We live in a time when renting a home has never been so popular, but with that added demand, comes the problem of a minority of landlords looking to take advantage of their tenants.
In this article we offer 5 things to look out for / check for when renting your next room to make sure you are working with a professional landlord who knows how to look after their property, your home and their tenants.
1. Ask the landlord about their credentials
Experience and track record speak volumes, and give you a great sense about what sort of landlord you're working with. If they have one or 2 properties, you're most likely dealing with the "mom and pop" landlords who own a small portfolio. They are generally very protective over their property investment but also provide a more attentive, personable service than more professional companies. What it may mean however is that they are also not geared up to sort out issues with your house. You may find that maintenance issues don't get sorted quickly, or any issues reported take a long time to prompt a response. This is because typically their property work is a side line to their main job. I met a landlord once who was showing round a few of their houses in Coventry, and each time we got to a new house, it took him 25 minutes to locate the right keys out of the briefcase full he had in the back of his car. This is a warning sign. If they don't have efficient systems for things as important as keys, what else don't they have systems for?
Our top tip here is to ask the landlord how many rental units they run, and how they deal with things like maintenance issues. Ideally, they should have an issue reporting process for tenants to follow to get their issues logged, and a maintenance team who regularly go round sorting out the reported issues so they don't drag.
2. What does the rest of the house look like?
It's easy for tenants to view a room which is dressed up and looks amazing and fall in love with the space. The issue is, most of the time the room doesn't COME dressed, its just advertised that way so people can better imagine what it would be like to live there. Unfortunately that may mean people are more likely to overlook things like the communal spaces like bathrooms and kitchens, which are more likely to paint an honest picture of what living in the house is going to be like.
Does the landlord look after the structure of the house? I once walked into a shared house in Bedford, where the entire front wall of one of the upstairs rooms was covered in black mould. This is both a health hazard to anyone living there as well as being disgusting to look at. The fix was incredibly simple. The front of the house had an issue with the guttering meaning water was pouring down the front of the house, and being soaked up by the bricks which led to this terrible damp. The bigger issue was that for something so simple, the landlord in question had not bothered to get it fixed and as a result it had got out of hand. When you're viewing rooms to rent in Bedford, or anywhere else for that matter, keep an eye out for damp spots on walls, and ceilings and don't be afraid to ask the agent or landlord about it on the viewing.
3. Who's living there?
Shared houses can be some of the most sociable experiences, and one of the quickest way to make new friends. They can also be a nightmare experience when the people are too different from one another. Imagine the scenario of shift workers living with university students. The shift workers have erratic shift patters, sometimes starting work at 6AM which means being up by 5AM, and the last thing they want is people coming in from nightclubs drunk at 3AM and waking them up. You can see how in scenarios like this, there is a lot of potential for conflict.
Ask you landlord about the sorts of tenants that are living there already. In our shared houses in Bedford, we only work with the tenant profile of "working professionals". So immediately our tenants know that they will be living with other responsible people who are in work, and have the same sort of life circumstances as them. This has led to some wonderful friendships being forged within the house shares we operate.
4. Shared Broadband!!
When people start sharing band width, things can get slow. That means that as the house and number of people you're sharing with goes up, your speed tends to go down. For that reason it's important to ask your landlord about the bandwidth of their connection. In our experience, tenants tend to care more about being online than they do about having running water. Can't drink... no problem. Slow wifi... end of the world!!!! I joke of course to illustrate the point, but the reality is that in the modern world we live in it has become an essential utility for work, streaming, video chat, downloading, and even just general web browsing.
We always overcompensate on this point and just install the fastest wifi we can get our hands on for our tenants in our shared houses, usually Virgin Media's biggest package, but make sure to ask the landlord at the house you're viewing about the speed of the wifi and which package they take out for you. There's no point having a room with all bills included if the service that you get doesn't meet the right standard.
5. Safety Features
Unfortunately, with more people sharing facilities it becomes easier for things to go wrong. You may come into the kitchen and find the oven on. In a shared house you don't know if someone has finished using it and forgotten to turn it off, or whether they're pre-heating it for use, so things like this get left or missed more often. This results in more fires in shared houses so you've got to know that your landlord has got your back!
Check the door to your bedroom and kitchen is a fire door, that self-closes itself, and that you don't need a key to unlock it from the inside. Imagine scrambling around trying to find the door key to your room when all the fire alarms were going off and you just wanted to escape.
This leads nicely to the second major safety feature of shared houses. Each private room in a licenced HMO should have a hard wired smoke alarm. They should also be in each communal room and corridor.
Finally there is very little point in having these safety features in your house if they aren't checked and tested. Make sure that your landlord keeps and log on the notice board by the front door and that alarms are being tested regularly. It really is in your interest.
If you've found this guide to the less obvious things to look for in your new shared house helpful, be sure to pass it on to a friend via social media, or if this has made you realise that your current landlord is dropping the ball and you want to talk to us about your accommodation requirements, call us today on 01234 865055 or contact us on Facebook or Insta @PandHHomes.
Written by Chris Peel - Director @ P&H Homes and Head of CDP Property Group