An increasing number of people are now renting rather than buying. In fact, PwC has recently predicted that by 2025, 7.2m households will be in rented accommodation, compared to 5.4m in 2015.
With rising house prices, first-time buyers are renting for longer in order to afford. But the rental market can also be a challenge. As with most things, it’s much easier once you’re prepared, so here’s an overview of what you can expect so you can sail through the rental market.
Many of us choose to go into flatshares when renting. They’re often cheaper and they’re a great way of making new friends. But they can be a challenge, especially if you’re not the biggest fan of the person in the next room. So how can you be sure that you’ve landed on a good selection of housemates before you start renting? First things first – always meet them before you sign the contract. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people move in without any idea of who they’ll be living with.
Although there’s no definite way of being sure what they’re actually like to live with, there are a few things you can look out for when you meet them. Firstly, don’t be afraid to ask questions; go beyond what they do for a living, and ask what they do for fun, how often they’re in the house, and if they socialise together. All of this will add to the general atmosphere in the property. Secondly, take note of how well the house is being looked after when you visit for a viewing. If the bin is overflowing and there are dirty pots on the stove, it might not be for you if you like things to be clean and tidy. Finally, discuss how bills are split and paid. This will give you a good indicator of how organised your potential housemates are, and you can iron out any problems before signing for the property.
Finding the property
One of the best things about renting is that it’s temporary. Although this can feel like a downside, it does mean that you don’t need to think too far into the future and can find a property that suits your current lifestyle. To find a good rental property for you, make a list of all the things you require for your lifestyle and search for a property that fits the bill. And remember to prioritise; it’s unlikely that you’ll find the ideal property, so think about what is a must and what you can compromise on.
Securing the property
The rental market moves extremely fast, so it’s important to be proactive in your search. Set aside time when you’re available for viewings and ask the lettings agent to take you to a few properties during each appointment so you can compare them easily. When you find a suitable property, be prepared to move quickly and put in an offer on the day or the next day.
It’s also a good idea to be prepared well in advance for the next few steps. Make sure you have funds for your deposit and references ready so the next part of the process runs smoothly. Informing the lettings agent that you have these available will put you in a strong position for securing the property.
It’s now a legal requirement that all lettings agents display their fees on the websites and in their offices. Sometimes, you also have to pay a holding fee to secure the property. Make sure you have a look at the fees before going on viewings so you know how much you will have to pay.
A rental deposit covers your landlord should you miss any rent or damage their property. They are typically between four weeks and eight weeks rent, but check this in advance so you can save the money.
It is a legal requirement that your deposit is put into a deposit protection scheme, so always check this before signing any contracts.
When it comes to getting your deposit back, it’s a case of looking after the property while you’re a tenant and reporting any problems. Check the inventory when you first move in and add any existing damage that you notice, making sure it is confirmed by the landlord. Take photos when you first move in and when you leave so you have proof of any previous damage to avoid being penalised. If the property is furnished, remember to take photos of what is present when you first move in and when you leave. All of this should be recorded on the inventory, so check everything is present and correct.
Tenants can get home contents insurance to cover the cost of their belongings under unforeseen circumstances. Most tenants won’t need to worry about buildings insurance as this should be covered by the landlord, but check this before signing for the property. You can get home contents insurance if you’re renting a shared property, but find out from the insurer exactly what you need to do to ensure you are covered.