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How can I save money on renting a house or flat?

Renting a property can bring a host of challenges, especially if you’re a first-time renter. Available housing isn’t always easy to come by, but there are still ways you can save money on renting a house or a flat.

Your rent payment is one of your priority bills. This means that if you miss too many payments or fall into arrears, you could be evicted from the property.

With that in mind, there are some things you can do to make your rent – and other household bills and living costs – easier to manage.

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Before you move in...

1. Make a note of any issues with the property

No property is perfect, and this is especially true if it’s been lived in previously. When you view the property for the first time, make a note of any DIY work that needs to be done, or potential hazards. These include issues such as:

  • Cracked windows
  • Unkempt garden or loose flagstones in the driveway
  • Debris in the gutters
  • Doorbell not working
  • Cosmetic damage such as carpet stains, chipped wallpaper or loose door handles

These are quite minor problems that can be fixed, however they may give you a bit of leverage with your potential landlord. If you want to rent the property, tell the landlord that you’d like them to reconsider the amount of rent they’re charging, based on the issues you’ve found.

It’s not guaranteed, but the landlord may reduce the rent for you. At the very least, they should fix these issues so they won’t be a problem once you move in. You could even offer to fix simple issues, such as a wall that needs painting or a garden that needs tidying up.

On the other hand, if you spot any serious issues that would need more work then you should consider renting elsewhere. These would be issues such as:

  • Blocked sewage drains
  • Damp/mould on the walls, around window frames and in bathrooms/kitchens
  • Indications of structural damage such as loose or missing roof tiles, or ceiling leaks
  • Signs of vermin such as mouse droppings
  • Faulty electrics

You don’t want to rent from a landlord who may lack concern for your welfare as well as their property.

Read the government’s guide to renting a safe home on their website.

2.Try haggling with your landlord on rent

Your rent is one of your most important bills, but you don’t need to settle for the advertised price. Even if there’s nothing wrong with the property, there are other considerations. For instance:

  • Will it take longer for you to get to work, the shops or your children’s school by living there?
  • What’s the crime rate like on this street or surrounding neighbourhoods?
  • What’s the traffic like? Is it busy at night? How might that affect your sleep?
  • Do any of the neighbours have dogs that bark a lot? Is the household and the area generally loud?

You could try talking to the residents on the street to find out what it’s like to live there. They may have their own gripes about the neighbourhood, and it’s good to know now before you commit to renting.

Once you’re confident you have enough information, you can approach your landlord and ask them to review the advertised rental cost. They may refuse to decrease it, but it’s worth asking.

3.Consider sharing a property with other tenants

As long as you don’t mind sharing your communal living areas, renting with other people has several advantages. These include:

  • Reduced rent and household bills, as they’re split between you and your housemates
  • Potentially being able to borrow appliances such as vacuums without having to purchase your own
  • Less loneliness, as there’s usually someone at home with you. This can be beneficial for your mental health

If you’re willing to rent a smaller room, you could convince the landlord to charge you less for rent versus your housemates.

4. Rent an unfurnished property

It may seem like renting somewhere without furniture would cost you more. However, there are several websites and online communities where you can get the furniture you need either very cheaply or even free.

If you have a friend who can drive, see if they’ll come with you to pick up a free furniture item in exchange for ‘petrol money’. Depending on what you can get for free, you’ll soon make the money back. You can also check your local authority website for information on charities that give away second-hand furniture or sell it cheaply.

After you move in…

5. Get the best deal on your electric and gas bills

You don’t need to stay with the same electric and gas suppliers that currently service the property when you move in. Instead, compare prices with other suppliers when you move and in every successive year, to make sure you get the best deal.

Switching utility suppliers is quite straightforward, and your landlord can’t force you to stay with a certain supplier. However, if you want to switch to an electric or gas pre-payment meter instead of paying by Direct Debit, you must let your landlord know. Your deposit could be affected if you've changed from a normal meter to a pre-payment meter without their permission.

When you move in, make sure you get a gas, electric and/or water meter reading as soon as possible. Send this to your supplier(s) straight away and tell them when you moved into the property. This will prevent you being charged for any usage from previous tenants.

6.Be a polite and cooperative tenant

It may seem a bit obvious, but being polite whenever you speak to your landlord can go a long way. Landlords want good tenants, and that includes ones who are pleasant to deal with. Even if you have an issue that’s annoying you, you’re more likely to get the response you want by stating your feelings calmly and respectfully.

If it helps, write out the things you really want to say before approaching your landlord.

7.Make sure you get all of your deposit back when you leave

Most landlords understand that a tenant will leave light wear and tear behind when they vacate a property. However, some landlords will try to withhold some or all of your deposit if the property isn’t exactly how it looked when you moved in.

Before you move out, take an extra couple of days to really give the property a deep clean. See if your friends will help, or if there’s a local cleaner in your area that will do it for cheap. Once you’re done, take some photos just in case you ever need to prove you left the property in a good condition. 

If after taking these steps your landlord refuses to give the full deposit back, there are further steps you can take. Visit the Shelter website for more information.

How can I protect myself from an untrustworthy landlord?

1.Check that your landlord is accredited

Unfortunately, bad landlords can be found in every city in the UK. Make sure your potential landlord is trustworthy by checking with your local council or lettings agency for NLA accreditation. The NLA provide training and accreditation to private landlords to ensure they comply with UK renting laws and regulations.

2.Understand your tenancy agreement

Your tenancy agreement outlines the responsibilities you and your landlord have while you’re living at the property. You will both sign it and keep a copy to refer to if you ever have any problems.

Tenancy agreements must include:

  • the names of all people involved
  • the property address
  • an outline of bills you’re responsible for
  • the agreed monthly rental price and how the tenant will pay it
  • information on how and when the rent will be reviewed
  • the deposit amount and details of when it can be fully or partly withheld (for example to repair damage you’ve caused)
  • the start and end date of the tenancy
  • any other tenant or landlord obligations

It can also include information on:

  • whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done
  • whether the property is furnished or unfurnished
  • who’s responsible for minor repairs (other than those that the landlord is legally responsible for)
  • whether the property can be let to someone else (sublet) or have lodgers

The terms of the tenancy must be fair and comply with the law. It’s recommended that you ask someone with legal knowledge to check the tenancy agreement before you sign, or get legal advice. You can find out more on the government website.

How do I find a landlord that accepts housing benefit tenants?

People who are claiming benefits often struggle to find a place to rent. This is because many landlords are unwilling to accept housing benefit as a rental payment. This is also referred to as ‘DSS’.

If you’ve found a private rental property that you want, but the landlord refuses to take housing benefit, you could ask them if they’ll accept a guarantor or extra rent payments in advance. They may still say no, but some landlords may agree to it as it means they’ll receive their rent payment quicker.

I want to end my private rent tenancy – what should I do?

If there are ongoing issues in the property that neither you nor your landlord can resolve, you may want to end the tenancy earlier than planned. Your tenancy agreement will tell you how much notice your landlord needs before you can leave. However, you can end the tenancy at any time without paying full rent if:

  • the rules set out in your tenancy agreement aren’t adhered to by your landlord, or
  • your landlord agrees to end the tenancy early. Shelter has more information on ending your private rent tenancy early.