Renting: All mod comms

Tenants now look for wi-fi when choosing a new flat, says Chris Partridge
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The Independent Online

oung, tech-savvy tenants demand fast Internet connections and good mobile phone signals where they live, and properties without 21st-century communications are becoming more difficult to let quickly.

Lynn Hilton, the lettings manager at the Tower Bridge office of Cluttons, says the first thing younger tenants want to do when they move in is log on to their laptops. They don't want to apply for a broadband connection, or install the technology themselves. "All our younger tenants are asking for wireless broadband," she says.

A landlord generation gap has opened up on the issue, Hilton observes. "Young investors who work in the City will install wireless broadband as a matter of course, but the older generation says they provide a phone and what more do they want?"

Although the cost of broadband connection can be charged to the tenant, the amenity does not add to the rent that can be obtained. "Having broadband does not add monetary value but it makes a property more desirable - it is one more tick in the box for many tenants," Hilton says.

Next on young tenants' wish list is unlimited TV. "Young tenants want access to Sky or cable TV stations," Hilton says. Demand for Sky will only increase with its new "free broadband" service. Subscribers will get free broadband, albeit at a fairly low speed and with limits on the amount that can be downloaded. Tenants may well require higher speeds that cost up to £10 a month on Sky. There will also be a £40 connection fee.

Many young tenantstend to use mobiles even at home, so a good mobile phone signal at home is essential. Luckily, Hilton says, most prospective tenants in urban areas simply assume that a signal is available, although some steel-framed buildings are distinctly mobile-unfriendly.

"I have had people say they want to run a quick test of mobile reception, just ringing a friend to make sure the signal is good in all parts of the property but they tend to assume the signal will be there," she says.

There are surprisingly large gaps in mobile coverage in rural areas, so it might be a good idea to check if it is expected that young professionals will be letting the place - fairly detailed coverage maps are available on all the networks' websites.

Developers are beginning to cotton on to the need for broadband. At The Edge in Manchester, for example, Hewlett Packard was brought in to install a wireless control system in the apartments. High-speed wireless access is only the start - residents can control the heating and lights remotely via the web, and order food from the neighbouring hotel for delivery to a cold store behind the concierge's desk, ready for when they arrive home.

Anthony Stankard of King Sturge Residential says the technology is part of the brand image. "Rents in The Edge are very high for the area, about £800 a month, and people such as local footballers have bought because of the image and the high level of specification and service rather than the technology, but once they are in, they do use it," he says. "The Edge was one of the first developments to provide such IT solutions and has attracted purchasers who in today's world demand office facilities at home as well as at work."

How to install broadband

* A subscription to an Internet Service Provider - see the latest issue of Which? for a comparison of popular packages.

* A microfilter to allow regular phone calls and high-speed data to be sent down the same line (usually provided by the ISP).

* A wireless router with a built-in ADSL modem. Usually just plug in, turn on and follow the instructions on the screen. About £100, but some are issued with the subscription.

* Ensure the wireless link is secure by setting it to use encryption - instructions will be in the manual.