If you're thinking of renting a home in the UK, you'll need to consider a number of things. We've some tips to help you rent safely, including your landlords responsibilities, and how to make sure your deposit is protected.
Finding the right rental property is not easy and can be frustrating at times, however, rental sites such as Zoopla and Rightmove have become quite popular with tenants over the years and make house-hunting that little bit easier.
Zoopla allows you to track properties you're interested in, and its heat map lets you see property values for the area you're in so you can decide where's best for you to move based on your budget.
If you're always on the move, download the free apps so you can house-hunt on the go:
Once you've found a few properties that fit your criteria, it's time to think about viewings and those all-important questions. We've put together a list of questions you can ask while viewing the property:
Ask your landlord whether or not the council tax is included in the rent and if not, how much this would be. If they're unsure, you can find your council tax band at Gov.uk.
It's important to do some digging before you move in - it's always a good idea to ask the current tenants. London is a cramped place and you don't want to wind up with difficult neighbours!
The majority of contracts have 12-month lease agreements, however, it's still worth asking how long the contract is going to be and whether there can be any exceptions in case you need to terminate your tenancy early.
Once you've found out who's in charge of the energy bills, you can work out whether or not you'll be able to run an energy comparison and submit a switch to see if you can save money on your bills, without having to ask your landlord to do this for you.
It's worth checking how energy efficient the property is so that you have a rough idea of the cost of bills before moving in. Your landlord should have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) they can provide you with.
Ask what the area is like in the evenings and whether it's well lit so you feel safe walking around. You might also want to enquire about what time the public transport stops and where the nearest tube station/bus stop is.
This is possibly one of the most important questions, especially since a lot of us are now hybrid working. It's good to get an idea of what the internet connection is like in the property and whether this will suit your needs. You can check the speed of the internet in the property by using Broadband Speedchecker.
If you decide to move in and would like to change the internet and TV package, use a comparison site to ensure you're getting the best deal possible. Sites like Money Saving Expert and Compare The Market are popular choices – what's more, some broadband companies will reward you with vouchers to spend at retailers like M&S and John Lewis so it's well worth looking out for these deals.
Ask when the boiler was last serviced – this should usually be at least once every year and your landlord/letting agent is responsible for this. A boiler must be serviced by a fully-qualified heating engineer and the qualification they should hold will depend on the type of boiler installed at the property.
As a general rule, your landlord must return your deposit within 10 days of you both agreeing how much you'll get back. However, if you end up disputing the deposit once your tenancy has come to an end, your deposit will remain protected in one of the schemes until the issue has been resolved.
Oh and remember - if your landlord isn't using a deposit protection scheme, don't go near it, no matter what their excuse. It is their legal obligation to protect your deposit.
While viewing the property, it's a good idea to ask the landlord/letting agent if there's a specific way of reporting something that's broken in the flat and what the timeframe usually is for it being fixed, so that you have a rough idea and can hold them to account later on.
Since 1 June 2019, the government has said the only payments that can be charged to tenants in relation to new contracts are:
Before you move into the property, you'll likely need to pay a deposit to your landlord or letting agent, and this will usually be the same amount as 4 or 5 weeks' rent.
To ensure your deposit is protected, ask your landlord or letting agent which scheme it's with, and make sure to get it in writing. Your deposit should be entered into one of the below schemes within 30 days of paying:
The above deposit services keep your money safe and ensures you get back what you're owed once your tenancy has come to an end.
There can be a lot to remember when moving home, but it doesn't need to be a stressful experience. Here's a handy moving checklist for you to use on move-in day.
If you're renting, you're not responsible for everything in the property, and there are certain things your landlord needs to take care of to ensure your home is safe and secure.
The full information should be in your contract, however, your landlord is generally responsible for keeping in repair: guttering and external pipes, organising and paying for buildings insurance and checking plug sockets and electricals are safe.
If you need help with any of the above, you might find Citizen's Advice guide on How to report repairs useful.
Below is a list of the documentation your landlord is required to provide when you move in:
You could save £100s every year by running energy comparisons and switching providers. It's not just homeowners who can save on their energy bills – tenants can too, however, you should check with your landlord first if the tariff you've chosen requires you to have a smart meter installed, and make sure to get written permission.
There are many comparison websites out there to help you switch your gas and electricity, here are some popular ones:
If your landlord pays your energy supplier directly, you'll need to ask them to submit the switch for you. If you feel your landlord isn't helping, it could be viewed as an 'unfair term' in a tenancy agreement. If you find yourself in this position, it might be worth reaching out to Citizens Advice or Shelter to see if they can help you.
If you think your landlord might be charging you too much for your energy bills, it might be worth taking a look at what your landlord is allowed to charge you.
Those of us who've rented will know how complicated things can become with shared bills, especially when there are tenants who're not keeping up with their share of the costs - it can be a total nightmare. However, you can make it less stressful by using apps like Splitwise (a free tool used to track bills and other shared expenses).
You'll just need to download the app to get started (iOS/Android), alternatively, you can create an account on the website - it'll ask you to add the property you'd like to manage the bills for, you can then add your housemates to the group you've created and split the bills equally. See how it works.
Your landlord may have taken buildings insurance out to cover the property you rent, however, this wouldn't cover your personal possessions – unless the tenancy agreement says so. To put it into perspective, if there was a burglary, flood, or fire in the property, your landlord's insurance would usually only cover damage to the building itself.
Whether or not you decide to get contents insurance is entirely up to you but it might be worth considering, especially if you have expensive items in the property.
If you're in a shared home, it might be worth discussing taking a policy out with your housemates or alternatively, if you're looking for room-only insurance, you'll need to get a lock on your door as you'd only have cover if there was a sign of forced entry.
If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, and you're unable to resolve an issue with your landlord directly regarding any of the above, you can reach out to your local council and speak to the environmental health department. If you're a tenant in Scotland, you'll just need to contact the Housing and Property Chamber for help.
If your dispute relates to something different, for example, you feel as though during your tenancy you have been treated unfairly, you can raise a complaint to the Property Ombudsman.
It might also be worth contacting Shelter for free advice.