Monday, 29 July 2013

50 Renting Tips

01 Ensure you've contents cover as soon as you move in

If you rent, your landlord is responsible for buildings insurance, so you should only be getting contents cover (essentially, it's for stuff that'd fall if you turned your home upside down).

As buildings insurance generally covers the building itself (unsurprisingly), this is usually the property owner's responsibility. Generally, this means you're unlikely to need building insurance if you're renting. There may be exceptions (eg, if the contract says you need buildings insurance) - check with your landlord if you're unsure.

How to get the cheapest contents cover will vary depending on whether you're housesharing or not. In a nutshell...

If only you or your family live in the house:

To find the cheapest cover, combine comparison sites* and MoneySupermarket* to bag the max quotes in the minimum time, then Aviva* andDirect Line*, which they miss. Better still, try the full Cheap Home Insurance guide, where some get PAID for cover.

If you're in a houseshare:

Getting cover from mainstream insurers can be tricky (a locked room helps, so ask for one). Comparison sites*, Gocompare*, MoneySupermarket* andCompare The Market* say they provide flatshare quotes, but double-check the policy allows it - comparison sites are very flaky on this. You may find a specialist such asHome Protect* or a local broker via BIBA easier.

Last updated 22 July 2013 - see the renting section in the Home Insurance guide for the full cost-cutting technique.

02 Is your deposit protected? Check NOW

Housing charity Shelter found one in five private renters in England don't know if their deposit has been protected (see more info). If this is you, check NOW.

Under the law in England and Wales, if you've an assured shorthold tenancy (the most common type of private tenancy agreement) that started on or after 6 April 2007, your landlord must put your deposit in a Government-backed protection scheme within 30 days of getting it.

If it doesn't, a court can order them to pay you a penalty of one to three times the deposit (though generally this is rare).

An approved tenancy deposit protection scheme will ensure your deposit is returned to you, provided you've met the terms of the tenancy agreement, you've paid your rent and bills, and you don't cause property damage.

If you agree with your landlord how much deposit you'll get back, it has to be returned to you within 10 days of the tenancy ending. Similar schemes apply in Scotland and NI, see the Scottish Government and NI Direct for more.

It doesn't apply to all tenancies

How to check if you're protected

My landlord's witholding my deposit unfairly, help!

My deposit should be protected but isn't

If you feel your deposit's being unfairly witheld at the end of your tenancy, it's well worth fighting for (see 'What to do if there's a dispute' above). Here's one forumite's story to inspire you - see the Deposit Help forum discussion for more:

"Fought tooth and nail to get deposit back. . . AND WON!!! Our tenancy ended 3 months ago. I have been fighting to get our deposit back. Today I received an email telling me they will release the full amount.

So, there is hope for all of you who are in a similar situation. Just be persistent, be reasonable, and remain professional."- DJ MPH

03 You've a right to switch & save on energy - even if renting

Don't just stick with the previous tenant's gas or electricity supplier. Those on energy providers' standard tariffs can save £100s a year by switching - it's often possible to do this even if you're renting, as you don't need to own the property to do it.

When renting, you're free to switch providing you pay the energy company directly (rather than your landlord), and it isn't specifically prohibited in your tenancy agreement. It may be possible to challenge this though (see the dropdowns below).

You can still compare, even if you don't have previous bills from your new digs. Just tell our Cheap Energy Club some info about the new rental, and whether you're a high, medium or low user. It'll show the cheapest tariff for you and give up to £30 cashback.

This won't be 100% accurate as it makes some assumptions, but is likely to find options far cheaper than the default standard tariff you'll be on when you moved in. Click the dropdowns below for more info for your circumstances:

Pay the energy company directly? You CAN switch supplier

Pay your landlord for energy? You CAN'T switch supplier

My tenancy agreement says I can't switch, help!

04 Can I switch a prepaid gas or elec meter?

This works in the same way as described above, so you can still switch your supplier to save if you rent a property, providing you pay the energy company directly and it isn't banned in your contract (though you may be able to challenge this).

If you want to change the meter itself (perhaps you're changing a prepaid to a credit meter), then it's best to get written permission from your landlord first.

This is because it could be seen as a changing the property from its original condition, unless you arrange to change the meter back at the end of the tenancy. The supplier may charge to do this, so check first. See the Cheap Prepaid Gas & Elec guide.

05 FREE sofas, beds, TVs, fridges and more

If you've gone for an unfurnished or part-furnished rental, this is a handy trick to help furnish your pad for nowt. Hundreds of top-quality goodies are available daily for free. It's all about web communities, and the big names are Freecycle and Freegle.

What's the catch? There isn't one. Instead of dumping goods or eBaying them, people harness the web's power to offer them to their local communities. So as well as kitting up for nowt, the environment benefits as unwanted items aren't flung into landfills.

Of course, there is some moth-bitten tat. But there's also top-quality stuff people just don't use anymore. Bagging the best is all about the etiquette - you need to give stuff yourself and keep your eyes peeled. For a full step-by-step guide, see Freecycle & Freegle Tips.

06 Tricks to help ensure you get your deposit back

When it comes to checking your property at the end of your stay, landlords can develop better microscopic vision than Superman. To help stop them zapping your deposit, here are a few tips:

  • Check your contract. Dig this out and give it another read. Does it say the carpets need to be deep cleaned, or that all picture hooks need to be removed and filled in? If so, make sure these are sorted.
  • Patch up any damage. Fix it properly - covering up a hole in the wall with a picture may seem like a good idea at the time, but leaving it like this when you move out is practically asking for your deposit to be docked.
  • Ensure nothing's missing or broken. Check the inventory thoroughly to make sure everything's as it should be, and replace or fix as needed.
  • Take photos as proof you've left it in good order. These could be useful evidence later if a dispute arises over your deposit.
  • Have a proper deep clean. Get a scrupulous friend or family member to check the place over to check there's nothing you've missed, and remove all rubbish. See theSave zillions on cleaning products thread for tips to help.

If your tenancy agreement states you must get the property professionally cleaned, you may have to provide receipts to prove you've done it. But if it states you need to have it cleaned to a professional standard, you could do this carefully yourself and take photos as proof. A few handy tips from our forumites to help:

"Bicarb of soda, soda crystals, vinegar, newspaper and Oven Pride are pretty much all anyone needs to clean a house. I've always got the deposit back and have never spent more than £5 and 1/2 a day."- mrsbmartin

"Sugar soap removes emulsioned wall scuffs that no other cleaning product shifts without taking paint too. Wipe gently, don't rub."- Fire Fox

"Lie on your back in the middle of each room, you would not believe the snagging found just looking from a different angle. It works!"- whalster

07 Grab free apps to check rentals on-the-go

Rightmove's free iPhone and Android apps use GPS technology to pinpoint pads for rent near where you're standing, while Zoopla also has its own free apps for iPhoneand Android. Just download the app to find a list of gaffs up for grabs near you.

Both are clear and simple to use - Rightmove's arguably has the edge for ease and slickness, though Zoopla's heat map also lets you see property values of the area you're in so you can assess likely rental prices at speed.

Forumites find these strangely addictive: "I check it when on a street I like. I get excited when they send me an email. I probably check it every 24 minutes" (Rightmove) and "I've not even considered moving and all of a sudden I keep looking! Can someone talk me out of this odd behaviour please?" (Zoopla). If you try one, please feed back.

08 Rent payments scheduled to start going on credit files

In March 2012 it was announced rent payments could appear on your Experian credit file by the end of that year, though this has been delayed. This means whether you're on time or late paying rent, it could start to affect your ability to get credit.

The potentially positive impact is that consistently punctual rent payments will appear, boosting your credit history. Here's the key info we know so far...
You won't be linked to flatmates. Originally Experian planned to financially link flatmates who had a shared tenancy agreement. However, after pressure from MSE and our forum users, it changed its plan. See more in the MSE News story.
Who will this apply to? This won't be automatically in all contracts. Landlords must insert it. It's believed many 'amateur' landlords are unlikely to do it, certainly to begin with. For now, it'll only apply to private rentals.
Why is Experian doing this? It will open up a new income stream for the credit reference agency, as soon landlords will be able to pay to search credit files before deciding to rent out a property to someone.
Who can see what? Rent payments will soon sit on your credit file, in a separate section to mortgage, loan or credit card history. Landlords will be able to see rent-paying history to judge potential tenants, but not the rest.

Some landlords already check a list of those who often miss payments, but this will be the first full-scale sharing of rent payment data. Banks and other lenders will be able to see your complete history. See the MSE News story for full details.

09 Warning - joint accounts with flatmates can affect your credit rating

Credit scoring is a system used by lenders to check how financially attractive you are to them, using your past actions to predict your future behaviour. Yet if you're 'financially linked' to someone on any financial product, it can have an impact. Even just a joint bills account with flat-sharers can mean you are co-scored.

It's technically possible joint utility bills could be reported on credit files, but current practice is not to do so. Aside from joint reporting, we've also confirmed being jointly named on a utility bill with a flatmate shouldn't mean you're jointly credit scored.

If you move out from flatmates who you had joint finances with, once the accounts are separated or no longer active, always write to the credit reference agencies and ask for a notice of 'disassociation', to stop their credit history affecting yours in future. See the Credit Scores guide for full help.

10 Your landlord should ask before entering

When you rent a property, you landlord may well need to come in from time to time for repairs, as well as to inspect the property (eg, to check you haven't turned a 'no pets' tenancy into an indoor farm).

If your landlord wants to inspect the property, they should give you notice and arrange a time with you first. There isn't a standard amount of notice they have to give - check your tenancy agreement for this, as this may be stated in it.

Yet if your landlord or letting agent comes in without asking you, you've a right to ask them to stop. If they continue to enter without permission, this could be considered as harassment, and is a criminal offence. Contact Citizens Advice or a solicitor for help, or even the police if you feel threatened. See the Shelter website for more info.

11 Do you know where your stopcock is?

Your mains water tap, or stopcock, is the off-switch for all the water in your home. Hopefully you'll never need to use it. But if you don't know where it is and a pipe bursts, you'll be powerless to stop it flooding your home.

If you don't know where yours is, check NOW. It could be under the kitchen sink, by the boiler, in the airing cupboard or elsewhere in the property. If you don't know where it is, ask your landlord to show you. See Martin's blog: Stopcock tips - can you find yours?

One MoneySaver's tip:

"Stopcocks should be turned a couple of times a year to minimise ‘seizing’ due to scale. Never open fully, or they’re more likely to jam."

Some homes also have an outside stop valve fitted. The Thames Water website has handy videos on how to find your inside stopcock and outside stopcock.

12 Vet the landlord

If a prospective landlord strikes you as unreliable or unreasonable (eg, they turn up an hour late), think twice. After all, it's easier to walk away now than be stuck with a landlord who won't carry out essential maintenance and repairs as needed - or worse.

Renting direct from a landlord: Don't hand over any cash until you've got the landlord's full name and a contact address in the UK for them. If you're concerned, forumites also recommend checking they own the property via the Land Registrywebsite (costs £3) - for more info, see the Check out your landlord discussion.

Renting via a letting agent: This is a firm that rents out properties on behalf of the landlord. Check they're a member of a professional body such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents, National Approved Lettings Scheme, UK Association of Letting Agents or National Association of Estate Agents.

13 Does every renter need their own TV licence?

If you rent, whether an entire property or a room in a shared property, you must be covered by a valid TV licence to watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV.

Usually you'll have to organise this yourself (or between yourselves if in a shared house). But speak to the landlord first, as they may already have a licence for the property. If you live in self-contained accommodation, such as a separate flat or annex, you'll need your own separate licence.

If you’re a lodger and have a relationship with the homeowner (a family member, partner, nanny, au pair, housekeeper, etc), you'll be covered by the homeowner’s TV licence, provided you live in the same building.

But if you're a lodger and you have a separate tenancy agreement for your room, you'll need your own TV licence. For more info if you're renting, see TV Licensing.

I'm in shared accommodation, will one TV licence cover us all?

14 Saving for a deposit? Max your interest

There's no shame in renting - after all, 36% of households in England & Wales do it (up from 31% in 2001). Yet if you're lusting to own, ALWAYS save for your deposit the right way to reach your goal sooner. In a nutshell...

First, use a top-paying ISA (gives tax-free savings of up to £5,760). Our top picks are:
Top easy-access: 2% AER with Tesco Bank.
Top fixed (if you won't need access until later): 2.5% AER with Coventry BS.

Once you've maxed your ISA limit, save the rest in a top savings account. Top picks:
You can get 3% AER (on balances from £3k to £20k) in a current account withSantander*. The account has a £2/mth fee, but also offers cashback on bills paid by direct debit, which on normal bills easily offsets the cashback.
If you don't want to switch current account, then top buy is 1.75% AER with ICICI Bank UK.

Last updated 2 July 2013. Full best buys & more info in Top Savings and Top Cash ISAs.

15 ALWAYS check for letting agency fees

If you rent a property with a letting agent (rather than directly with the landlord), ensure you check for any extra fees or charges first, and factor these in.

These can add a huge whack to the cost of renting, and vary between agencies. Sadly, there's little regulation over these charges in England - so ALWAYS ask to see 'em upfront.

Shockingly, some of the fees reported to us include £120 for permission to buy a dog or £60 for photocopying a contract. @karenamy_1980 tweeted us: "My boyfriend and I rent and we had to pay an additional £250 for our dog Tom. This is on top of the £900 deposit!"

An investigation by Shelter found renters are being hit by unfair letting agency fees of up to £700 - a nasty surprise. It's campaigning to end letting agency fees - see theShelter site to sign its petition.

There's nothing stopping you from discussing the fees with the letting agent to see if you can negotiate a lower rate, though there are no guarantees. Ensure you always get any fee reductions in writing. See the Letting Agency Fees news story for more.

In Scotland, letting agency fees have been illegal since 1984. Yet even so, some letting agents in Scotland still charge - click the dropdown below for help.

Letting agency fees are illegal in Scotland

Letting agents can't charge you just for registering

Fees could include credit check charges, admin fees and more

16 Get your landlord's permission if planning to redecorate

When you rent a property, you generally need to return it in the same condition as you found it, though some unavoidable wear and tear should be allowed (think slight wearing of carpets, not destroyed furnishings).

Bear this in mind if you want to redecorate, as any changes will need to be put back. It sounds obvious, but the key point to remember is the property isn't yours. So you can't just put up shelves, for example, without permission. If you want to make permanent changes, the best thing to do is get it written in the contract from the outset.

Otherwise, if you plan to repaint the walls a different colour or make any other changes, first get your landlord's permission in writing. Otherwise it's likely you'll need to paint them back to the original colour before you move.
17 Try special picture strips instead of nails

Check your tenancy agreement before you get hammer-happy, as many won't let you put any holes in the walls to put up pictures. Yet there's a quick trick to help.

It's possible to get specially designed removable strips that promise to hold up pictures without damaging walls. To find them, ask at your local DIY store, or try searching for 'picture hanging strips' on Amazon's DIY & Tools* section or eBay*.

Forumites recommend Command Strips. They usually cost a few pounds for a pack of four, though other types may be available too.

Feedback is generally good, ranging from "used these in all three sizes and they have worked brilliantly" and "they're my new favourite product" to "if you're lucky they work well, but haven't found them reliable". If you've used them, please feed back.

Forumites also warn to check the pack for the weight limit they can take, and not to exceed this. Otherwise, you could wake to find your Mona Lisa broken on the lino.

18 Note down any flaws - and use 'em to haggle

Once you've found the place you want, don't think you always have to pay the asking price for the rent. Ask if they're open to reasonable offers, and put in a lower price that you think is reasonable. Don't forget, it's a negotiation - they don't have to accept, but it's well worth asking, particularly if you think it's overpriced.

A good way to help you get leverage here is to note down any flaws in the rental. For example, the carpets may be worn in patches, or the bathroom ceiling could do with repainting. Point this out, and ask if they'll take a lower price because of it. If not, see if you can get the repairs thrown in (always get this in writing with the contract).

See the How to Haggle guide for more tips to help. It's well worth a try:

Even £10 off the monthly rent may not seem like a lot to a busy landlord, but it's an extra £120 in your pocket each year.

19 Key 'dud rentals' checklist

While small issues like a dripping tap or squeaky floorboard needn't be a deal-breaker, use this list to help you check the rental out when you visit. It's worth taking an eagle-eyed friend or family member to help. Ask the landlord to fix any problems before you move in. Or if you can live with it, use it to help you haggle on the rent:

Spot damp. Case the joint for wet spots, mould, peely wallpaper and condensation. Does it smell musty?

Look up at ceilings. Look for cracks, brown stains, slow drips and leaks.

Flick switches. Turn lights on and off, especially with older switches.

Inspect the plumbing. Flush toilets and turn taps on. Check cupboards underneath sinks are dry. Check water pressure and that it gets hot, and that the central heating's working properly.

Locks are key. Ensure door locks are up to insurance standards. Some policies insist that front and back doors be fitted with a five lever mortice deadlock. Check windows for locks and the front door for break-in signs.

Turn on your phone. Check for a signal to see it's not a mobile dead zone.

Avoid kitchen nightmares. In the kitchen, mime preparing a dinner. Is there enough room? If white goods are included, check they're working.

Take a compass. Check if estate agents' promises of a sunny south-facing garden are true.

Pry next door. If renting a flat or terrace, alarm bells should ring if neighbours' properties are rundown. Their problems can quickly become yours. Listen for noise from neighbours and roads. If you can, try to get a second viewing at a different time of day.

20 Never, ever wire the money

Once you've found your dream gaff, alarm bells should ring if asked to pay rent or deposit by an instant money transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram. While you've no protection when you pay by bank transfer, at least these are usually traceable - which means banks or police could use this to help get your money back.

Instant money transfer payments cannot be traced at all in cases of fraud, so are highly popular with scammers. So if someone asks you to pay by MoneyGram or Western Union, be highly suspicious. Never pay this way. Most landlords should be happy to take a bank transfer or cheque.

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21 Get extra cash to help if struggling with your rent

If you're on a low income and struggling to pay your rent, you may be able to get Housing Benefit. Here's how it works, see the Benefits Check-Up guide for more:
In social housing (from a council or housing association) you'll get a reduction in the amount of rent you pay. See the Benefit Changes 2013 infographic to see if you're affected by the new "bedroom tax" which started in April 2013.
In private rented properties, you'll be given the cash to pay your rent yourself. Here it's possible to get weekly amounts up to £250 for a one-bed property, £290 for a two-bed, £340 for a three-bed and £400 for four or more beds. See theHousing Benefit for Private Renters guide for info.

If you're eligible, you may also be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. Each council has a set budget for further help with housing costs, though guidelines vary from place to place.

2013/14 weekly amount: Depends on your rent, your income, where you live, how many bedrooms you have and how many people live in your home.

It's worth noting universal credit will replace housing benefit from October 2013, and you’ll be given the cash to pay the rent yourself, regardless of whether you’re in a social or private property. See for more info.

How to apply. Either claim alongside another income-based benefit, get a claim form from your local council (search for contact details for your local council on or just Google "") or download a form from

Check if you're eligible for a grant. Millions of pounds are available to help increase your home's energy efficiency. If you're renting, you'll need to check with the landlord first as the homeowner may need to apply. Yet if it's improving the value of their house for nowt, it's likely they'll be happy to do this - see Housing & Energy Grants.

22 Protect your family from gas leaks

Sadly thousands are affected each year by carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell. Yet there are simple steps to help protect your family.

Always ask for a copy of the gas safety record. By law, your landlord must provide you with this before you move in. If your landlord refuses, complain to the Health and Safety Executive - failure to follow gas safety requirements is a criminal offence.

Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, landlords must do a gas safety check every 12 months to ensure gas appliances and fittings are safe, and keep these maintained. All checks must also be done by a qualified engineer that's on theGas Safe Register, the official gas registration body for the UK.

One forumite's experience is a case in point:

“Just after we moved in I had to call Transco in the middle of the night. We thought we had flu. We had carbon monoxide poisoning and were alive due to a faulty cat flap venting out most of the gas.

The system was condemned. It was a very lucky escape - it never occurred to me to check the gas certificate."- november

23 Ensure you've decent broadband download limits if flat-sharing

If you're in a flat share and you know everyone will be downloading, ensure you've a decent download limit on your broadband package. Forget to do this and you may be stung with extra charges from a housemate's EastEnders catch-up marathon.

Be aware most contracts are 12 months, and some even longer. If you move out before the contract is up, you'll still have to pay for remaining months, unless you can change the name on the contract to someone who's still going to be living in the house (check with your provider).

See the Cheap Broadband guide for the full list of best buys, including unlimited and superfast broadband, plus how to work out how much data you'll need.

24 Get first dibs on properties on your favourite streets

If you want something in a specific area or street, set an alert on Rightmove or Zooplaand it will email each time a vender lists a property. Simply type in your location and click 'Create an alert' on Rightmove, or 'Create email alert' on Zoopla.

25 NEVER sign a contract you aren't happy with

Once you get the contract, read it carefully before signing. Check it includes how much the deposit and rent are, when it's due, and what it covers (eg, council tax, utility bills, and other dos and don'ts, such as whether you're allowed to smoke or sublet).

Discuss points you disagree on, or don't understand, with the landlord or letting agent. If they agree to change it, don't just take their word. Ensure the contract's changed too so you've proof. Katy Rushworth from legal firm Clarke Mairs LLP told us:

"Tenancy agreements will often have things in there that simply do not apply to that particular property. They may have the wrong person stated as the landlord, wrong property address, refer to a garden that doesn't exist - the list goes on.

"There's no reason tenants should sign up to something they are not happy with. Equally, the agent is being paid to get these things right. So don't just accept 'it's the standard document' - who knows what the standard document relates to!"

One MoneySaver's experience is a reminder to check what you're signing up to:

"Our letting agent went right over the top pasting rules into the contract. It tells us to clean the shower head for one hour in vinegar each week, after every shower we must use a towel and squeegee to clear all water from the cubicle to prevent drying marks, etc."- paddyrg

26 Take a meter reading when you arrive

It's easy to forget this when you've a tonne of unpacking to do, but do meter readings for your gas and electricity when you move in. This way, you can pass them on to the suppliers to ensure you aren't charged for the previous occupants' usage.

It's also worth noting you should do a meter reading every time you get a bill. Don't rely on your energy provider's estimate; these are often way out. If they're under-billing, you'll have a big whack to pay at the end of the year. If they're over-billing, then they've unfairly got your cash.

If your direct debit is way off kilter, call up and request it's changed. You've a range of rights to ensure it's correct. See the full Energy Direct Debits guide for help.

27 Squeeze 'em for info

Before you sign on the dotted line, ask as many questions as possible, and get important answers in writing. Even if they don't tell the truth, you may notice them squirming when you broach certain subjects. Our top 10 rental questions to ask:

How long is the contract? Are there scheduled rent increases?

How long has it been up for rent?

Can I see electrical, boiler and gas installation checks/reports?

Is the deposit in a deposit protection scheme? Which one?

Is maintenance of communal areas expected (eg, the garden)?

Is it furnished, part or unfurnished? Which items are included?

Who lives upstairs/next door? Have there been any disputes?

How long were the previous renters living there?

Is a parking space included, or is a parking permit needed?

What's the council tax band? (Also check this yourself.)

If the occupants are in during your viewing, use the opportunity to ask about the best and worst things about living there.

28 Your tenancy type affects your rights

Which type of tenancy agreement you have, and when your contract started, will affect your rights, so check which you've got. In a nutshell, 'assured shorthold tenancy agreements' are generally the most common type if renting with a private landlord.

These generally last six months to a year, and mean your landlord must provide some repairs (plus other criteria too). When an assured shorthold tenancy ends, it becomes a 'month-to-month' tenancy. So unless your landlord ends it, you can stay on.

Yet finding which tenancy type you've got can be tricky. It depends on a huge amount of factors, including when you moved in, how you pay rent and who you live with.

To help, housing charity Shelter has useful Tenancy Checker tools for England andScotland. Just answer a few points on where you're living and when you moved in, and it'll quickly tell you which type you've got, plus your rights for each. Shelter also has info on tenancy types in Wales, or try Housing Advice NI for Northern Ireland.

It's also worth reading forumite G_M's useful posts on rent increases if you're on an assured shorthold tenancy, and what happens when a fixed term ends.

29 Warning. You could be held responsible for actions of other tenants

If it's a joint tenancy, each tenant will be responsible for the actions of the others. So be careful who you sign up to these with - if one person doesn't pay their share of the rent, the others will need to fork out for them.

Joint liability clauses in shared tenancies mean you're responsible for the actions of your co-tenants in certain areas, as stated in the contract. So read it carefully to check exactly which areas you're jointly responsible for. If they accidentally set fire to the sofa, you may have to pay for the repairs.

30 Found the perfect place? Tricks to get in ASAP

Once you've found your palace and you're itching to get in, use these tricks to help:
Know your budget. Don't be pushed past it - letting agents are experts at doing this. For help doing a proper budget, use our free Budget Planner.

Make a good impression. Don't forget, you're being checked out too. They're more likely to want a tenant that's professional, prompt and polite.

Get your references lined up. If your landlord will need references (eg, from your employer), ensure you ask your referees in good time.

Be prepared to go fast. Good rentals are often snapped up, especially in sought-after city areas. Once you've decided, move quickly with your offer. Yet don't be irrational - stick to your budget and don't be pressured.

Go through the contract ASAP. Raise any issues as soon as you can with the landlord, so there's time to get them changed before you move in. Also check who's managing the property (ie, the landlord or letting agent).

Have the rent and deposit ready. Make sure you have enough cash set aside for the first month's rent and deposit (usually about six weeks' rent). This can be a lot more than you think, so work it out early. For example, £200/week rent could mean you'd need to put down about £2,000 to cover these.

31 Pack an 'essentials' box to help when you arrive

Put key items you'll need immediately in a clearly-labelled box, and pack it last (so it's the first box you'll get to when you're unpacking). A box with a kettle, mugs, tea, biccies and loo roll can be a godsend when you've no idea where everything is.

As well as these, think carefully about what you'll need as soon as you get in, and ensure it's accessible. So if you've a new baby, it could be bottles and nappies.

32 Double-check the inventory & report any defects

If you're given an inventory when you arrive, ensure you fill it in and carefully check for any existing damage in the property or its contents. Don't worry about being too specific - note down anything you can see, be it a cracked tile, damaged paintwork or a chipped mirror. If you can, take photos as evidence too.

Even if they don't give you an inventory to fill in, list any defects in writing to the landlord as soon as you can; see Shelter for a printable inventory template. Ensure it's signed and dated, and keep a copy so you can see what's on it when you move out.

This way, if the landlord tries to eat into your deposit for any of these when you leave, you'll have hard proof the damage was already there where you moved in. Similarly, take photos when you move out so you've proof it's in good order - see above.

33 Use the right 'rent a property' finders

There's a plethora of search sites which let you quickly search for property to rent in your chosen area. They won't all come up with the same listings, so it's best to try a few if you can. The best we've found:


The Mac Daddy of home search sites, Rightmove lists a huge number of rental properties, with over 300,000 to choose from.
Slick and tidy website, with a clear and easy to search and a good amount of filters to refine your results.
Its 'draw a search' feature lets you literally, er, draw where you want to live on a map, good if there are streets you're keen on (or want to avoid).


Zoopla also lists a huge amount of rental pads, and says it lists over 311,000 houses and flats to rent in the UK.
Clear and simple to use, it also has a similar 'draw search' feature, plus this allows freehand drawing for extra speed.
Its nifty heat map view shows average property values at a glance (click 'Heat' on top right of map), useful if you want to work out which areas are likely to be pricey to rent in.

MoneySavers also rate lesser-known It says it lists over 301,000 houses, flats and rooms to rent:
Can be clunky and lacks the charm of the other sites, but includes extra info, including how the rental price compares with others nearby.
Lets you set the exact search radius you want to use, eg, search all properties in a radius of 0.219 miles - good for nerds.

34 Remember to redirect your mail

When you move, as well as updating your address with all your accounts, it's a good idea to get your post redirected to your new address. This can be very helpful if an unexpected bill is sent to your old address.

Otherwise, if you miss it, the worst case scenario could see a debt collection process started that you know nothing about, causing huge damage to your credit rating. See the Royal Mail website for how to redirect your mail, plus current rates.

35 Check out the neighbourhood

No matter how plush the pad, MoneySavers are unanimous that location counts. After all, you can add your own touches when you're renting, but you can't move it to another spot. So prowl the neighbourhood on foot, hunting for clues.

Of course, if it's only temporary rented accommodation for a month or so, you may be happy to put up with a less-than-glowing area. But if you're planning to rent there for a while, a little research can go a long way:

How safe is the area? Steel yourself and take a look at the crime mapping website for England and Wales. It breaks down recorded crimes by street, including burglary, robbery and anti-social behaviour (gulp!), all of which mean dearer insurance premiums.

Get info on noise levels, air pollution and transport links. You can get oodles of free information online on school league tables and even noise level checks. SeeFree House Price Valuations for a full list - though our guide's designed for buyers, it has useful tips to help renters too.

If you're a total newcomer and you're planning to rent there for a while, you could even stay in a local bed and breakfast to get a real feel for the area. Get the lowdown from locals and ask a local bobby or Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator.

36 Top 10 moving day questions to ask the landlord

With all the stresses of moving, it's easy to forget simple, practical questions you'll wish you've asked. Worrying about when the dustmen come is easily forgotten when you're humping boxes upstairs, but even less fun when you're left with overflowing bins for a week. So we've put together some key questions to ask:

Where's the mains water stopcock (see stopcock tips above)?

Where's the fuse box?

Where are the gas and electricity meters?

Which days are rubbish and recycling collected?

Are there instruction manuals for any electrical items?

Who supplies the gas and electricity?

Where is the thermostat?

What's the landlord or letting agent's number?

Where are the TV aerial and phone line sockets?

Which provider supplies the home phone and broadband?

37 Scope out transport links and travel costs

When choosing an area to rent in, don't forget to factor in public transport if you or your family will need it for work or school. How frequent are buses and trains, and how much are they? If a season ticket's expensive, savings had by renting in the sticks can quickly be swallowed by the cost of the commute.

For London commuters, CommuteFrom shows which towns are the quickest hop from the office. Just select a central London rail or Tube station, pick a maximum journey length, eg, no more than 45 minutes, and it brings up the best commuter routes.

Sadly there isn't a similar version for the rest of the UK, but try searching test routes you'll need on the National Rail journey planner, or for bus routes and frequency, check your local council's website - has a handy tool to find yours.

38 Get an itemised bill for calls if flat-sharing

If you're in a flat share, make sure you get an itemised bill for your calls, so you don't end up paying for someone else's long distance calls to Outer Mongolia. To do this, just contact your provider to request itemised billing.

When you move in to rented digs, it's also worth speaking to the landlord to see what services the previous tenants had. If you're happy to go with the same provider, you may save on installation costs if the wiring's already there.

Don't feel you have to stay with the same provider if it isn't the cheapest though. See the Cheap Home Phones guide for the full list of best buys.

39 Don't under-insure your home's contents

When you're renting, contents insurance can give useful protection if there's a break-in, or your stuff gets damaged. Yet don't under-insure - this could lead to insurers not paying out when you need it.

For example, say you’re insured for £12,000, but actually have £24,000 of contents, and then £6,000-worth is stolen. The insurer could then assess your property and only pay out in proportion to your cover, meaning you'll just get £3,000 back.

Or worse still, the policy could be cancelled for being underinsured. If this is the case, you must disclose it in future, hiking insurance costs.

To work out the correct amount, walk from room to room, noting down what everything would cost on a new-for-old basis, including smaller items like clothing. It soon adds up. For a full list of best buys, see the full Home Insurance guide.

40 Instantly compare removal costs

If you're moving from your parents with no furniture, a car and a couple of mates will likely suffice. If not, many people choose to enlist extra help from a removal firm.

To get five local quotes instantly, head to and fill in an online form. Also check that the company belongs to the British Association of Removers.

If you decide to use a local 'man and van' service, watch out as they may not have insurance for any damage caused in transit (always check). So here, it's a question of balancing a lower price against service, and only going with what you're happy with.

If hiring a van to do the move yourself, do note you may need to be 25 or over - always check the contract. Also consider extra insurance to cover the excess (the amount you'll pay towards a claim). Otherwise small scrapes can cost large, and may be more likely if you aren't used to driving a van. See the Cheap Car Hire guide.

41 Give yourself a money overhaul

Moving into a new place is the perfect time to grab your finances by the nipples and tweak ‘em hard. You'll be signing up to new services anyway, so could save £1,000s on your previous bills by ensuring you grab everything cheapest.

For starters, find the Cheapest Home Phone and Cheapest Broadband, then try Digital TV Cost Haggling and Water Bills. Those are just the start. For a detailed checklist of over 30 quick ways to cut bills, see the full Money Makeover guide.

42 You CAN switch to a water meter if renting

For some in England and Wales, switching to a water meter could save hundreds. A quick tip can help you work out if you could be better off with a meter:

Plus you can do this even if you live in rented accommodation, unless you've a fixed term tenancy agreement of under six months. Get the landlord's permission in writing first, though.

Sadly, in Scotland it isn't free to have a water meter installed (it's quite expensive) so, unless you live alone in a manor-type property, you should stick to billed payment. For full info on meters vs standard billing, see the Cut Water Bills guide.

43 Take snaps when viewing

Take photos of the rental on your mobile if you can. They'll be a useful reference point later, when all the places you've seen start to blur into one. Though of course, do bear in mind it's private property, so don't post them online.

44 Can you do council tax rebanding if renting?

Up to 400,000 homes in England and Scotland are in the wrong council tax bands. Yet in 10 minutes, at no cost, it's possible to check 'n' challenge your banding, not only potentially slashing what you pay now, but getting a backdated rebate from far back as 1993.

Thousands have already tried this and succeeded. Plus as you pay council tax regardless of whether you're the tenant or owner, if you're renting, it's certainly worth going through the system to see.

Before you challenge your band, courtesy dictates you should discuss it with your landlord first though. This is also because it's a good idea to agree on who gets the cash from any payouts, particularly if the claim's backdated to before you lived there, or if you pay the landlord for council tax (ie, their name's on the bill).

Note a reassessment means your band could be moved up as well as down. See theCouncil Tax Bands guide for the full step-by-step details.

45 You need your landlord's permission to do the Green Deal

The Green Deal is a scheme that gives special 'loans' or grants to improve your home to cut energy bills. If you're renting and want to improve your pad, you need the landlord's permission, as Green Deal repayments will affect future tenants.

Currently, you can't force your landlord to improve their property. But from 2016, landlords won't be able to refuse reasonable improvement requests from tenants.

And from 2018, landlords with poor Energy Performance Certificates ratings (F or G) will be forced to make their properties more efficient - so it could be worth encouraging them with the Green Deal now. See the Green Deal Mythbusting guide.

46 Get free advice if disputes arise

If you're having problems with your landlord, or you need extra advice with any issues while you're renting, there are several places that can offer free help.

Housing charity Shelter has specialist housing advisors that can help you negotiate, as well as free advice helplines - see its sites for England, Wales, Scotland and NI for contact details for where you live.

You can also contact Citizens Advice for free advice and support.

47 Shared accommodation? No locks may affect insurance claims

If you're renting shared accommodation, eg, in uni halls, your insurance won't cover you for theft unless there's been a violent or forced entry. So always make sure you lock your room's door when you leave, even if you're just popping out briefly.

If you're in a house share that doesn't have locks on each room, be aware this may adversely affect any home insurance claims. As there won't be any signs of forced entry (after all, a burglar could just walk into your room!) they may not pay out.

48 Should you buy a property instead?

If house price mania had a World Cup, Britain would lift the trophy. Recent house price falls haven't dented the lust for bricks ‘n' mortar. Yet there's still the question of what, when and whether to buy. See the Pros and Cons of Renting forum discussion to help, as well as Martin's Property Warning blog.

Martin's warning

"While it's wonderful to plan, budget and buy a home you can afford, too many have unhealthy 'must own, must own' mentalities.

"I met some scorn talking about this back in the 2006 property boom. Yet now after price dips in many parts of the UK and the still-looming spectre of monster mortgage deposits, maybe it's time to reappraise attitudes and bust myths.

"Too often non-home owners are depicted as an underclass. It's why I've met 21-year olds desperate to overstretch their tentative first pay packets and risk financial ruin just to buy.

"Owning is a nice goal, but you're no loser if you don't immediately clamber onto the housing ladder. Bigger-picture financial security is more important.

"Even after recent times some still say: 'Property prices may fall but not in [insert where they live].' Yet the only way to know that is with a crystal ball.

"Hot demand now could change if interest rates rise, and existing mortgages become less affordable – not a prediction, just a possibility. Plus we’ve yet to see the impact of new Government schemes aimed at helping people onto and up the housing ladder.

“The money-savvy should always hope for the best, prepare for the worst."

49 Save your landlord's number in your phone for emergencies

The time you lock yourself out is exactly the moment you realise you should have done this earlier. So don't just keep this pinned to a notice board or in the back of a diary - save your landlord or letting agent's number to your phone now if you haven't already. You might just be glad you did.

Get a FREE first-time buyers' guide

Of course, we aren't saying you should rush out and buy a property. But if you're making the jump from renting to buying, we've a detailed free printed and PDF guide to help you get the very best mortgage deal possible.

The Free Mortgage Guide is a fully detailed step-by-step guide to getting the best possible mortgage deal, suitable for first time buyers, buy-to-let getters and those who've had poor credit histories.

For every 1% you can cut off your mortgage deal, you'll save £1,000 a year on a £100,000 repayment mortgage. So it's well worth taking the time.

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