Your guide to renting

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There’s a lot to think about when you rent a property, from finances and contracts to knowing your rights. Discover the main things you need to know.

Renting from a private landlord is no longer just a temporary stepping stone on your way to home ownership. As house prices – and with them deposits – have crept up, more people are renting for longer, with some staying in privately rented accommodation their whole lives.

Higher living costs are now a reality facing renters, with UK rental prices having increased by almost 10% from January 2015 to December 2020 according to the ONS. But the plus side from a cost point of view is that renters don’t face maintenance and home improvement costs, as these are covered by the landlord.

If you’re trying to save, and you’re able to, it could be worth considering living with parents or family for a while to avoid big rent bills and build up some cash – read our article on ways to save for your first house deposit for more information. But if renting is the best option for you, there are certain things worth thinking about.

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Save up a rent deposit

Renting somewhere requires a deposit too – usually this is worth four to six weeks’ of rent, but it can be higher.

Letting agents and landlords have to keep this deposit safe (it should be kept in the Tenancy Deposit Scheme) and they have to give it back at the end of the tenancy if you’ve kept your side of the deal and left the property in the condition you found it.

Research the market

Rents for similar properties can vary significantly in different areas, so it’s worth exploring your options and considering other postcodes that may be cheaper. 

On the whole, it’s a good idea to start your hunt a couple of months before you want to rent, as many properties are advertised well before the end of the current tenancy agreement. However, the rental market tends to move more quickly in big cities like London or Manchester, so you might not have to start your search so early in places like these.

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Read the details

Check whether the property you like the look of is furnished or unfurnished, whether pets are allowed (if you have one) and whether there are any other unusual terms or conditions, like a short tenancy agreement.

Don’t be afraid to start a discussion with the landlord or letting agent on things that might be negotiable (like having a small, well trained dog) and also things like the length of the tenancy. Sometimes they are willing to budge, and having a good relationship with the owner is never a bad thing.

Keep your rent bill down

Before you agree to rent somewhere, check comparable properties in the local area, or a nearby area, to ensure you’re not overpaying. You can and should haggle on rent if you don’t think somewhere is worth the asking rent.

You can also ask whether the rent for the property has risen recently. While you should expect to face a rent rise after a year, if there’s been a big jump recently you might be lucky and find the rent stays the same for more than 12 months.

One way to keep rent costs down is to share with other people. Renting a room rather than an entire flat or splitting the cost of a property with a partner can help to ensure your rent bills are lower each month.

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Know your rights

There are several rights you’re entitled to as a renter:

  • You have a right to challenge high charges.
  • You have a right to know who your landlord is.
  • You have a right to live in a property that is safe and in a good state of repair.
  • You have a right to enjoy living in the property peacefully.

Shelter, the housing charity, has plenty of information on tenant rights on its website.

Get any issues fixed

Lots of things can go wrong with properties all the time. If the boiler breaks, if the shower comes off the wall or if there’s a leak, contact the person responsible for the property. The landlord has a responsibility to fix issues promptly, particularly if they prevent you being able to live there comfortably.

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Save for a deposit while renting

If you’re saving up to buy while you’re renting and are between 18 and 39, you could consider a Lifetime ISA. The Government tops up contributions into this ISA by 25% and you can contribute up to £4,000 a year tax-free.

If your goal is to buy as soon as possible, then compromising on the size or location of your rented home to give you more spare cash to save could be a good idea. Remember, there are also many other hidden costs associated with buying a house – read our article to find out more.

When you leave

Make sure you give the required notice period, which should be stated in your contract. Give the property a good clean (you can hire specialist end-of-tenancy cleaners if needed) and take photos of the property’s condition, in case anything is disputed.

Take a look at the Citizens’ Advice website for more guidance on what to do when you leave a rented property to make sure you get your deposit back.

Useful resources for renters

If you need more information, there are lots of helpful guides available and advice on renting depending on where you live in the UK.

Renters and coronavirus

Guidance for renters in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, including support for those in financial difficulty and eviction rules, can be found on the GOV.UK website.