A Tenant's guide: Defining your housing requirements

This article aims to help tenants to determine their housing requirements.  It is important tenants choose a property which meets their needs and is within their budget.  This is increasingly important in turbulent economic times and will ensure tenants do not over extend themselves.  As landlords and letting agents K&G Lettings Limited often deal with tenants who have over extended themselves and then had to downsize to a more affordable property.  This creates extra expense and stress that can be avoided with a little extra planning and careful consideration of their housing requirements.

How long are you looking to let?

It is important tenants consider the length of time they want to rent the property as the majority of properties available within the private rented sector are let on Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) - read our Tenants guide to an ASTs to find out more about ASTs.  ASTs traditionally last between 6 and 12 months before coming to an end, being renewed, or moving on to a periodic tenancy, depending on what is detailed in the tenancy agreement.

Most landlords are flexible and will offer either a 6 or 12 month tenancy, however, some landlords will only accept a minimum of 12 months.  It is very important tenants consider how long they want to let the property and clarify with the landlord or the letting agent whether it is possible to let the property for the desired time period. If the desire is to let the property for longer than 12 months it is worth asking the landlord or letting agent whether they will renew the AST after 6 or 12 months and if there will be any conditions to the new tenancy, for example, an increase in the rent.

What do you need?

It is important that tenants determine their minimum requirements from any rental property.  The larger the house (number of bedrooms or reception rooms) and the more features it contains the more expensive it will be to rent.  This part of the article is designed to help tenants determine their minimum requirements.

Number of bedrooms

A Tenant's housing requirements are usually determined by the number of bedrooms required.  As a guide, we recommend people use the following information to determine the minimum number of bedrooms they require:

  • Adults/couples = 1 bedroom
  • Children = 1 bedroom or 0.5 if same sex and under 11 

You should add up the number of bedrooms and round up to the nearest whole number.  For example:

A married couple with three children under 11 (2 boys and one girl), would require the following minimum number of bedrooms:

1 x adults/couples = 1 bedroom

 +

2 x 0.5 (children of same sex under 11(boys)) = 1 bedroom

 +

1 x 1 children (girl under 11) = 1 bedroom

 =

3 bedrooms

Number of reception rooms

The number of reception rooms required is a personal choice and will often be linked to the number of people within the property.  Generally, K&G lettings limited recommend the following:

  • 1 to 3 people = 1 reception room
  • 4 or more people = 2 reception rooms 

This is the minimum recommended and if people can afford the extra space they often look for properties that provide an extra reception room.  Tenants need to consider whether they prefer to have an extra reception room or some other feature (garage etc) of the property.

Parking

Off- or on-road parking is dependant on the location and type of property.  Often off-road parking comes at a premium to on-road parking but, if the property is a flat it is likely that off-road, secure parking will be included. If off-road parking is important, always ensure you ask the letting agent to include this when searching for suitable properties.

Proximity to public transport

Public transport is important to people who either can not, or choose not to drive.  Generally, houses with very good public transports rent quickly and at a premium to those with poor transport links. Often, using a website, like the ones listed in the 'Researching a new' area section can quickly help to determine the type of transport facilities nearby.

Facilities for children

Facilities for children, including, schools, childcare facilities, doctors and medical facilities and outside space (garden and parks) are extremely important to many people who have children.  Often properties which are close to good schools and other facilities for children rent at a premium to those which do not, especially, if the properties are suitable to house a family.  The tools detailed at the end of the article are designed to assist you in determining the facilities close to a rental property (see 'Researching a new area' section).

Other property features

Additional factors to consider when determining which rental property to choose are listed below.  Again, the more features the property has, the more expensive it will be to rent.

  • Garage
  • Type of central heating (gas or electric, with gas usually at a slight premium).
  • Ideal number of bedrooms
  • Quiet area
  • Proximity to work
  • Proximity to amenities:
    • Restaurants
    • Doctors
    • Hospitals
    • Shops
    • Parks

What can you afford?

This section is designed to outline how to determine what rent you can afford to pay each month.  You will need a spreadsheet package or a pen, paper and a calculator to undertake the calculations below.

To determine the maximum monthly rent use the following formula:

maximum monthly rent = Annual pay ÷ 30

The formula above, is similar to ones used by letting agents and landlords to determine whether a tenant can afford to rent a property.  If the calculations show the rent to be unaffordable, landlord and letting agents often ask a tenant to provide a guarantor for the rent.  The find out more about the role of a guarantor read A Tenants guide: What is a Guarantor?

If the calculations show that the maximum rent is too much for you, you should seriously consider worth it is worth spending more than 1/3rd of your income on rent.

Responsibilities of the tenant

When a tenant lets a property they are usually responsible for a number of factors, including paying the council tax and all utility bills, unless stated in their tenancy agreement.  For more on the responsibilities of being a tenant, see the K&G Lettings article of the same name.

Researching a new area:

This section signposts you to a range of sites which can help to investigate an area.  The sites outline the type and distance to local amenities, statistics on the area and a range of other local information.

Google map

Google map allows you to quickly and visually determine the location of a property by viewing its location on a map.  It is useful for determining the amenities that are located close to the property and the look of areas which surround it.

Link: http://maps.google.co.uk/

Neighbourhood Statistics

Neighbourhood statistics provides a range of information on an area or post code.  It includes information on the population within the area, including the mix of ethnicities and ages of people.  It also provides information on schools and crime.

Link:  http://www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/

K&G Lettings Limited Welcome pack

In addition to the online services detailed above, K&G Lettings Limited provide each property with a welcome pack.  The pack includes information and instructions on using the services and appliances within the property.  It also details services such as post offices, GPs and other health services within the area.

Viewing the property

Once you have determined which properties meet your requirements and have researched the areas they are located within (see researching a new area section), it is time to book a viewing of the property.

When viewing the property, we recommend you take a tape measure to determine whether your existing furniture fits within the property.  It is also recommended you view the property at different times of the day (early morning; early and late evenings) to determine whether the neighbourhood meets your requirements.  An additional tool to take is a camera and a notepad.  This allows you to take photos and notes about the properties you view and will make it easier to recall the details of each house.

Making a decision: what to compromise?

It is unlikely all properties will meet all your requirements so, you are going to have to compromise.  This should be made easier if you have considered your minimum requirements and budget.  Choosing the house that meets these minimum requirements and gives you the additional features you would like whilst remaining within your budget sounds easy.  It can however, take several hours of discussion, if you are moving into the property with a partner.  We recommend you list the pros and cons of each property and be prepared to compromise.

To ensure you secure the property you decide upon, we recommend you make a decision within 48 hours of viewing your last property.  Doing this will hopefully mean you get to live in the property of your dreams.

Summary

Choosing a rental property is fraught with decisions and compromises.  This article provides a basis for determining the minimum requirements needed by a tenant of a rental property.  There will often be requirements that differ between tenants, however, this article should help a tenant make a start in determining their needs.

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© K&G Lettings Limited 2006-2013. All rights reserved. Never rely exclusively on our standard answers and general content. Always do your own specific research and seek professional advice. Always have the entire facts and all documents to hand before making any decision.

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