13 questions renters need to ask before signing a tenancy agreement

Going into property viewings armed with the right questions is essential.
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When you're on the hunt for a new home, there's a lot to think about. It can be a tiring process, but it's crucial to go into property viewings with a list of key questions. The pros at Which? have put together the top queries you should be asking when you're planning to rent a place.

Don't assume that the letting agent will give you all the details you need - it's always good to do your own homework. Here, the experts have laid out everything you need to think about - from hidden costs and internet strength to what you need to know about insurance for the property.

Below we look at their key advice for renters and the 13 questions you should ask before signing your tenancy agreement.

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What bills are included in the rent?

Some landlords roll bills like gas, electricity and water into the rent. Which? suggests checking which bills are covered and if there are any usage limits, what happens if you go over the limit and how the landlord will hike the rent if bills rise. And remember, landlords can't charge you more than they pay the supplier.

Do you take a holding deposit?

A 'holding' deposit is not the same as a tenancy deposit. You might be asked to stump up a holding deposit to secure a property, especially in high-demand areas.

In England and Wales, holding deposits to reserve a property are capped at one week's rent, but they're banned in Scotland. Which? advises that if you have to pay one, ensure the landlord or letting agent can provide precise details about the holding deposit amount, its retention period, and under what conditions it wouldn't be refunded.

Are there any other tenancy fees?

Most fees related to tenancy have now been prohibited across the UK - landlords and letting agents can no longer charge for references, credit checks or tenancy renewals. However, charges may apply for late rent payment, lost keys, and changes made to your agreement upon your request.

Is any other agency advertising this property?

It's not uncommon for multiple agencies to advertise a property - this is especially pertinent if the letting agent you're dealing with requests a holding deposit. However, if another agency is also advertising the property, paying a holding deposit doesn't necessarily mean the property is off the market.

Who will be managing the property?

Letting agents should clearly communicate who would be responsible for addressing any issues, and if it's the landlord, they should provide information on how to get in touch with them.

Can I see gas and electricity safety documents?

These documents may not be readily available at the viewing, but a competent agent should be able to inform you about the regulations concerning gas and electrical safety, as well as what to anticipate in terms of maintenance.

Can I view the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?

A proficient letting agent will typically include an EPC in the property advertisement and bring a copy to the viewing. If they don't have one available during the viewing, they should be able to inform you about the property's rating and how it might impact your energy bills.

It is a legal requirement to have one by the time you move in. The higher the rating the EPC assigns to the property, the less likely you are to have high utility bills. This could potentially save you hundreds of pounds annually.

When was the boiler last serviced?

Your gas safety certificate should contain details about the boiler servicing. The landlord may not know the exact date of the last boiler service during the viewing, but they should be able to provide accurate information about the servicing rules (annual servicing is required) and give you an estimate of the boiler's age.

What is the strength of the internet connection?

The agent conducting the viewing may not know the answer to this question, but you can usually determine which suppliers are available and the maximum speeds attainable at the property using the address details.

Where are the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms located?

Letting agents should be well-versed in the regulations regarding smoke alarms. In England, it's mandatory 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 (e.g. , 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?

The length of the contract can often be negotiated, depending on the landlord's and your preferences. Some landlords may only be looking for long-term tenancies, others short-term. Ensure the duration of the contract suits your needs.

What insurance covers the property?

Which? advises that you need to know what's covered by insurance should anything go wrong. 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.