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The only list UK renters need before they move in

Jamie Campbell

Jamie Campbell

3 years ago - 13 minute read

No one has time to trawl the internet to find all the rental hacks hidden in the depths of advice columns and company blogs. Instead I want to create:

The Ultimate Renter Move In List.

def: Your go-to guide whether you already have a question you want answered, or you need a sanity check of things to keep in mind.

It’s worth favouriting this page whether you are just about to move or still searching for a property. Our team is continually updating it so you can come back to know more about what is needed. Here we go:

1. You’re a first time renter

Congratulations on your independence!

Gif of man, arms outstretched, standing in the rain
I'm sure it feels something like this

Welcome to a world of freedom and living how you want. Let’s kick off with some of the basics to get you started:

2. You are moving from student accommodation

Ready to move out of halls or moving for a grad role?

Picture of man saying 'When did we become such responsible adults?"
It happens so quickly

There are a few key differences when making the change from student life to traditional renting.

3. You’re moving from a private rented to another private rented property

If you’re moving to a new neighbourhood or are escaping some horror roommates, don’t get caught out.

Man saying "You have not done the dishes in five years"
We've all lived with them... or been them

Here's what you might find helpful:

4. You’ve been asked for a guarantor

Landlords or rental agencies may ask for a guarantor if you have no credit history in the UK or are renting for the first time.

Image of two people supporting each other up a ladder
We all need help sometimes

A guarantor is a UK resident, over 18 with a good credit history. They are usually parents, family members or good friends who would be able to pay your rent if you were not able to do so.

Note: Landlords or agents cannot charge extra fees for you to provide a credit check or a guarantor agreement.

Needing more information?

5. You need an email template

Finding a property always takes more time than you think.

Gif of a furiously typing cat
This was me applying for properties

Let’s take some of the stress off, including the dreaded emails.

5.1 Templates

At Fronted, we have some great lawyers and litigators who worked up some standard emails for you to use when talking to landlords or estate agents. When searching for a home you can be sending off a lot of emails arranging property viewings or confirming details before making an offer.

Access all our all rental email templates here.

Note: There has been an update to the templates with responses after the government announced emergency regulation for COVID-19.

Read more about how announcements will affect renters here.

5.2 What is a reasonable time to get back to you

It's worth noting that whoever manages your property has certain time restrictions in which they need to respond to you.

  • Once you have applied for the property, the landlord or agency has to confirm receipt of the application within 5 working days and ask you for any additional information if required
  • The decision to let you the property should be within 21 days of receiving your application
  • If the decision is over 21 days, the landlord or agency should let you know why it is taking longer

If you want a more detailed overview of reasonable response times, read this article.

6. Finding a property right for you

After moving 5 times, I can back up that you want to minimise the hassle of moving multiple times.

Gif of moving a sofa and a man getting irritated
Don't let this be you

Here are the 10 steps you should take to make sure a property is right for you:

  1. Do a practice run of your commute or if you are moving to London: Citymapper is the best way to get around.
  2. Map out the accessibility to family, friends and hobbies
  3. Try out some local coffee stores, nightlife or gyms
  4. Make a list anything you wanted to avoid from your previous rental
  5. Take photos of the place when you inspect it or better yet film to record your questions that are being answered during the inspection
  6. Inspect the property well, don’t be afraid to stand in the shower, test the water or have a friend stand downstairs as you walk upstairs. This is the time to find out if it is right for you
  7. Check that if is affordable by using our budget calculator
  8. If you have pets, be sure to talk about this and even ask if you can bring around them to see how they react
  9. Note down the maintenance of the property needed, if it has a backyard, if there are a heap of windows or multiple bathrooms as this may factor into your decision
  10. Last thing - Remember to ask what the neighbours are like

7. Can you negotiate rent?

It can be high stakes to not miss out on a property you like but it’s not unreasonable to haggle if you feel the property standard does not meet the asking price.

Men in suits negotiating on a rooftop
After this conversation, he got that rooftop flat for half price.

Here’s what you should take into consideration:

  1. What rental prices like for similar properties - you can use tools like Zoopla’s neighbourhood search to quickly find neighbourhood examples
  2. How long has the rental been on the market for - if it has been months, they may be more keen to negotiate on price
  3. Aspects of the property you might not need - if you don’t need furnishings or car spaces, use this in the negotiation.

If you tend to stumble on your words (like I do), learn more about negotiating here.

8. Fees

Rent is not the only cost per month.

Picture of a man answering the phone about bills then cutting his phone cord.
If only it was this easy

At the start we linked a budget estimator, but here we’ll break down all the fees when you’re a renter and what you’ll need to account for.

8.1 Letting fees

There are some fees estate agents can charge and there are some they can’t. Make sure you know this before you send any money to anyone:

The Tenant Fees Act (2019) means that only fees 'permitted' by the Act are allowed. Permitted fees are as follows:

  • rent
  • tenancy deposit
  • holding deposit
  • a fee in the event of a ‘relevant default’ e.g. late payment of rent or you lost your key and the locks need to be replaced
  • payments for early termination of the tenancy, if requested by you
  • payments capped at £50 (may be higher if it is said to be ‘reasonable’) for change to tenancy e.g. changing the name on the contract
  • Payments covering utilities, communication services, TV licence and Council Tax

Fees including agency ‘finding fees’ are not permitted.

What if my tenancy contract was signed before the Tenant Fee Act came into place?

  • If you signed before on 1 June 2019, your contract is still legally binding
  • However you should get a refund on a deposit that is larger than 5 weeks (or 6 weeks if the rental amount is 50k per year or higher)

Don’t know if your letting fees are legit or not? Comment in our community here and we’ll look into it.

8.2 Council Taxes

Though we all love our bins being taken away, in some areas council tax is more costly than others and might play into your consideration when moving into an area.

Here’s the quick points:

For those in Scotland find out here

  • Living by yourself?You’re eligible for a 25% discount for single occupancy.
  • If you want to know what your Council Taxes pay for, see the full list here.

8.3 Utility Bills and Energy Information

High ceilings are nice but it can make your heating bill unsustainably expensive. You should ask your landlord or agent about all the fixed costs of your new place.  Here’s what you’ll need to account for:

  • Heating - if you don’t have fixed costs, ask if the costs change in summer and winter to get a better idea of what you have to account for in your budget.
  • Water - everywhere in the UK excluding Scotland where it is free (the excess rain has certain benefits)
  • Internet - ask for the current costs but do shop around to see if there are discounts
  • TV license - this is a standard yearly cost of £154.50 but if you don’t watch any live TV or BBC iPlayer, or stream the radio then you don’t need a license.

When asking about utilities, ask how much the bills are in both summer and winter as depending on where you are in the UK, it can get pretty cold. You can check the average costs of using this Bills HealthCheck from Money Supermarket.

9. Energy Efficiency documentation

This section is very short compared to the last one, I promise.

Cardi B saying "I have very high energy, baby."
I feel like Cardi B would be a great landlord

A landlord must give you an energy performance certificate (EPC) for the property before your tenancy starts. EPCs are valid for 10 years.

Read more about fees here

10. Deposit

The deposit is one of the largest upfront costs for renters and it's why our team at Fronted's first focus is building a better way to pay your deposit. Let's outline your deposit cost and caps.

A cartoon octopus laying down bricks with it's multiple hands
Live footage of our team building ways to make your renting life easier

Here’s what you need to know about your deposit.

  • a refundable tenancy deposit is capped at:
Total Annual Rent Less than £50,000 £50,000 or above
Your security deposit can be no more than 5 weeks’ rent 6 weeks’ rent
Your refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) is to be no more than 1 weeks' rent 1 weeks' rent

Your deposit should always be put into one of these three government-backed tenancy deposit scheme providers (TDP):

Make sure you get confirmation from your landlord or letting agent on which one they have deposited into. After confirmation you can check your deposit is protected on the scheme providers' websites.

If you want more information on deposits and the new protections for renters, read more here

11. Furnishing

Whether you are BYO'ing your furniture or want everything there and ready, here we unpack furnishing terms and give you tips on how to find budget-friendly options.

Two people fold down cardboard furniture
The new IKEA cardboard range

A property may come:

  • Fully furnished - nothing else needed in the rental e.g. everything from beds to kitchen utensils
  • Furnished apartment - everything a reasonable person would need to live comfortably e.g. living room with sofa and table, rooms with bed-frame and beds
  • Semi-furnished - you will need to clarify what is included as this can range from basic large items (e.g. beds) to smaller items
  • Unfurnished - nothing in the rooms

Depending on your choice, you may need to account for furniture in your budget. It doesn't have to break the bank.

Budget furniture options:

12. Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a number that represents the likelihood that you would pay back money that is leant to you.

Man with math equations floating around his head
How it feels to understand your credit score

It is a mixture of data that shows you are trustworthy (like having a phone bill you pay monthly) and evidence that you can meet repayments on money that you have borrowed (like a credit card).

In the distant (or near) future, you might want to get a mortgage so it’s worth taking the steps below to get yourself set up well.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Get on the electoral roll - responsible people vote so this is an important part of growing your credit score
  • You rent can contribute to your credit, it might be worth checking out apps like CreditLadder or signing up to Fronted
  • Check your budget and that you can afford to pay your monthly rent and bills on time
  • If you’re sharing your rental, be careful about having joint bills. Your roommates credit scores could negatively impact yours if they pay bills late. Instead you may want to assign bills per person and use apps like Splitwise to keep track of who owes who.
  • If you are having problems with your credit rating, more information is available from Shelter here.

Read more about credit here.

13. Vetting the Letting Agent or Landlord

Just as you landlord or agent will ask questions of you, you should check that you will feel comfortable to let from them.

A puppet and a man nodding at each other
It should feel at leeeeeast this comfortable

Check their legitimacy by:

  • Checking the Landlord / Agent register
  • If you are still unsure about the agent, their company number should be provided on their website. You can use this company number to check the Companies House Register and checking the filings history tab to see more information
  • Ask which deposit scheme they will be putting your deposit into
After you have submitted your deposit, you can make sure that it is in the scheme here.
  • You might even want to check who owns the property you are moving into. You can do this via the land registry and entering the house number and postcode. It costs a few pounds but, for some people, it might give them peace of mind.  

13.1 Questions to ask the landlord

Here’s the checklist of things to take to your viewings.

Copy and paste it into the notes app on your phone to have it accessible and write down your answers while viewing.

  • How much rent is and how it will be paid?
  • What is the cost of bills?
  • What is the length of renting, tenancy renewing or conditions when ending your contract early?
  • Payment or fees before you move in?
  • How will your tenancy deposit be protected?
  • When was the boiler last serviced?
  • Does the place have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms?
  • Where are car parks or other additional facilities if available?
  • Is there any mould or pests visible?
  • What appliances come with the property and do they work?
  • How is the house secured?

14. Content insurance

  • It will be your landlord’s responsibility to cover any issues with a property’s structure, the fixtures and fittings e.g. broken kitchen tops
  • If you want home contents insurance, this is covered by the renter. Think of this as anything that could be stolen e.g. laptops
Note: If you proceed this way, you will want to keep a document with all serial numbers, photos & receipts of any items worth more than £300

15. If moving in as a couple or with roommates

If you are moving in with others, you’ll want to know who is accountable to what costs.

Vine video where the girl walking past a stoop saying 'and they were roommates"
This is not the place to say it. But I miss vine

Your agreement may be a:

  • Joint tenancy - meaning you will both be responsible for paying the rent. If one of you can't pay your share, the other person will have to pay it for you.
  • Separate tenancies - meaning only you will be responsible for paying your share of the rent. Note: your landlord may not permit separate tenancies
  • Only one person named on the tenancy - If person not named won't have a right to stay if the tenant wants them to leave

It’s always recommended that you are on the contract as it’s legally binding that you have the right to live on the property. Have an honest and open conversation with the people you may rent with. Starter questions you’ll want to consider are:

  • Who is responsible when damages are created on the property
  • If someone would want to break the contract before the end date, how would that work
  • How do you want to divide the rent evenly or if it should vary with room size

If you’re wanting to know more about what to consider when renting with other people read more here

16. Information that landlord or letting agent will require from you

There's a couple of bits of information you'll be asked to provide.

Gif of Mr Bean matching his face to his passport
True story: I once saw Mr Bean in Notting Hill.

To confirm you can pay your rent and are authorised to live in the UK, your landlord or letting agent will check:

  • Your right to rent - you need the right immigration status to rent a property. They might ask for:
  • Includes passport and/or;
  • 2 alternative documents (e.g. UK license and birth certificate)

To verify you can afford the rental property, they may also ask for

  • Your Employment contract
  • A Payslip or bank balance
  • They will likely credit check you

If you feel you are being discriminated against for any reason, contact Shelter here.

Read more about checks here.

Looking for other information?

Gif of man asking "Something you want to tell me?"
Ask way!

Let us know in the comments what you want me to add and I’ll look into it.

Jamie Campbell

Jamie Campbell

3 years ago - 13 minute read

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