Meeting a landlord – nine questions to ask

Meeting a landlord – nine questions to askHeading to university normally represents the first time students have ever needed to meet, and negotiate with, landlords. Leaving the family home can be exciting…but is often stressful too. Thorough planning, alongside expert advice and support, helps alleviate those worries.

Here are nine questions you should ask the landlord when you view your potential student home:

1.      Are you accredited by my university?

You should really check your landlord is accredited by your university, and signed up to the university’s code of standards, before going to a house viewing. If you don’t know before you arrive, find out as soon as you meet. You might have heard the line: “If your minicab’s not booked, it’s just a stranger’s car.” Equally, the fact someone has a house to rent does not necessarily mean they are a safe, responsible landlord.

2.      Is the tenancy agreement a fixed-term contract and, if so, how long is the fixed-term period?

Check dates carefully. You might be unpleasantly surprised. Don’t just assume the agreement covers an academic year or a 12-month period.

3.      Are bills included in the rent?

Any misunderstanding on this point could be an expensive mistake!

4.      How much is the deposit and how will you protect that money?

Landlords have no right to spend your deposit money. If you are renting on an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), for example – which is the most common form of tenancy in the UK – your landlord must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP). These schemes ensure your deposit will be returned if you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement, pay your rent and bills and do not damage the property. Your landlord must, therefore, conduct a survey of the house, with you, before you move in. Don’t be blamed for damage you did not cause.

5.      Will you repair any existing damage?

Take the time to inspect your potential future home thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to be difficult. Run taps. Turn on the oven. Flush toilets. Ensure the landlord agrees, in writing, to fix broken appliances or furniture, or carry out any necessary redecorating. Similarly, if the landlord promises to buy furniture or other items for the house, ensure you have that commitment in writing too. If the landlord seems obstructive or reluctant to make written commitments, ask yourself whether this person is trustworthy. If you have your doubts, act on those instincts. You are probably right. Look elsewhere. There are always other options.

6.      Who will be responsible for property maintenance after I move in?

You can reasonably be expected to manage small, straightforward tasks such as changing light bulbs but you should not be asked to carry out skilled or potentially dangerous work such as attempting to mend a broken boiler. There is no particular reason for landlords not to carry out repair work themselves if they are sufficiently qualified or skilled in DIY. Nonetheless, be wary of cut-price maintenance. Ideally, your landlord should employ professional tradespeople, screened through the UK government’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), ensuring you and your possessions are only ever alone with trustworthy people.

7.      Will you undertake regular health and fire safety checks on my student home?

The only acceptable answer to this question is ‘yes’.

8.      May I talk to the current (or most recent) tenants?

If the landlord tries to block that conversation, he or she might well have something to hide.

9.      Do I have to sign right now?

Never feel pressured to sign. A good landlord with a good property has no reason to be desperate. Unscrupulous landlords see students as naïve and stressed and therefore easy to manipulate into a hasty commitment. Better to lose that particular house than end up living miserable for the year ahead.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. But if you ask your potential landlord the right questions, you’ll go a long way toward securing your perfect student home.