Near the end of last year I had a part time job in a small Dublin lettings agency. Here the reality of the housing crisis became apparent. Politicians continue to debate solutions, rent controls, increase supply by building more public housing or incentives for landlords but where does that leave the average person looking for somewhere to rent?
In this job I saw people desperately trying to secure accommodation and the attitude and actions of agencies who have the pick of the crop. So what can you do to make sure you are the one that finds somewhere? Here are some of the top tips I've learned:
1. Don't waste time on email
When looking online, express an interest in any properties that look like they could be suitable. Where possible always secure viewings by phone. Contacting individuals and agencies by email rarely results in a reply and when it does it is often too slow; someone else has pipped you to the post. If you are calling an agency and leaving a message always state your name and leave your contact number twice. You have to make it as easy for them as possible. You need them more than they need you.
2. Discuss your requirements with your housemates
If you are searching for somewhere as a group make sure you have discussed what you are looking for before you start house hunting. Decide what is essential (e.g. number of bedrooms) and what features can be compromised on (e.g. would you all be willing to live further away from your college or work in exchange for a lower price?) Avoid any arguments by establishing these facts, in particular costs (rent, bills and transport costs) early on.
3. Have all the necessary paperwork
Attend viewings with all documents (and photocopies of documents) that you might need. You will probably be asked to show payslips, work contracts, bank details and references (preferably from previous landlords). It is becoming increasingly difficult for students, the unemployed and young families to find somewhere so make sure you have everything that they might ask for. They will probably want someone who can move in straight away and begin paying rent immediately. Be prepared for this. Very rarely will you be able to secure a place in May and move in in September.
4. Present yourself well
Always present yourself well. Speak to the landlord or agency representative and try to build up a rapport. Engage with the process and appear interested. Treat viewings, open viewings in particular, as you would a job interview. Dress well, not necessarily suit and ties but clean, presentable clothing. Show yourself to be someone who has a serious interest in the property and that you will be a reliable tenant who will always pay rent on time.
5. Have your deposit ready
If you are offered a place move quickly and do not hesitate. Sign the contract and pay the deposit as soon as you can. This is one of those things that everyone says but hardly anyone ever does.
6. Keep photographic evidence
When you move into a place take photographs and notes of the condition of the room or house. Email a copy to yourself to keep them safe. This will also give you proof of the date taken so if you need to use them in the future you can prove the condition of the property when you arrived.
7. Keep copies of everything
When signing documents always make sure they are dated and hand signed by all parties. Makes copies of all documents, again it is always worth emailing a copy to yourself.
8. Discuss what will happen if someone leaves
If you are a group of people taking out a lease on a property decide whether one person is going to be the leaseholder named on the contract or whether everyone will be on the contract. Ask if one person is forced to break the contract what impact will that have on the others. Will you have to find a new flatmate? Will you have to pay their share of the rent?
9. Keep financial records
Keep a paper trail. If transferring money online be sure to label the transaction clearly, e.g. Mr Smith rent payment December 2015. Always ask for confirmation of payment and keep all receipts.
10. Pay your rent on time
If something should go wrong and you are unable to pay the rent on time one month, but you expect this to just be a one off glitch, contact the landlord or agency as soon as you can to explain your situation. Point out your track record of being a reliable tenant and make it clear how and when you intend to make your next payment.
11. Keep records of your communication
Use email where possible so that there can be no dispute over whether a message was sent or when. Alternatively if staying in contact by post ask for a receipt when posting and notify the intended recipient that you have sent the item.
12. Know your rights
Brush up on tenant’s right. Citizen’s Information are very useful. And most of all, good luck!