29 March 2016

A guide to renting for the first time

Moving into a rented property for the first time is a big step and there’s lots to think about before you start unpacking your things in your new pad.

Here’s our guide to renting for the first time.

Working out your budget

First things first, you need to work out your budget as this will have a significant impact on your property search. Consider all the outgoings you’ll have each month and work out how much rent you could comfortably afford.

As well as rent, as a tenant you will usually have to pay:

  • Council tax
  • Gas and electricity bills
  • Water bills
  • Phone and broadband bills
  • TV licence

You’ll also need to leave yourself enough money each month for food, commuting costs, socialising, any loan or credit card repayments and some savings.

If in doubt, remember it’s better to overestimate these costs rather than underestimate them, or you may find yourself paying out more than you can afford each month.

You’ll also need to consider the upfront costs of renting. There’s usually a deposit to pay – generally 4-6 weeks rent. You’ll also need to take into account moving costs and any new furniture or homewares, so it’s helpful if you’ve got some savings stashed away.

Our calculator can help you set your monthly budget

Setting your search criteria

Once you know how much you can spend on your new home, it’s time to start thinking about what type of property you’d like. Before you jump straight into viewings, it’s important to sit down and set your search criteria, so you don’t waste time looking at unsuitable places. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want to live on your own, with a friend or in a house-share with strangers?
  • Is there a particular geographical area you’d prefer to live in – maybe near work, or close to your family?
  • Do you need good public transport links?
  • Would you like some outdoor space?
  • Do you need a furnished or unfurnished place?
  • Would you prefer a house or flat?
  • Do you want a spare bedroom?

It’s also worth thinking about which factors are most important to you. For example, would you compromise on location for a house with a garden?

Finding a property

Once you’ve set your search criteria, it’s time to start house-hunting. You can use sites such as RightMove and Zoopla to draw up a list and then decide which properties you want to view. It’s always worth going to see a property rather than committing after viewing it online as the reality can be very different to the photographs.

Take along a pen and paper so you can make notes as you look around, and prepare a list of questions to ask during the viewing. This might include:

  • How is the rent paid? Weekly or monthly? Cash, cheque or Direct Debit?
  • Are any bills included in the rent?
  • What furniture or white goods, if any, will be provided?
  • Can you decorate?
  • Who should you contact about any problems or repairs?
  • Who is responsible for any communal areas?
  • How long is the tenancy?

It will often be the landlord or a letting agent who shows you around, but it’s worth trying to have a quick chat with the current tenants, if there are any, as they’ll be best placed to comment on things like how noisy the neighbours are and what the area is like at night.

It’s also a good idea to take someone else with you on viewings, as they are likely to be more impartial and spot potential problems that you may miss.

Protecting yourself

Once you’ve found your new home, there are still a few things you may need to do to ensure your tenancy runs smoothly.

First, check what your landlord plans to do with your deposit. By law, they must put it in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receiving it. This ensures that your deposit is protected if you and your landlord disagree about how much of it should be returned when you move out. You’ll also have access to a free dispute resolution service.

You may also want to look into insurance which starts on the day you move in. The landlord should take care of buildings cover, so it’s just contents insurance that may be useful. It may be tempting to try and save money by going without, but if the worst happens, could you afford to shell out for a new laptop, iPod or DVD collection?

Different insurers offer different policies. For example, some will not insure shared properties and only your own contents will be insured in a furnished property, so it’s worth shopping around and looking into various different policies.

See our range of home insurance options

If you are sharing a rented property, you need to have a chat with your housemates about how you are going to split and pay for bills. Will you each take responsibility for several bills or is it worth opening a joint bank account and each contributing a set amount each month?

Whichever method you choose, remember, it’s a good idea to put everyone’s name on the bills so you are all equally responsible for paying them.

Nationwide home insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited.

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