13 questions to ask before renting a property, according to experts

Going into property viewings armed with the right questions is essential.
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There are lots of things you need to consider when searching for a place to live. In fact, it can be an exhausting process but going into property viewings armed with the right questions is essential.

The experts at Which? have shared the top questions you'll need to consider and ask when planning on renting a property. It's not a given that the letting agent will provide all the information you need, so it's important to have a bit of your own research under your belt.

Below, experts have shared everything you'll need to consider - including whether there are any additional costs, how strong the internet connection is, and what you need to know about the property insurance. Here's what they had to say.

Which bills are included in the rent?

Some landlords include bills such as gas, electricity and water in the price of rent. Which? says it is worth checking which bills are included and if there are any limits on what you can use, what happens if you exceed the limit and how the landlord will increase rent if bills go up. Landlords cannot charge you more than they pay the supplier.

Do you take a holding deposit?

A 'holding' deposit is different from a tenancy deposit. You might be asked to pay a holding deposit to reserve a property, particularly in areas with high demand.

Holding deposits to reserve a property are capped at one week's rent in England and Wales but are banned in Scotland. Which? says that if you have to pay, make sure the landlord or letting agent can tell you exactly how much the holding deposit will be, how long they will keep it and under what circumstances you would not have it refunded.

Are there any other tenancy fees?

Most tenancy-related fees have now been banned across the UK - landlords and letting agents can no longer charge fees for references, credit checks or renewing your tenancy. However, you may be charged fees for late rent payment, losing your keys and changes made to your agreement made at your request.

Is any other agency advertising this property?

It's not unusual for more than one agency advertising a property - this is particularly relevant if the letting agent you're dealing with asks for a holding deposit. However, if another agency is also advertising the property, paying a holding deposit might not mean the property is off the market.

Who will be managing the property?

You should expect letting agents to be clear on who you would contact to fix any problems, and if it's the landlord, they should be able to give you some details about how to communicate with the landlord.

Can I see gas and electricity safety documents?

These documents won't necessarily be available at the viewing, but an agent should be able to tell you the rules around gas and electrical safety and what to expect around maintenance.

Can I see the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?

A good letting agent will include an EPC on the property advertisement, and take a copy to the viewing. If they don't have one to hand during the viewing, they should be able to tell you what the property's rating is and what that might mean for your energy bills. By law, you have to have one no later than move in day.

The better the rating the EPC gives the property, the lower your utility bills are likely to be. This could save you hundreds of pounds a year.

When was the boiler last serviced?

Your gas safety certificate should include boiler servicing details. The landlord might not know exactly when the boiler was last serviced during the viewing, but they should be able to advise correctly on the rules around servicing (have a service done once a year) and give you an idea of how old the boiler is.

How strong is the internet connection?

The agent showing you around might not necessarily know the answer to this question, but you can usually find out what suppliers are available and the top speeds available at the property with the address details.

Where are the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms?

Letting agents should know the rules on smoke alarms - in England, this is to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (eg a coal fire, wood burning stove). Ideally, carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted regardless - as is the case in Scotland.

What is the duration of the contract?

Usually there will be room to negotiate on this, depending on the landlord's and your preferences. Some may only be looking for long-term tenancies, others short-term. Make sure the duration of the contract suits you.

What insurance covers the property?

Which? says that you need to know what's covered by insurance should anything go awry. As a tenant, you should consider securing insurance for your contents and belongings.

How is the rental property classified?

If you're moving into shared accommodation, check whether the property should have a 'house in multiple occupation' (HMO) licence from the local council. This usually applies to property that is three or more storeys and occupied by five or more people who are not in the same family. If it is a licensed HMO, the property should have more safeguards for the tenants, such as fire doors.