Guest post: 5 things to consider when getting broadband in a rented property
Considering its importance to modern life, internet access is all too often overlooked by people hunting for a new home to rent. So here are 5 things that we think you should always consider when it comes to getting broadband in your new property.
Many broadband contracts (and many of the best deals) extend for a minimum of 12 or 24 months, which can often be longer than the term on your new flat. To avoid getting stuck paying for a broadband service that you no longer receive, or being landed with a hefty cancellation fee, a bit of forward planning is necessary.
Enquire about your broadband provider's procedure for switching service to another property, so you know if it will be easy to carry the service over to another home. If you’re living with flatmates though, bear in mind that circumstances can change – that ultra-cheap 24 month contract may not look like such a good idea when you have to move on.
You may also wish to consider a broadband service on a short contract. These can be rolling monthly, three month contracts or student broadband deals designed to fit around term times. This can avoid the hassle of a longer term deal, but keep in mind that you will probably end up paying more per month relative to a longer contract, and in most cases you will still need a phone line which will require its own contract for a minimum of 12 months.
Does your flat have a phone line?
Currently, only Virgin Media offer a broadband service that doesn’t require a phone line, but some flats may not have active phone lines. You may have to pay to get the phone line reinstated, or face a lengthy wait for a workman.
Most letting agents will list the features of a flat when they advertise it on sites like Lettingweb, if a phone line isn’t listed make sure to ask them before moving forward with the contract. If there’s no phone line it isn’t the end of the world, just check the availability of other options in the area or the cost of an installation.
Does your landlord already have a broadband contract?
Many properties (especially student-centric ones) come with broadband nowadays, which can look like a great deal on paper. But make sure to find out what this includes, often the extra features can be found cheaper elsewhere, so don’t end up losing out. And if your landlord’s
broadband package is too slow or has a tiny download limit you may have to dig into your own pocket.
Once again, make sure to investigate fully and ascertain whether any bundled broadband will suit your needs and what you can do if you want to install your own. Like any utility, everything should be simple but it’s worth taking the time ensure you don’t run into a problem down the line.
Watch out for broadband black spots
Despite the reliance that so many of us have on broadband it isn't yet fully available across the entire country, particularly in more remote areas. Certain postcodes won’t be eligible for the faster lines, or certain phone lines won’t have been enabled for fibre services yet.
To check coverage in your area you can use the postcode search function on the Broadband Genie comparison tables - this will feature ISPs to display only those available at your exchange.
What are your alternatives?
Of course, if you face a long wait for your broadband installation or can’t get the service you want in the flat you are after, it isn’t the end of the world.
Mobile broadband is gaining on fixed-line services in terms of speed thanks to the rollout of 4G, and can be utilized either through your mobile phone (if it has tethering enabled) or a USB dongle. However, outside of the major cities you may well find that mobile broadband doesn’t suit your needs. Even after 4G coverage becomes widespread (Ofcom has a deadline of 2017 for 98% indoor coverage) don’t surprised if the service isn’t up to scratch as performance can be affected by many factors.
And if you are using a mobile contract make sure that your data plan will provide a sufficient amount of data allowance. Web browsing and email use very little data but video streaming and downloads can quickly consume a large amount of bandwidth. Check out the mobile broadband data usage guide for more details.
Alternatively, there’s always external Wi-Fi hotspots, which can be enough to get by on if your internet usage is fairly low. Universities will provide free internet on campus, or libraries and cafes can be great places to go if you only surf online occasionally. Don’t rely on being able to get by on these though - if you need a connection at short notice it could mean a long trek to the nearest hotspot.
Patrick Foot writes on behalf of Lettingweb.com, the largest marketplace for lettings in Scotland.