document.
Pressure to sign the tenancy agreement
A landlord to avoid is someone who pressures you to sign the tenancy agreement without giving you time to read it thoroughly. It is a legally binding document that sets out your financial obligations as well as your responsibilities during the tenancy; once signed you are committed for the fixed term period (which is usually six or twelve months). Sleep on your decision as it will impact you financially and emotionally for the full length of the tenancy.
For information on how to prepare and present yourself for a meeting with your landlord, see our article titled ‘Find a good landlord’.
Research and check that your prospective landlord’s memberships are current:
This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.
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