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First Time Renting

Renting in the UK - Part 1

July 2022

This article is the first part of a detailed breakdown of the renting process in the UK. Whilst it may seem complicated at first, hopefully after reading this step-by-step guide, the renting process will become a little clearer. 

This part deals with the costs of renting, available help from the government or local councils and also an analysis of things Repit recommends to consider when choosing where to live. 

If you still have questions after reading it, get in touch with Repit and we will answer them for you.

Determine your budget 

It is recommended that a monthly rent should not exceed 35% of your monthly income. When looking for a flat, it is handy to consider how much you are willing to pay and where that leaves you with your budget. 

However, the tricky part is that when searching for flats to rent, the ads usually only provide the price of rent itself. 

What does that mean in practice? Renting is not just about the price of rent but you also must consider the monthly cost of utilities (electricity, gas and water), internet, TV licence and council tax. 

Rent + Electricity and Gas + Water + Internet + TV licence + Council Tax 

                                                                                = 

                                                         Cost of Renting / Month 

In some instances, the tenancy agreement (i.e. the legal contract that governs your rental) also includes clauses relating to utilities where the landlord will cover certain bills. 

When searching for a house, be aware that rental listings in the UK very often show a price per week as opposed to price per month. You will still be paying monthly or quarterly though.

Help with housing costs

If you think you might need additional support with your living expenses whilst in the UK, you can apply for Universal Credit. You become eligible if you live in the UK, are over 18 but below the State Pension Age (click here to check your State Pension Age) and have less than £16,000 in money, savings and investments. 

If you are eligible for Universal Credit, you can get help to cover your rent and some additional charges. The amount you can get depends on your individual circumstances such as your age, type of private housing and your earnings. Click here for more information. 

It is also possible to receive a Council Tax Reduction if you are on low income or claim Universal Credit. The discount you get depends on where you live (as each council runs their own scheme), your individual circumstances, other adults and children living with you. You can get up to 100% of Council Tax covered. Click here to check your local council and apply for reduction. 

You may also apply for Discretionary Housing Payment if you are falling behind on rent, need help with your deposit or need rent in advance because you’re moving houses. The amount of Discretionary Housing Payment depends on your local council arrangements. Click here for more information.  

Aleksandra Pitula
Photo by Annie Spratt.

Determine your expectations

Type of housing

Unlike continental Europe, the rentals on offer mostly centre around terraced or semi-detached houses. The housing market in the UK is very different to the ever-present blocks of flats in Europe! 

Blocks of flats for rent are more common in big cities such as London, Manchester, Leeds or Bristol. 

It is also possible to rent just a room in a shared accommodation — for example in a 5 bedroom house. It is often a good option if you’re a single person and want a room for a limited period of time. 

Number of bedrooms

If that’s not you and you’re either with a partner or a bigger family, you need to determine the number of rooms you’d require in the rental. In the UK, the rentals are advertised for the number of bedrooms rather than for a number of rooms. It is implied that every rental will have a bathroom (with a sink, toilet and a shower and/or a bath), a kitchen and a lounge. 

To avoid overcrowded properties, there are some rules on how many bedrooms you have to have as a minimum. For example, a one bedroom flat will meet the requirements if you’re by yourself or with a partner. However, if you’re with a friend, you will need 2 bedrooms, one for each of you. If you’re with your mother and a child over 13 years old, you will have to rent a property with a minimum of 3 bedrooms — one for you, one for your mother and one for the child. If the child is younger than that, you can share a bedroom together. You can rent a house with more bedrooms of course — but not with less. 

Before you start looking for a rental, it is also worth thinking about the number of bathrooms you want, whether you want a garden or a parking spot. All those things come in handy when you have a clear idea as it allows you to filter through the listings more accurately. Or you can tell Repit and we will find the perfect property for you!

Location

Depending on your expectations, you should consider affordability, proximity to parks / nature, proximity to schools, crime rate or noise. 

You can check the crime rate in the area by using the police area checker. Alternatively, if you’re looking to live in London, you can have a look at this checker for crime as well as noise, air quality and schools.

If you are looking to rent in London, we have compiled a list of the cheapest boroughs where we also discuss crime rates in those areas — click here to access the article. 

Noise and air quality 

Whilst these might not be your immediate points of consideration, we recommend checking your new flat-to-be in this noise and air quality viewer to get an idea of what the traffic is like around the flat. 

Another useful tip is to walk around the future house at different times of the day. If the neighbours are noisy in the afternoons or evenings, you’ll be able to hear it from standing on the street. Better to know it before you sign a tenancy agreement! 

You could also have a look whether any windows look onto a high street or a street with a few bus routes. Unfortunately, if it’s a bus route that means increased traffic so the noise levels will be higher.

In the police area checker before, you can see what crimes people report and zoom up to your closest area. If there’s been a lot of anti-social behaviour reported, you can expect a few parties and shouting around there!

Schools 

You can check and compare schools in the area by using this website. 

Alternatively, you could have a look at this school and nursery checker where you can filter whether schools are over/undersubscribed for new applicants as well as their ratings.

If you’re a parent, obviously you want to be close to a nice school.  

However, as a non-parent, if your flat is close to a school, you’ll soon realise the morning and afternoon traffic. Whilst it is not the end of the world, it could become a little nuisance if you’re driving late for work!  

Moreover, flats which are within a good school’s area are likely to be more expensive due to the demand for parents to be near it. Another reason to check schools even as a non-parent!

Public transport

Another important consideration is the public transport links especially if you don’t own a car. Public transport in London is really good and you have a range of trains, underground, buses, and overground available. You can find out more on the Transport for London website. 

If you don’t want to stay in London, we recommend googling the area you’re looking to move into, and checking transport links before committing to the rental. Small towns in England tend to have poor public transport, with the exception of trains that normally fare frequently across the whole country. 

Pets 

It is very rare to see a rental listing that allows pets in the rental. We all can understand why — no landlord wants their carpets and furniture damaged by claws and paws. However, asking never hurt anybody. So, if you found that perfect flat but your furry one would not be allowed in, just ask! 

Landlords might not be super happy about dogs, especially big ones, but a house-trained indoor cat, guinea pig or a goldfish is likely to be a yes! 

Usually, an additional set of terms relating to the pet will be added to the tenancy agreement before you sign it. For example, setting out the responsibility for potential damage at the property or noise and barking. 

Smokers 

Some landlords ask about whether a potential tenant is a smoker. It is quite understandable — especially if some smokers have habits of smoking indoors, which poses a fire hazard as well as an additional burden on the landlord to eradicate the smell afterwards. Especially that so many properties in England have carpets everywhere! 

However, landlords are more concerned whether you’re a smoker when you’re renting a room in a shared house rather than the whole property. 

Photo by Bethany Opler.

Do you need more help?

Repit hopes the above has provided some clarity. If you require more information, you can contact us either through our social media pages (linked at the bottom of the page) or by email to hello@repit.uk 

If you think the renting process might be too much to handle yourself, we have an offer for Ukrainian refugees to do that for you which you can access here. 

If you want to learn about the next steps, i.e. viewings, referencing checks, negotiating tenancy agreements and how to sort out your bills, click here for Part 2 of Renting in the UK. 

Credits

Aleksandra Pitula
Social Media Manager

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