Around one in five people in the UK rent from a private landlord, and if you’re part of that number then it’s important to understand your rights and know how to protect yourself financially.
Although it can sometimes seem like the chips are stacked in the landlord’s favour, renters in the UK have quite a lot of legal protections. There are also lots of things that you can do to help make renting a less pricy proposition.
Before you rent
It’s really helpful to understand the costs associated with setting up a tenancy before you start looking for your new home. There’s some good news here: since 2019, letting agents have been banned from charging administrative fees for things such as arranging references. This means that finding a rental property is cheaper than it used to be. There are still some costs to be expected, though:
- A holding deposit, usually one week’s rent, required to take the property off the market. This is often taken off your first month’s rent – however if you choose not to go ahead, it won’t be refunded.
- A rental deposit of up to five weeks’ rent for properties with a yearly rent of up to £50,000, or six weeks’ rent for more expensive properties. This should be protected through a tenancy deposit scheme, and repaid at the end of the tenancy minus any fees for damage.
- The first month’s rent, which is usually payable in advance.
You’ll also need to provide references to prove your rental history and your income. You’ll usually be asked to provide a reference from your current landlord and employer, and you may also need to share evidence such as bank statements.
During your tenancy
Many tenants end up sticking with the energy/internet suppliers that were used by the previous occupant – but it doesn’t have to be that way. You have the right to switch suppliers, and you don’t need to notify your landlord in order to do so. It’s also fine to switch to a water meter if you think that this could save you money. Again, you don’t need the landlord’s permission, although it’s advisable to let them know.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to pay your rent on time each month – and if so, there are ways of having that rent contribute to your credit rating (great if you’re planning on getting a mortgage further down the line). Services such as Canopy and Credit Ladder will report your rent payments to credit agencies, allowing them to count towards your credit score.
Time to leave
Check your tenancy agreement to make sure you know how much notice you or your landlord are required to give to end the tenancy. In most cases, your landlord will need to give you at least two months’ warning before turfing you out. This helps to ensure that you have enough time to find alternative housing.
If your landlord is evicting you, there are places that you can go to get support and ensure everything is being done legally. We would recommend the charity Shelter as the first port of call, with your local Citizens’ Advice branch as a useful alternative option. Even if you’re in dispute with your landlord, continue to pay rent when it is due. This can help you avoid legal troubles, and ensure that you don’t tarnish your record for future rentals.
Finally, when you do leave, make sure everything is in the same condition that you found it in, and give the place a good clean. Normal wear and tear should not be deducted from your deposit, although more significant damage will be.