Top tips for finding your next home safely and confidently

Finding and moving into a new rental property can be overwhelming. You may also feel under pressure to get contracts signed as quickly as possible so you can settle in and start making the space feel like home. 

While most people will have a seamless and positive experience with reliable and trusty landlords, it's always a good idea to err on the side of caution and ensure you properly do your background checks and understand the terms of your agreement.

To help you find your next home safely and confidently, we’ve pulled together tips on what to ask and what to look for when viewing a property.

1. Visit the property in person

No matter how good a rental listing’s pictures are, it doesn’t make up for visiting the property and having the opportunity to properly check things out for yourself. An established and respectable landlord or letting agent will always be happy to show you around the home you wan to rent.

  • Are there smoke alarms in place and are they working? 
  • Are the sizes of the rooms as expected and advertised?
  • Do the electrics seem ok? Is there a safety certificate?
  • Test the water pressure, is it as expected?

In addition, a visit in person also allow you to review the property’s location, how close it is to local shops and transport links. But more than that, it’s an opportunity to get a sense of the area, and assess if it’s right for you.

Top Tip: Take a friend to give you a second opinion as well as give you confidence if meeting a new landlord in person for the first time.

2. Check the paperwork

As overwhelming as it can be, it’s so important to check and double check all the paperwork and documents that come with taking on a new property.

Potential landlords or letting agents should be able to provide you with the following documents:

  • Tenancy Agreement – This is a contract between you and your landlord detailing your rights as a tenant and their rights to rent each month. It should contain your statutory rights, your and your landlord’s rights and responsibilities by law, as well as any specific details about the tenancy such as the use of shared gardens or rules for pets.
  • A gas safety certificate – Any property that uses gas appliances should provide the tenant with a copy of a gas safety certificate at the start of your tenancy.
  • Details of the deposit protection scheme used – If your landlord is asking for a deposit, it should be protected in a government approved scheme which both you and your landlord will have the information for.
  • An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – This certificate tells you how energy efficient your property is and how expensive energy costs will likely be. EPC ratings are classified from most efficient (A) to least efficient (G) and any property with a rating of F or G cannot legally be let.

It’s also worth checking who is responsible for paying the bills, such as the electricity, gas, water and council tax; what the length of the tenancy is, such as 12 or 18 months; whether or not there is a break clause; if there are rules about smoking or pets; and whether your landlord or agent has signed a code of practice, which can give you further reassurance about how they work.

3. Fees and deposits

It’s essential to ensure a tenancy agreement is in place before you pay any money, including deposits or holding fees. If someone asks you to send a payment or bank details before viewing a listing or finalising a tenancy agreement, that should be a red flag. 

In addition, a deposit should be not more than 5 weeks’ worth of rent, where annual rent is less than £50,000, or 6 weeks’ rent, where annual rent is more than £50,000. For more information and advice, check out the Government’s Checklist for Renting or download our free guide to renting – Rent Smart. We also have a Handy Guide to Renting with all the information you need to start looking for a home. Once you’re ready, you can find your perfect property on Gumtree.

4. Always put safety first

With rental property across the UK in high demand, criminals may seek to exploit those looking for a new home. In fact, Action Fraud received an average of 15 reports of rental fraud a day in 2022.

Our Help Desk lists most common rental scams, but if you are suspicious about a property, walk away and report the listing to Gumtree to our Help Desk team or via the ‘Report’ button on the advert.