THINGS TO LOOK FOR WHEN HOUSE-HUNTING
Gas & electricity supplies: Are they included in the rent? Who is liable to sign for them? Are they safe?
Heating: Is it adequate? Economical? Imagine what the house will be like in January with snow on the ground.
Plumbing: Are there any leaks? Do taps work? Does the toilet flush? Are pipes lagged?
Furniture: Is there enough? Is it in good condition? Does it meet fire safety regulations? Is there adequate food storage facilities and/or fridge freezer? Is there somewhere quiet to study?
Security: Check the area. Are there streetlights? Do the doors and windows lock? Who has access to the keys? Are there smoke alarms and fire extinguishers?
Outside: Does the roof look sound? Check for leaks. Is the guttering in order?
Services: What services is the landlord providing? Check gardening, window cleaning, and lighting in common areas and refuse disposal.
Proximity: East of route to University. Check availability of shops. Are there a lot of break-ins in the area? Contact the PSNI to check.
Light: Habitable rooms must be lit by natural light. Other rooms, stairs and passages must have adequate artificial light.
Damp: Are there signs of dampness? (Ask if it has been recently decorated).
Rent: How much is your rent? Is there a rent book? Do tenants pay separately or as one?
Deposit: How much is your deposit? What is it for?Tenancy Agreement: Is there one? What kind of tenancy agreement is it? How long is it for? Will you get on with other tenants?
Always ask for a receipt for any money paid for deposits or rent. With returnable deposits always ask for a clear statement of when it will be returned and under what conditions it can be forfeit. Some landlords may be reluctant to return deposits. The statement will help protect you from failure to return deposits within a reasonable time.
If you are asked to pay "key money" (a payment to the landlord to provide a key) or a "letting fee" (a payment to the landlord's agent in respect of his administration costs) seek advice as you are under no obligation to pay. The Education and Welfare Office will help with this.
Check who is responsible for which repairs. Always communicate in writing to your landlord if repairs need done. Retain a copy for yourself.
When moving in draw up a list of repairs needing done with the landlord, get them to sign it and keep a copy for yourself.
Never withhold rent because of disrepair without first getting proper advice as you may be held in breach of contract.
Given the high number of burglaries in student areas, you are advised to take out insurance on the contents of your house/flat/room against theft or damage. This is the responsibility of the tenant, not the landlord. Endsleigh Insurance caters well for student insurance policies. They can do policies for specific items as well as a special student insurance plan, which covers the contents of your room if you live in shared housing.