First Time Renting Guide

by Rizwan Osman on 5th July 2021

Moving into your first rental home is a significant milestone and an exciting adventure. But with a lot to think about and plenty of expenses to budget for, it can be daunting too. The key to avoiding stress is being organised and realistic about your finances. To help you, we’ve pulled together a helpful guide to renting for the first time.

first time renting guide

Before you start

Before you start your property search, make sure you are prepared for the rent and other payments.

Be prepared to pay a holding deposit

When you apply to rent a property, you may be required to pay a holding deposit. This is legally capped at one week’s rent. If all the references are passed, and the agreements are signed, the holding deposit will be deducted from your first month’s rent. Should the landlord choose not to proceed, the deposit is returned. You may have difficultly getting a holding deposit back if you decide you no longer want to rent the property.

Be prepared to pay your security deposit

Before you move in, you will need to pay a security deposit. This is usually five weeks rent but could be up to 6 weeks if the total annual rent is over £50,000. Many letting agents and landlords also ask for the first month’s rent in advance.

Research affordable areas

Renting can be expensive, especially in London, where the average monthly rent is £1,400. Research areas where you can afford to live. The rental cost will be advertised as per calendar month or per week. When calculating monthly rent, be sure to multiply by 52 then divide by 12. Simply multiplying the weekly rent by four will underestimate the rent as many months have more than four weeks.

Think about how long you want to stay for

Think about how long you want the tenancy for. Most landlords offer tenancies for a fixed term of 6 or 12 months. However, it is possible to negotiate a longer tenancy.

Get your documents together

Your prospective landlord or letting agent will need to assess your suitability for renting the property. You will need to provide bank statements, plus the details of your employment and salary. If your income doesn’t meet the minimum for the property, you may be asked to provide a guarantor. You will also need to provide documents to verify your identity and immigration status. The governments right to rent check guide outlines the types of documents you will need to provide. Rather than rushing to assemble this information when asked for it, get everything together before searching for your home.

Find a place to rent

Decide what you need

Before you start looking at properties, be methodical in setting out your criteria for the search. Do you need a parking space, or should your home be close to a bus stop or train station? How many bedrooms do you need? Is access to a garden important to you, and would a furnished or unfurnished property best suit your needs? Be honest about the maximum rent you could afford to pay, including bills and stick to it.

Where to look

Rightmove and Zoopla are a great place to start looking for rental properties. Register with your local estate and letting agents as new properties come up all the time, and they will be able to notify you of new instructions before they appear online.

Viewings

The only way to get a feel for a property you might want to rent is to arrange a viewing. Take your list of criteria with you, and make sure you check the place carefully.

  • Test the phone signal and ask for the wifi code to check this too.
  • Flush to loo to make sure it’s working and run taps and showers to check the water pressure.
  • Look for signs of damp and mould – especially in bedrooms and bathrooms – are there patches on the walls or a smell of mildew?
  • Look too for mouse droppings or other signs of pests.
  • Check the white goods and appliances – are they clean and working – do they light up if switched on.
  • Check there are smoke alarms on all floors and a carbon monoxide alarm if there are gas or solid fuel appliances.

viewings

When you visit properties, think carefully about their potential benefits and shortcomings, and ask questions.

  • How much is the monthly rent?
  • When does the tenancy start?
  • What is included in the rent, what additional bills will you be responsible for and how much are they likely to be?
  • How much is the security deposit and where will it be protected?
  • Are there fees if you renew the tenancy in the future?
  • How long is the contract?
  • What notice period is required?
  • Who should be contacted in the case of an emergency – are they local?
  • What insurance does the landlord have and what do you need to arrange?
  • Are there any duties you need to perform – maintaining the garden, for example?

Sign on the dotted line

Read your tenancy agreement carefully and seek advice before you sign it, particularly if you have concerns or any clauses you do not understand.

Take control of your finances

When you move into your first rental home, you will have a few significant outgoings as well as ongoing costs once you have moved in. If you’ve never had to do so before, now is the time to start budgeting.

Before you move in, you will have to pay a refundable holding deposit, a security deposit and one month’s rent in advance. If this is the first time you are living on your own, you will also need to buy items such as bedding and cooking equipment to kit out your new pad. If you’re renting unfurnished or part furnished, you will also have to purchase furniture.

Once you have moved in, you will have additional ongoing costs, including your monthly rent, council tax, utility bills, broadband bills and TV licence.

Moving in

As soon as your move in, closely review the inventory (or check-in) report to make sure you are happy with it. This will make a dispute about damage at the end of the tenancy less likely. You should also:

  • Take meter readings for gas, electricity, and water
  • Register for council tax
  • Sort out your broadband
  • Get a TV licence
  • Setup direct debits and standing orders for bills
  • Change your address on your driving license and bank etc.
  • Find out when the bins are collected
  • Make sure you know how to lock all the doors and windows and work the alarm if there is one

moving in

Your landlord should provide you with the following documents:

  • The gas safety certificate
  • The record of electrical inspections
  • Details of the deposit protection scheme they are using
  • Details of who to contact in the event of a problem
  • The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property
  • A copy of the ‘How to rent’ guide

During your tenancy

During the tenancy, both you and your landlord have several responsibilities to each other. Your primary responsibility is to pay your rent on time and in full each month. You are also responsible for looking after the property and any furniture provided by the landlord. Any issues should be reported to the landlord or managing agent so they can be repaired. It is the tenant’s responsibility to test the smoke alarms and replace the batteries as required.

Your landlord or managing agent also has some responsibilities to you.

  • To maintain the structure and exterior of the property
  • To insure the building
  • To install smoke alarms on every floor
  • To fit carbon monoxide alarms in rooms using solid fuels
  • To address problems related to the water, electricity and gas supply
  • To maintain appliances and furniture which belong to them
  • To carry out most repairs at the property
  • To arrange an annual gas safety check
  • To give a minimum of 24-hours’ notice of visits to perform repairs or maintenance
  • To get a licence for the property, if one is required.

Can we help?

If you’re looking for a place to rent, we’d be happy to offer you more advice and show you our selection of rental properties – please get in touch today.