This article is the second 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 viewings, referencing checks, negotiating your tenancy agreement and also things to do once you’ve picked up your keys i.e. setting up your bills.
If you want to read Part 1 first, click here.
If you still have questions after reading it, get in touch with Repit and we will answer them for you.
Looking for a house
After you’ve established your budget and expectations as to the location, type of the house and amenities, it is time to look for a rental.
Renting in the UK is a competitive process and there is a general shortage of rental properties. Because of this, we recommend to filter the properties out and only look for those that have been advertised for less than 3 days. You can also set up alerts for the above websites that will send you properties within your specification directly to your inbox at least once a day.
When looking at house ads, pay special attention to the availability dates. Some rentals are advertised 1-2 months in advance of the move-in date.
Once you’ve seen a rental that meets your requirements, you should book a viewing as soon as possible to ensure you get a slot. NEVER rent anything without seeing the property first to avoid scammers and general disappointment.
If you don’t have time to scroll property listings or find it too overwhelming, Repit has a special offer for Ukrainian refugees. We will prepare 50 properties for you to review, book 15 viewings and generate 3 offers for the properties of your choice. You can find out more details here.
There are a number of things to pay attention to during a viewing.
Firstly, you should inquire whether the property comes furnished. If it doesn't, furnishing it will add extra costs ahead of your move in date. Have a general look around the radiators, check water pressure by running the taps and the shower, and inspect the bathroom. Repit recommends flushing the toilet because you never know!
It is also worth knocking on the walls — especially in new-built blocks of flats as those tend to have very thin walls! Repit also recommends closing all the windows to check if you can hear the traffic. It is personal preference as to how much traffic noise will bother you, but it is worth being aware of it in advance!
Secondly, ask the agent about the EPC rating (i.e. the energy rating). The highest the score, the more energy efficient the rental is. It is particularly important for the winter as your heating usage (and bills!) will depend on the energy efficiency of the flat. If the energy rating is high, it also means you won’t boil inside during a heatwave as the insulation should keep the property at a liveable level and prevent the heat from coming in.
Thirdly, you should also inquire with the agent whether the flat has electric or gas heating. Electric tends to be more prevalent in newer homes, but it also costs more. Especially now, with another increase in energy prices planned for October 2022.
You should also ask about the council tax band. However, if the agent does not know, you can easily check it here using the rental’s post code.
After the viewing, you will be asked whether you liked the property enough to make an application for it. The application form asks about your personal details, availability, the amount of rent you’re willing to pay per month (do not state less than the offered price online and not more than you actually can afford), your proposed move in date, your proposed duration of the tenancy (the longer the better and no less than 6 months).
The application will also ask about a short personal statement. We recommend you mention your profession, hobbies, a short bio and your impression of the flat. Bear in mind that there are usually plenty of applicants for one property so try and make your personal statement stand out! Quite often, the whole renting process is overseen by an agent but it is the landlord (i.e. the owner of the property) who will make a decision who to rent it to based on the application. So make sure to come across as approachable and friendly and don’t be afraid to share a bit of your history.
Once your application gets chosen…
Once your application gets chosen, you will receive an email or a phone call from the agent who will start the referencing process. At the same time, you will be asked to pay a holding deposit.
Holding deposits are usually equivalent to one week’s rent and their purpose is to reserve the property with the landlord. The flat/house gets taken off the market whilst the reference checks are being conducted. You pay the holding deposit to ‘hold’ the property until your checks come back.
If your reference checks are successful, then the holding deposit will normally be offset against either your rent for the first month or the tenancy deposit.
If your reference checks are unsuccessful, the landlords are likely to return your holding deposit — provided you’ve submitted all required documents timely and without trying to stretch the truth.
However, an important point to note is that if you are trying to reserve more than one property and have paid multiple holding deposits, you may lose the holding monies if you withdraw your application.
As such, Repit recommends only paying a holding deposit on a property you really want — otherwise it’s not really worth losing a week’s worth of rent.
In any event, you should clarify the terms of the holding deposit each time — and what will happen to the money once it has been paid.
A few questions that are recommended to ask before you hand out your holding deposit money are:
- What is the holding deposit for?
- What will happen to the holding deposit if my application is successful?
- What will happen to the holding deposit if my application is unsuccessful?
- How and when will I get the holding deposit back?
Holding deposits are often also called reservation deposits and as such are different from tenancy deposits which we discuss later in the article.
The first and most important is proving your right to rent.
Landlords in England must check the right to rent of any prospective tenant or otherwise they could be liable for a civil penalty.
You have the right to rent if any of the following apply:
- you're a British or Irish citizen
- you have indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
- you have refugee status or humanitarian protection
- you have settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme
- you have permission to be in the UK, for example, on a work or student visa
- the Home Office has granted you a time limited right to rent
So if you’re a British or Irish national, all you have to do is show your passport. In any other case, you have to show a document which proves your right to rent. You can find a very useful list of acceptable documents here.
Moreover, you can prove your right to rent online on the government website if you have a settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or have a biometric residence card permit.
If you’re coming to England from abroad, your right to rent check is also there to prove your right to live in the UK at the same time.
You do not need to prove your right to rent if you’re renting in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Overall, the documents that are usually required are:
- Documents to prove your right to rent in England/right to rent code under the EU settlement scheme;
- Recent utility bill or bank statement to prove your current address;
- Contact details of your current landlord so the new landlord can obtain references;
- Contact details of someone within your company for the new landlord to confirm your pay; and
- Bank statements proving your income and savings.
If it’s not possible for you to provide a renting history (because you’re a first time renter) or submit a recent utility bill with a UK address on it (because you’re a first time renter in the UK) — worry not!
Ultimately, all you landlord is concerned about is that you will be able to pay rent and that you won’t become a liability in any way. So out of those above documents, the most important are documents proving your right to rent in England and your financial information.
If you are not able to prove your financial affordability but you can afford to rent a flat for the advertised rent, you can use a UK-based guarantor to back up your application. The guarantor would have to be based in the UK, over 18 and have enough money available to cover the rent in the event you stop paying. The guarantor acts as a guarantee for the landlord that even if the tenant doesn’t pay, the landlord will still receive their money owed.
Repit has prepared a free scheme where we match Ukrainian refugees who are struggling to prove their financial affordability and need a guarantor with UK-based guarantors. We do this free of charge, and only ask for basic details to check your credibility as a renter. You can access the service here.
Once you pass your referencing checks, you will receive a tenancy agreement to be signed by yourself as the tenant and the landlord.
In your contract, the landlord must state the following information:
- start date of tenancy — means the date you can collect the keys and officially become a tenant;
- rent payable and rent due date — how much you should pay to the landlord to a provided bank account on an agreed date;
- any rent review clause — for example that the rent will increase after 6 months of renting the property;
- the length of any fixed term agreement — for example, if you are renting for 6 months only, the agreement must clearly state your move out date and time;
- the name and address of your landlord — it is a legal requirement;
- what the rent includes, for example energy bills, internet, council tax or parking space;
- what services the landlord provides, for example cleaners of communal areas every fortnight.
Before you sign, check if you are happy with all of the terms of the agreement as once you sign, you will be bound by it and you won’t be able to go back on your word.
Top Tip: Make sure your name is spelt correctly!
Once you’ve signed the tenancy agreement, this is the moment when your holding deposit either gets returned to you or is used towards your first month’s rent or the security deposit.
This is the money that the landlord can use at the end of the tenancy to cover costs such as outstanding rent arrears or property damage.
The law in England regulates the maximum amount of deposit you may be asked to pay.
If your annual rent is below £50,000, then you can be charged the maximum of 5 weeks’ rent. So, take your monthly rent and multiply it by 12. You’ll get an annual figure, which you now divide into 52. Having established your weekly rent, multiply it by 5 to get an idea of the maximum tenancy deposit.
Monthly Rent x 12 ÷ 52 x 5 = Maximum Tenancy Deposit
If your annual rent is more that £50,000, then the maximum tenancy deposit is capped at 6 weeks’ rent.
The landlord/agent is under an obligation to protect your deposit with one of the three approved schemes within 30 days of receiving the payment. Your landlord/agent must also send you a confirmation as to which scheme is being used, including all the details of the scheme — this document is known as “Prescribed Information”.
If your landlord fails to protect the deposit within one of the schemes, a court can award a penalty of up to three times the value of the deposit to the tenant.
The three deposit protection scheme providers are:
The landlord/agent is not legally allowed to charge you any other administration fees on top of your deposit.
If you want to know more about deposits or find a way to finance it through other means than paying upfront, please access our article here.
On the agreed date, you can go and collect your keys.
At this point, you are also presented with an inventory of the rental. It is basically a list of all features that come with the flat with a short description of the state they are in. For example, doors in the kitchen might be described as ‘excellent’ because they are brand new, but the doors in the bathroom might only be ‘good’ due to some scratches on the surface.
It is worth having a quick look around and comparing the actual state of the flat with what’s written in the inventory. It can be the case that sometimes the inventories are dated – for example listing a wardrobe that is no longer there or a chest of drawers in a ‘nearly new’ state when it clearly isn’t.
You can email your landlord back at the start of the tenancy and raise any concerns regarding the inventory then. If you do not do that, the landlord may dispute your deposit at the end of the tenancy as the ‘official’ state of the flat is what the signed inventory says. Do not sign the inventory unless you are happy with its contents.
Set up your bills
If your bills are not included in the tenancy agreement, you will have to set it up yourself.
If you’re unsure what bills you have to set up, these include the required bills — energy (i.e. electricity and gas), water and council tax, and the optional bills — internet, TV licence and renter's insurance.
Your welcome pack from the agent will usually contain useful information as to who to contact — i.e. the current energy provider, the water provider, the local council to set up council tax.
Repit has an article which contains all the necessary information about setting up bills — access it here.
Lastly, set up reminders in your calendar for things like rent payments, the end of the tenancy or for when your break clause becomes enforceable.
Keep the tenancy agreement handy in case something happens with the rental and you need to get in touch with the landlord to address a potential breach.
Repit also recommends making a note of your notice period as the time you are allowed to stay in the property after you’ve communicated to your landlord that you’re moving out (if your contract allows that).
Remember — if something starts happening with anything in the flat, i.e. taps start to leak or the washing machine stops working, you need to inform your landlord as soon as possible. It is their responsibility to ensure the property is liveable, and the earlier you tell them the easier it will be to fix.
Do you need more help?
We hope we’ve covered everything you need to know about the renting process in the UK — if you have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch either via our socials (linked at the bottom of the page) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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 need a guarantor, you can use our free Find a Guarantor scheme by clicking here.