Leaving your home for the first time and getting a student residence is exciting, and yet it is nerve-wracking too. Not all of us were born with the knowledge needed for living alone, and it is challenging to make all the arrangements and find student accommodation! You will get perhaps a bit too overwhelmed by the need to find a residence, but there is a simple rule, repeated time and again, every day, by FindSpace and by the most influential authorities in the UK, and:

The rule is: ‘If you don’t know, ask!’

The problem is that many students settle into the first place they have found and then live there and pay the bills. That is not such a big problem, you may say, but if you just ask a few questions before making up your mind and signing up, you can secure not only the best place possible, but the best deal, too.

Here’s a quick overview of the most important questions to ask a landlord in order to avoid getting stung and to make sure you’re in safe hands:

Ask Landlords How Long They Have Been Letting to Students

It is important that you realise the difference between letting to students and letting to mature family couples who have experience in renting and know how to go about the renting process. You, as a student, will have lots of questions for the landlord, and from time to time you will need lots of advice, too – how can you judge whether they are the right people to partner up with? Most landlords have been letting for years, and even for decades, but if you chance on a first-time landlord letting to students, then be sure to be more cautious.

Always Ask What Is NOT Included in the Rent

Landlords always hurry to boast the amazing things which come free with the rent while they strategically do NOT tell you what is not included. Then when you are surprised with an extra bill, you can do nothing really about it – you have already signed the contract. So ask straight away about the things that you will have to pay in addition to the rent: for example, water, electricity, gas, TV licenses, etc.

Ask About All-In Deals

All-in deals are great as they include all bills and save you a lot, but others may leave you penniless, and it may be that all-in deals aren’t offered at all. But it is always good to ask about them, to know the options you have.

Ask About Accommodation Insurance

Generally, all property owners insure their properties before letting them, but there are of course exceptions to the rule. Be sure to ask about the insurance and what it covers. The insurance won’t cover your personal belongings but it should cover the essential appliances in the place that you are planning to rent.

Ask for Gas Safety Checks Evidence

Ask for safety checks evidence for the gas supply piping, and for all gas-powered appliances. Don’t be afraid to ask about evidence of safety checks – if the landlord refuses or hesitates, that should raise a huge red flag.

Ask for Last Replacement of the Main Appliances on the Property

That may sound too picky, but if they have not replaced essential appliances like the fridge, the washing machine, etc., for decades, that does not show great care of the tenants. You are going to use these appliances for a year, two, or three, so you have the right to know when they were last replaced!

Ask for References

That is perhaps the most important question you should ask as references can back their claims, and you should be able to obtain them. Look for written testimonials or get the contact details of present or past tenants. Be sure to check what references other tenants have given before signing the contract.

Ask for Some Time to Think About It

The last question you should ask is somewhat tricky – ask if you will have the opportunity to think it over. If the landlord is urging you, putting pressure on you, and repeating ‘Either sign now, or never’, that is a sign of a dodgy dealer you’d better avoid. Rather than pressing you to sign, then and there, your future landlord should take your best interests to heart, and be confident enough that after thinking about it you will come and sign the contract.