1. Location, Location, Location – it is often said that the three most important things about buying a house are Location, Location and Location and the same applies when looking for a house to rent. It may sound obvious, but you may think at the time “Oh the walk will do me good” or “I won’t mind commuting” but will you really feel like then when you have a 9am lecture on a Monday morning? Make sure the house has good transport links to the university and does not take too long or cost too much to get there. Also, look around the local area. Are there any convenience shops nearby? Will you feel safe to walking home in the small hours of the morning? Is it an area with a high crime rate?
2. Look out for signs of damp & mould – as you look round, look at the walls and ceilings for signs of black mould, particularly near the windows or the smell of dampness in the house. Not only does damp smell bad but it can also be bad for your health living in a house with mould, particularly if you suffer from allergies and asthma.
3. Pests – when you look round, check for any signs that there might have been a problem with pests, such as mice, rats or slugs. Landlords will try to cover this up when showing potential tenants around, but ask to look in cupboards, or scrutinise the carpets for slug trails.
4. Safety and security – do the windows have locks? What about each individual door? And the front door? Are there smoke alarms and fire extinguishers fitted? Are there good fire escape routes from all floors and all rooms?
5. Electrics – have a good look at the plug sockets and electrical appliances that are provided in the house. Do they look safe? Are there loose cables? Are there enough sockets in your room? Are there enough electrical appliances for all the people who would be living there?
6. Heating and Insulation – as winter sets in, if the house is not well insulated or the heating does not work properly, you will be miserably cold. Check whether the windows are double glazed, the loft is insulated, the doors are draught proof and that the heating system works.
7. Storage – if the property comes furnished, are there enough cupboards and other storage space for all your things?
8. Gas – if there is gas in the property, your landlord should provide a copy of the annual gas safety inspection certificate, which he is legally required to have done every year.
As you wander round the property, you will also get a feel for the general condition of the property and if it feels as though it is looked after by the landlord. If a house needs a lot of repairs done, it will suggest that the landlord is unreliable.