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.


  • 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?


  • 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.

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