Renting a house for the first time: breaking it down

Meg Timbrell
Content & Social Media Manager
4 min read

Moving into your first house rental can be extremely daunting, and there's lots of information and lingo that you just don't get taught when you're at school. So here is our handy guide for all the things you need to know before renting your first house.

House Viewings:

What to look out for:

  • Damp and mould (Common signs include black mould, peeling walls, discoloured patches on walls, musty odour)
  • Insulation (Do the windows have double glazing to help retain heat? Are there radiators in every room?)
  • Furnishings (Is the house fully or partially furnished or will you need to bring your own furniture? What kitchen appliances are included with the property?)
  • The location of the property (Is it noisy? What is the crime rate like?)
  • Pest problems 
  • Security and safety

What to ask:

  • Has there been much interest in the property?
  • Who will your neighbours be?
  • How are bills handled? (Are they included in the rent?)
  • Is there parking/bicycle storage?
  • How much is the deposit?
  • What will be your responsibilities to the landlord as tenants?

What’s the difference between renting from a private landlord and a letting agent? 

A private landlord is someone who chooses to rent their property out to you (the tenant) directly, without going through an agent. All of your communication about the property (paying rent, maintenance, repairs, any emergencies) will be carried out through the landlord. 

If a house is rented through a letting agent, then all of your communication about the property will be done through them. They will be your main point of call if you have any issues or questions about the property.

How do utility bills work?

Utility bills include water, gas and electricity (although not all properties will have a gas connection), broadband, TV. If you aren’t a full time student, you will also need to pay council tax, which will depend on the area you live in and property type. 

Some properties have bills all included in the rent: if this is the case you can kick back and relax!

However, many properties won’t have bills included, and you’ll have to sort out payments for things like WiFi, energy, water and a TV licence. Some lettings agents recommend setting up one shared bank account for every member of the household to transfer money into each month. 

At the start of your tenancy, the house will most likely already be with a particular provider of energy or water, so it’s good to check and use price comparison sites to see which will be your cheapest option as you can always change providers. You can find this out by asking your landlord or letting agent. 

You'll often have to take water and electricity readings; the location of the meter can be found by asking your agent or landlord (it could either be in the house or outside).

Once you’ve decided on a house:

Checking the contract:

  • Deposits - what deductions might be taken from your deposit? (e.g. for damage, lost items)
  • Special clauses
  • Bills and rent - which bills are included and how are they paid?
  • Maintenance and decorations - who is responsible for minor repairs? Can you redecorate or put posters up?
  • Subletting - can you sublet to other tenants? You can face some weighty penalties if you're caught subletting illegally, so check this.
  • Ending tenancy charges - if your tenancy is fixed-term, check if there is a break clause to end your tenancy early in case you need to for whatever reason.

Making the offer:

  • Make your offer quickly, and if you’re renting with a group, ensure that everyone has agreed first.

Finances:

  • Triple check all of the financial factors: how much is your monthly rent? Who's in charge of which bills? How much is the deposit and are there any extra fees?

Inventory:

  • Ask the landlord/agent for an inventory (a list with items and record of any damage to walls/furniture) once you’ve moved in and make sure that you check everything over on it.
  • Take pictures of everything before you move in and email to your landlord/ensure they are a part of the inventory process (this can save a lot of haggling at the end of your tenancy if, for example, there is a mark on a wall that you were sure was there when you moved in!)

The paperwork:

  • Check that your landlord/agent provides you with a copy of the ‘How to Rent’ guide, a gas safety certificate, deposit paperwork, and the energy performance certificate.
  • Landlords are now legally required to safeguard their tenants' deposits with one of three government-backed deposit protection schemes: Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits, and Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Make sure your deposit is protected by one of these schemes.

Once you're all moved in, our article "Living away from home for the first time: help!" provides some handy tips and tricks to living on your own away from your parents/guardians.

Additional guidance:

Please note this article is intended to provide general tips and guidance when renting for the first time and should not be considered legal advice. For detailed advice that is specific to your circumstances, we recommend contacting Citizens Advice and/or seeking professional legal advice before you sign a rental agreement or contract of any kind.

Related articles
Sort
11 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Tim Campbell - on The Apprentice & ...

Tim Campbell MBE won The Apprentice back in 2005, and has come full circle to work alongside Lord Alan Sugar to judge...

Sort
6 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Scott - Founder of Coaltown Coffee

Scott James is the founder of Coaltown Coffee , a specialty coffee roastery based in South Wales in a small tow...

Sort
6 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Howard - music producer & Jamiroquai band ...

Howard Whiddett describes himself as a producer, performer and Jamiroquai band member, using computers and music produ...

Meg Timbrell
2 min read

Construction apprenticeships

Working in construction can be a brilliant career pathway, and there are a surprising number of routes you can follow....

Meg Timbrell
2 min read

Netflix's advice for those who want to enter the TV/film ...

The film industry is an exciting and dynamic place to work, whether you're wanting to tell your own stories as a sc...

Sort
9 min read

SUCCESS STORIES: Keith - from cancer to Kanye

Keith Gray is, without doubt, a success story - a Creative Director who has worked with the likes of Toma...

Sort
4 min read

SORT SWITCH: Sarah - from Dentistry to Wildlife Conservation

Sarah Parmor is originally from North Wales, and after going to University in Cardiff to study dentistry, she worked a...

Holly Chapman
6 min read

Starting an apprenticeship at 30 - Holly's story

I’m Holly, I’m 30, I’m a mum of two and I’ve just become an apprentice. I was one of those kids at school. You...

Meg Timbrell
1 min read

Business apprenticeships

Why a business apprenticeship? To get your foot in the door of the business world, apprenticeships are an excellent wa...

Meg Timbrell
1 min read

The very best of 'how it started' vs 'how ...

If you're in need of career inspiration or feeling stuck, it can help to look at where your role models started out, no...

Sort
1 min read

Accounting apprenticeships

What is accounting? Accounting involves the measurement and management of the financial information of an individua...

Meg Timbrell
2 min read

Your guide to all things apprenticeships

In the process of making a decision about your future? If you can't decide whether to go to university, do an apprenti...

Lucy Griffiths
4 min read

Half a million futures and counting...

500,000 people. I still can’t quite believe it. That the Sort platform could reach that many people, helping them...

Meg Timbrell
5 min read

Top 5 money saving apps (and top tips)

Saving money can feel mind-boggling at times, and it’s very easy to spend too much, eating into an overdraft or buildi...

Meg Timbrell
5 min read

Nervous about returning to the office?

There might be a number of reasons why you've had a break from the office. Whether you're transitioning back from worki...