There are 4.6 million renters in the UK. That’s an awful lot of people if you ask us. The numbers are growing too, which is why it’s super important that renters understand everything involved with renting a home.
Whether you're moving into a snazzy apartment, build-to-rent property, or renting a room, you'll need to be well prepared for every aspect, from actually finding somewhere to gathering the relevant documentation.
If you’re new to renting and don’t quite know where to start, worry not! We’ve put together this ultimate checklist for renting so that you can move into your new home like a pro.
We’ll tell you:
- How to find a home
- Questions to ask during a viewing
- Documents needed to rent a home
- Checking the paperwork
- The cost of renting
- Landlord responsibilities
- After you move in
- Moving out
You can also check out our Ultimate Renter Checklist video here:
How to find a home
First thing’s first; you need to find your humble abode. Finding a home is a big task in itself, especially if you’re living in one of the big cities like London or Manchester. There are two primary ways to rent a home: directly from the landlord or through a letting agent.
Most renters use a letting agent, who often work with landlords and advertise their properties. However, trawling through each agent's website to find a home can be time-consuming. To get around this, we recommend downloading the Movebubble app, which has thousands of properties from lots of letting agents.
You will need to contact the agent or landlord to arrange a viewing once you've found somewhere you like the look of. During the viewing, it's essential to ask questions about the property so that you can make informed decisions about where you're going to live.
Questions you should ask during a viewing
The actual time you spend on a viewing might be short, but that doesn't mean you can't get all the necessary information. Whether it's the agent or landlord showing you around, it's worth asking questions about the property and the local area.
If a property has been on the market for a while, the landlord might be open to taking an offer. It’s always a good idea to put the feelers out and ask whether it’s possible to get the property for lower than the asking rent. It doesn’t hurt to ask the question, and you might be pleasantly surprised with the answer.
Most properties are advertised as furnished or unfurnished. Yet it’s still worth asking whether a property comes with any furnishings during the viewing. You can also add requests regarding furniture before signing the AST (more on that later!).
Who manages the property?
From time to time, problems can arise around the home, whether it’s electrical faults, hot water issues or the dreaded boiler break down. Ask the person showing you around who manages the property. Sometimes landlords take full responsibility for maintenance; other times it’s a managing agent or property management company.
Who is the landlord?
If an agent is conducting the viewing, it’s worth asking about the landlord — especially if they’re managing the property. Renters and landlords don’t need to be the best of buds, but it’s likely you’ll have some form of a relationship with them. It’s good to know about the person who owns the home you’ll live in.
Is it pet-friendly?
The majority of properties state whether or not they are pet friendly. Yet it's always a good idea to get extra clarification while on the viewing. The last thing you want to do is move in with little Rover, only to discover that pets aren't allowed.
Most tenancy agreements are provided as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). The average length is 12 months with a six-month break clause, but you should state how long you want the tenancy to last so that it aligns with what the landlord is looking for.
Documents needed to rent a home
After the viewing, you should have a pretty good idea about whether you want to make an offer. It all goes to plan, and the offer is accepted, you'll need to go through the process of securing the property. This is when you'll need to provide official documentation that shows you're eligible to rent.
Right to Rent
UK law states that all rental applicants must be aged 18 and legally allowed to live and work in the UK. You will need to provide proof of ID and address before getting into the crux of your application. Valid forms of ID include:
- Photo ID
- An official letter dated within the last three months
- An Electoral Register entry
- If coming from abroad, a copy of your UK visa and associated documents allowing you to rent in the UK will also be required
Proof of employment and income
As a general rule of thumb, landlords typically require renters to earn 2.5x the amount of the annual rent. This means you'll need to provide proof of employment or income, which can be in the form of payslips if you're a full-time employee or through tax returns if you're self-employed.
Most landlords require references and credit checks for all renters. References can be from previous landlords, employers or someone you have known for a long time who can vouch for you. Credit checks determine whether you will be a reliable renter who can pay the rent. If you fail the credit check, the landlord may ask for a guarantor, who will step in and pay the rent if you are unable to.
Checking the paperwork
Assuming referencing and credit checks all go to plan, the next stage involves signing the rental contract. This is the legal document that defines the conditions of your rental, so it’s extremely important that you check it thoroughly. The AST must be signed by both the renter and the landlord. It’s also where you can make requirements about the conditions of moving in.
Inventories are one of the most important parts of renting and safeguard both yourself and the landlord. Also known as the check-in report, inventories details the condition and furnishings of the property before you move in. This makes things easier if there is a dispute when you move out, as you can both reference the inventory. As an extra precaution, you should also take pictures before you move.
Take meter readings as soon as you move into your new home. Otherwise, you could end up paying for the previous renter’s gas and electric.
Make sure that you get the contact details of the person managing the property, whether it's the landlord, managing agent or someone from the property management company. Ideally, you should get a phone number, in case you need to contact someone if an emergency arises - such as locking yourself out of the property.
The cost of renting
There will be financial transactions involved before you move in, so it’s vital that you understand what does and doesn’t need paying for.
Registration and fees ❌
As of June 2019, renters were no longer required to pay letting and agent fees. This means you won’t need to pay anything to a letting agent in regards to renting.
Holding deposit ✅
Most renters need to pay a holding deposit to secure the property and get it removed from the market. The holding deposit is usually the equivalent to one week’s rent and is deducted from the first month’s rent for the property.
Security deposit ✅
The security deposit can be up to five week’s worth of rent and must legally be protected by the landlord in a security deposit scheme. Once you leave the property, the landlord needs to return the security deposit, unless you are at fault for damages in the property. A growing number of landlords also accept zero deposit schemes, which you can find more about here.
The rent ✅
Of course, you also need to pay the agreed monthly rent. The first month’s rent (minus the holding deposit) is due before you move in and then on the agreed date with the landlord or management company, either by bank transfer or standing order.
When you first move in, it's easy to get caught up in the enjoyment of your new home, but it's worth familiarising yourself with your landlord's responsibilities. Landlords must provide renters with a copy of the following:
How to rent guide
How to Rent is a guide for renting in England that landlords must provide to tenants. They can send this as a hard copy or via email as a PDF attachment.
Valid EPC and gas certificate
Landlords need to provide a valid gas safety certificate at the start of each tenancy and every 12 months after. An EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) must also be included. Let properties must have an energy efficiency rating minimum of E.
Proof of deposit protection
If you've paid a deposit, the landlord needs to enter it into a government-approved scheme within 30 days of the tenancy commencing. They must give you all the information about the scheme.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
Landlords need to show evidence that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order. They can do this by showing you themselves or getting the letting or managing agent to show you.
The property should be professionally cleaned before you move in.
After you move in
Now that you’ve got the keys to your new home, there are a few things you should do to ensure a smooth tenancy. These include:
- Paying the rent on time
- Paying utility bills (such as council tax) that haven’t been agreed as part of the rent
- Take care of the property
- No subletting unless you have permission from the landlord
- Get contents insurance to protect your personal items
- Ask for permission before making any DIY upgrades
Whether you stay in the property for one, two, five or 10 years, there may come a time when you decide to move out. It’s important to do the following things when your tenancy ends:
- Give notice, which is typically one month’s notice. If the landlord gives you notice, they need to do it two months in advance.
- Check meters so that you’re not paying for the new renter’s gas and electric
- Make sure the landlord returns the deposit if both parties have agreed there is no damage to the property
- Have the property professionally cleaned
Making sure all your bases are covered
Few things are more exciting than moving into your new home. But it can be a lengthy process with lots of paperwork and documentation involved. With this ultimate checklist to renting, you can navigate the world of renting with more confidence and find your dream home, leaving you to focus on the fun parts like the first time you get the keys.