A kind landlady of mine once told me that moving house is one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through. It tops giving birth, going on holiday, exams and driving tests for sheer life-altering capacity. Your home is meant to be your sanctuary, your haven, the place you will always feel safe. And it’s changing.
The decision to move is one that needs to be considered fully before you even start the property hunt – both financially and emotionally. Are you ready to let go of the memories you’ve made in your current home, and can you afford the expense of removal vans, application fees, deposits and re-decoration?
But what happens after all of that? You’re ready to move, you’re knee-deep in boxes and you’ve got the contract to your brand new home clutched in your hand. But before you do anything more, it’s time to be asking some questions. Houses can be risky things when rushed into, so we’ve come up with the ten most important questions to be asking your landlord or letting agent before you signing the contract:
1. What are the neighbours like?
Loud, irritating, disruptive and chaotic neighbours can be the downfall of a beautiful house. Depending on your routine, neighbourly greetings such as a screaming baby, loud music, ferocious arguments and heavy construction can be instant mood-killers, so it’s important to gauge just who will be sleeping through the wall adjoining yours before making that step.
2. What are the decorating limits?
This one is different for every house, and every landlord. Some may be open to a refresh of paint, some nice picture hooks, and perhaps the odd curtain re-hang, so long as there’s no lasting damage done to their property. Some may be stricter. If you’re looking for a house to modify once inside, it’s best to check your limits first.
3. How do you feel about pets?
Although you may not be moving in with a furry friend, circumstances may change once you’re a tenant. Surprise birthday presents, ‘accidental’ trips to the adoption centre and adorable strays may come your way unexpectedly, and there’s nothing worse then getting your heart broken by a stern landlord with a firm ‘NO PETS’ letter being posted through your letterbox.
4. Where are the best transport links?
For friends who want to visit, or the long commute to work, this is a really important question to be asking if you’re moving to a community you’re unfamiliar with. Is there a nearby bus stop to take you into town? How easy is it to get to the nearest train station? How did the previous tenants move around the city?
5. What is the parking situation?
This is another issue that might not seem urgent, but may surprise you. When parents come to stay, or you drive to carry that new sofa home from IKEA, is there a handy spot to park whilst you unpack and unload? Can you get a parking permit for the street, or borrow a neighbour’s driveway? Find this out now to avoid getting a scary fine later down the line.
6. What were the previous tenants like?
This is a great question to ask for two reasons. The first, to find out the nitty gritty, and avoid any unexpected surprises. Were the smokers, or have any potentially odorous pets that might leave a scent-stain on the house? Did they clean it properly before vacating? Why are they moving out?
This also gives you a chance to find out how to be the perfect tenant, but judging the landlords response. If they complain of late rent, noise problems, untidy rooms, or damage – you know just what to avoid when you move in!
7. How much storage space is there?
For most of our hoarder generation, we have more stuff than we know what to do with. So does your new house have enough space to hold it all, or is it time to part with your childhood Pokemon card collection and memorabilia set?
This also gives you the chance to pick up some much needed shelving and storage units before moving in, to avoid to awkward three-weeks of unpacked boxes whilst you decide what to do!
8. How often are inspections?
Without sounding too shifty about this one, it’s a good question to ask to prepare yourselves for any spot checks or surprise visits from the landlord. If they’re prone to popping round unexpectedly, it’s a good idea to keep your house a little straighter ‘just in case’. If not, feel free to time your tidy around scheduled visits, and relax the rest of the year.
9. How good is the signal/wifi connection?
There’s nothing worse than spotty wifi. If your dream home comes with a social blackspot, it might be worth re-considering just how much you need your 4G. This is also a great way to judge how responsive your landlord is to problems and issues – if they’re known for leaving problems like poor wifi or signal for years without dealing with it, they might not be the most reliable when it comes to leaking roofs, broken light bulbs or lock replacements.
10. What’s the guest policy?
Is there a limit to your guests, or how long they can stay? For the stricter landlords, any guests staying beyond a certain limit can be considered ‘subletters’, and can be determined as a criminal offence, so make sure you’re clear on the guest policy before you invite your besties round for a month-long sleepover.
Moving house can be scary, exciting, stressful and inspiring, so make the most of it, and get your facts right before signing that contract!