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10 things you need to know before you rent a house


10 things you need to know before you rent a house

Renting a house in London isn't always as easy as finding somewhere you like, moving in and paying the rent each month. Before you set off on your journey to rent a house, there ...

Renting a house in London isn’t always as easy as finding somewhere you like, moving in and paying the rent each month. Before you set off on your journey to rent a house, there are 10 things you need to know.

1. It costs more than you think

Money box

Photo credit: Karen Roe

So you’ve finally saved enough to pay your first months rent and the deposit. You’re all set and ready to move. Or are you..? There may turn out to be some extra hidden costs. Landlords and letting agents will want to run credit and reference checks on potential tenants, the cost of which will be passed onto you. On top of this, if you’re renting a house through an agency, it’s likely there will be admin fees and a larger deposit than expected. To give an example, for a house that costs £1,200 per month you might expect to pay:
  • Deposit (usually around 6 weeks* rent): £1,662.00
  • 1st month’s rent (paid upfront): £1,200.00
  • Administration fees*: £200.00
  • Referencing fees*: £60.00
* varies between agencies Total due before moving in: £3,122.00 The administration and referencing fees will vary wildly between agencies. You should always check the fees with the agent before making an offer on a property in London.

2. Bills, bills, bills

Bills are an unfortunate reality of renting a home. As a tenant, you will likely be responsible for paying all of the household bills. This may include:
  • Gas and/or electricity,
  • Water bills,
  • Council tax,
  • Service charge (only for some properties),
  • TV license (if you plan on watching live TV),
  • Landline phone bill,
  • Contents insurance,
  • Digital TV or satellite TV subscriptions,
  • Broadband bill
There can be agreements where landlords will cover some of these bill so it’s always best to check with the agent or landlord. If there are more bedrooms in your house than people, check out getting a water meter as it could save you money.

3. Electrical goods – who supplies the basics

Kitchen appliances

Photo credit: Shardayyy

Whether you’re taking a property furnished or unfurnished, you need to check what electrical goods are included in the price, and what condition they’re in. If you need any of these things but they aren’t supplied, you’ll need to factor the cost of purchasing these into your decision.
  • Kettle
  • Toaster
  • Microwave
  • Fridge
  • Freezer
  • Oven
  • Washing machine
  • Dishwasher
If any of these items are supplied but in a bad condition, it’s worth considering negotiating with the landlord to have these cleaned or replaced before you move in.

4. Become Sherlock Holmes at the viewing

rent a house

Photo credit:

No, we don’t mean dusting for prints and popping on a tweed deerstalker, but what you should do is some serious property detective work. Take along your very own Watson if it helps! Now is your chance to check for yourself. Here’s some things to get you started:
  • Any guttering for moss and mould
  • Underneath and around taps to check for leaks or low water pressure,
  • What’s the water pressure like in the shower?
  • Do the windows and doors open and close smoothly?
  • Are the floorboards or carpets damaged?
  • Flush the toilet; you can even road test it if you have nerves of steel!
  • Check the garden and any alleyways for fire exit routes,
  • Do the locks work ok?
  • Where is the post box and is this safe and secure?

5. Check the guide price for your area

Yes, you can make an offer on the asking price! Before you do, check the London area rental guide prices for the area to see what’s a reasonable price for property in the area. Also check the price of similar property on the market right now. The price of a 2 bed in an area can vary greatly depending on the furnishings and state of the building. Give yourself the best chance of putting in an offer that will be accepted by doing your research.

6. Read the contract!

This is really important. In most cases you will be asked to sign an assured shorthold tenancy agreement (AST) before your tenancy starts. If there is anything in the contract you are unclear about, seek legal advice before you sign. Make sure any agreements made at the time of the offer are reflected in the contract. The contract should also be supplied with an inventory – this details all the furniture & appliances within the property, as well as the current condition of the property. Make sure you check this and update the agent or landlord with anything that has been missed. This includes things like stains on the carpets and nails in the wall –  you might loose some of your deposit when you move out if you haven’t noted these issues at the start.

7. Find furniture for free – ask family, friends & freecycle

rent a house

Photo credit:

Whether you’re moving into a furnished or unfurnished property, chances are you might need to pick up a few extra pieces of furniture. This can quickly push up the cost of moving if you buy things new. A great way to get free furniture is to check on Freecycle where you can find people in your area that have all sorts of things they want to give away, for free! Let your friends and family know you’re in need – you’ll be surprised by the things people have that they want to give away!

8. Move day takes longer than you think

Start your packing at least a week before your move day to make sure you have enough boxes. There’s nothing more stressful than leaving packing to the last minute and running out of boxes when the van is on it’s way. If you’re hiring a self-drive van, packing early will also help you decide what size van you need to hire. Making 2 or 3 trips might be possible if you’re not moving too far, but if it’s a long journey to the new house you’ll probably want a van big enough to take everything in one go. Once you’ve made it to the other end, it’s time to unload and unpack. Finding a new home for all of your possessions takes time! Make things easy for yourself, book a day off work to give you plenty of time to get everything right, so you can relax and enjoy your new home sooner.

9. Read the meters

Reading the meter when you rent a house

Photo credit:

One of the first things you should do when you move into your new home is read the meters and update your suppliers to let them know. If you don’t so this, you could be liable for any usage before you moved in. Whilst you’re on the phone, it’s worth asking about payment options. It might work out cheaper to pay by direct debit or by having a prepayment meter.

10. Clean all the time, especially when you move out

Mrs Bouquet rent a house

Photo credit:

Finally, it’s important to makes sure you clean your home regularly from the day you move in. It’s not uncommon for landlords and agents to perform regular inspections – make sure you’re always prepared as these can happen with as little as 24 hours notice. To get your full deposit back when you move out, the place will need to be sparkling. If you haven’t been cleaning regularly, long-term damage might have been done to the property and it’ll be harder to get the place up to the high standards required. Before you move out, make sure you know what you need to do to get your deposit back.

When you’re ready to find your next home, make sure you download the Movebubble app.

Hey there! I'm Caroline, one of the team here at Movebubble. I love to help renters find the right home for them, whether that means working out the best area to suit your lifestyle, or finding the home with all the right trimmings.

Comments ( 35 )

  1. ReplyMichal
    Firstly what an awesome website, we are moving to the UK later in the year and it has been quite challenging finding out about which areas are good and which not. This site provides plenty useful information, well done. My question is as follows: I have been told first hand by a number of people that moved over to London that they were asked to pay their rent 6 or even 12 months in advance. I suspect this may have something to do with being fresh in the UK and not having had the time to build up a credit rating. Is this actually the case? How many months of rent is it typical to pay in advance when you have just only arrived in London?
    • Carly Klineberg
      Hey there Michal. So pleased you find the website useful! We're adding more area guides and different information all the time so keep a look out. You might also find the tenants and renters rights articles helpful if you're moving to the UK, just to get you up-to-speed on some of the laws surrounding renting property in the UK. It's true that many landlords ask for rent in advance, especially if their prospective renter doesn't have a credit rating yet. Some may also ask for a larger deposit to counter balance what they believe is a risk in letting to someone who can't "prove" their financial reliability. 12 months rent in advance seems an extremely large amount though and very unusual. It may seem obvious but make sure that before you hand any money over that you know exactly who you're dealing with and that they definitely have the authority to rent you the property. Meeting in person is a must! Fraud usually happens when there's no meeting between the two parties. What might help you is if you create yourself a profile on our main site, Movebubble. This is free to do and it allows you to upload a photo, references from previous landlords (from any country) a job verification certificate (done easily over the site) and you can also write a little bit about yourself and the kind of property you're looking for. Basically, all the details you want. You can then send this URL in any way you wish when you're applying for property or viewings. This should help make you stand out a little bit from any other applicants for the property. You can search for property on Movebubble also - all property owners on the site should have their own profile where you can view information and reviews on them (or ask for them) to make sure they are who they say - but you can use your profile anywhere. I hope this helps! Try this section of the blog too:
  2. ReplyAmir Sibboni
    Hey, nice blog. Thanks for sharing vital information about rental house. Self-examination is important before buying a rental home. Yes it is mandatory for everyone to find out which bills are your responsibility and any that the landlord may have agreed to pay.
    • Carly Klineberg
      Hey Amir and thanks for your comment. We agree that it's really important to know which bills are included in the rent (if any) and which are not. It's also good to get an estimate of how much bills cost and when you're charged (monthly or quarterly) so you can plan your budget every month. You should also compare the market and switch to cheaper providers if this is an option.
  3. ReplySue Cass
    Hi we have just received the keys for the property we are renting. We have paid 6 months in advance and were happy to do so. We have taken photos of some of the wear and tear in the property and will be talking to the agents asap, also in the garden we have a shed which we did know was almost unusable but could not do anything about but looking further behind the shed we have plastic containers,grass cuttings and various old bits of tat that should really have been made good before we were given the keys.We had been told that the gardener would be in the day we signed for the property and assumes that all would be good but no all the tat and rubbish is still there and takes a small part of the garden. How do we stand on getting this made good. Does anyone have any advice?
    • Freddie fforde
      Hey Sue, It sounds like these are issues that the letting agency should have finished clearing up before you moved in. Unfortunately not all agencies are good at getting these important things done. I would make sure to explain your grievances in writing, and we've found that going in to the branch and finding somebody senior who agrees to resolve your issue is a good start.
  4. ReplyBiangy
    Hey I plan on moving there in the future. What should I expect to see in the flat? How much should i save in advance?
    • Jamie Gough
      Hey there, When on a viewing, you should look for all the things you would find important. Ask for the meter readings, if broadband is included, state of the kitchen and boilers. Also check if it's furnished! As for the amount you need to save, I would say between £3-4k. Usually, you will be required to pay a deposit (roughly 6 weeks worth of rent), as well as the first months rent upfront, which is all dependent on the price of the property you're going to be renting. There are then referencing and administration fees which come in at around £300. Hope this helps, Jamie
  5. ReplyNei
    My daughter and three student friends have been paying two months rent but as yet haven't been able to move into the property as it wasn't ready. However, the letting agency says they are responsible for the water utility bills for the two months even though they haven't as yet lived in the property. Also the utility supplier is also making demands for payment. Is this a legal requirement for these two months as there isn't any issue with paying for the remaining months, just think this is morally wrong? Best RegardsNeil
    • Freddie fforde
      Hey Neil, It doesn't sound right that you should be responsible for these bills - have a close read of the contract terms and highlight the sections that indicate the property should be in a decent state for you to move in. We can't offer formal legal advice, however you will get the right support you need from a charity like Shelter, and I would certainly want to start by assembling the paper work and going in to the letting agents to ask them face to face. If you suggest that you will have to contact the landlord directly, this should also encourage the letting agent to work harder for their responsibilities. The link to Shelter can be found here -
  6. ReplyPolly Andrews
    Great article! Love the part about Sherlock (my favourite TV show ATM). All your tips are Right On and should be used as a guide for everyone who's thinking about renting a house. Well written and very helpful. Definitely sharing this post on fb.
    • Caroline Wilson
      Hi Polly, Thanks for your kind words! Really glad to hear you enjoyed it and found it useful :)
  7. ReplyJulien
    Hello How much can we deduced from a flat if we take it as unfurnished? (for add like furnished / unfurnised, the landlord being open to unfurnished). Is is a matter of few pounds or more? thanks a lot great website by the way :)
    • Caroline Wilson
      Hi Julien, Lovely to hear you like to website :) If a landlord is open to letting a property unfurnished, you could expect to make an offer at 5-10% under the fully furnished asking price. Every landlord is different so there's no standard reduction, however there are a number of other tactics you can use to try and negotiate on price. If you're looking for a property at the moment, we've just launched an app that could help - you can get it from the app store or via this link. Good luck!
  8. Replydalia
    Hello, great article! Thank you deeply for the advice and guidance provided to new Londoners. I would like to ask which kind of documentation should I expect from a landlord as a proof that he is the real property owner and has the right to rent it. Big thanks again!
    • Jamie Gough
      Hey Dalia, Typically when someone purchases a house (in this case your landlord), they should receive a proof of ownership document from the land registry office. If you ask them to bring/view that then I'm sure the landlord will have it. It's not typically shown by landlords to tenants as far as I know, but I'm sure most landlords would be happy to oblige. Hope this helps, Jamie
  9. ReplySara
    HI there, When we go on viewings of places on MoveBubble, will we be shown around by an agent, home owner or someone from MoveBubble? I was wondering what the persons relationship to the property would be - knowledge etc. TIA, Sara
    • Amy McKechnie
      Hey Sara, It will be the letting agent, so they have all the knowledge you'll need about the property, fees, rent costs, landlord etc. Have you been on a viewing yet? All the best, Amy
  10. ReplySara
    Hi Amy, Thanks for your quick reply. No, not been on a viewing yet. Just curious how this works. thanks again.
    This is not a reply to any of the comments but I would just like to say that if you have any worries very shortly after moving in make sure you put everything in writing to the Landlord and the Agent. Keep moaning as much as you can but don't do what I did and got frustrated and held back rent in order to try and get the work done. A) It can be taken as a breach of contract B) when your rental contract is up and you want to move on it gives you a bad reference. I hasten to add I did all of these things but to no avail the property just deteriorated and deteriorated as the time went by. At the end of it all the expected result happened I lost all of my £3000 deposit. I sent my case to the TDS, but at the time was still caring for my elderly parents who lived with me in this property, I had a lot on my hands but did the best I could. TDS went with the Landlord and I ended up paying for everything that needed repairing with my money!!! Be warned please check before you move in, take pics of everything you are not pleased with and do not believe anything you are told by either parties.
  12. ReplyElizabeth
    Hi, I've signed a contract and paid all fees, deposit and one month in advance, but have been informed that keys won't be released to me by the Inventory Services (LIIS) until 2pm on my agreed move in day. My contract specifies that my tenancy starts from and includes this set date, so am I justified in pushing back strongly on this? I had already booked movers from 9am. Thank you.
    • Amy McKechnie
      Hi Elizabeth, If you'd prefer to move in at 9am, then definitely contact the agents to discuss this, and perhaps you can negotiate the time. All the best, Amy
  13. ReplyChristina
    Hi guys, is it obligatory to pay 6 months rent in advance? I have been renting a flat one year and now I have a job I have asked them to pay monthly but the agent refused to do so. If am not wrong standard market practice is one month
    • Freddie fforde
      Hey Christina! No this is not obligatory! It is up to the agent what requests they make, and it is up to you to choose whether you want to accept these terms. An agent will normally do this where the renter hasn't lived in the UK for long, as they aren't able to perform the same back ground checks on the renter (usually because there is no employment history in this country). It is a real shame that there is no trust in this industry, and that is something we are trying to change with our app. Never forget - it's your money and you get to make the decisions! If the agent refuses then move on and don't waster your money or your time if you're not happy Good luck!
  14. ReplyRo
    Hi love the site! Just wondering what sort of time frame is usually meant by 'available now'? Thanks
    • Amy McKechnie
      Hey there Ro, Available now means that the property is currently vacant and potentially you could move in right now. It also indicates that the landlord would be looking for someone to move in as soon as possible, as they won't want it to be empty for long! If your move date is quite far in the future, the properties that are available now in London are probably not going to stay available long enough. All the best, Amy
  15. Replylgfa92
    Council Tax is an important aspect that many overlook - fail to pay and you'll end up with a council tax summons and a trip to the magistrates court. There a few easy ways to find out how much the Council Tax will be - we've just covered it in article in our blog on how to do so -
  16. ReplyAndrea
    Hi great site. We moved into our first rented property in November and paid 6 months up front however works promised have not been done and we have found a property better suited to ourselves we have given notice if the estate agents let it prior to the end of the 6 months would we be entitled to some rent back? Also they never gave us or went through an inventory with us should we be able to get our deposit back?
    • Simon Banks
      Hi Andrea, You should still be able to get your deposit back if there was no damage caused to the property that you would be at fault for. Please read our blog on deposits for more information.
  17. Getting a foot on the property ladder: A graduate’s guide - Aston Properties Blog
    […] however, you decide to rent instead, you still need to do your research. Make sure you are clued up about renting your chosen type of property and the area you are looking at, so you don’t end up living […]
  18. ReplyKyle Winters
    I agree, you never want to leave packing to the last day when you are renting a home. After all, you usually want to try and make the trip between your old home and your new one only once. The article makes a fantastic point by suggesting you start packing almost a week early.
  19. ReplyAmelololomomo
    Hi, I'll rent a room in a house for the summer. the "letting agent" ask me to pay the rent (2 months advanced) on Thursday and have the key to move in on Friday. It's safe ? I'm French and I know how it work. Thanks !!
    • Amy McKechnie
      Hey there, What did you agree for the rent payments? If you've seen the property and you're happy with it, it may be that the agent needs you to pay rent upfront as you're not able to provide employment details yet? This is normal for the instance where you're not able to provide a guarantor or employment details. Is this the case? All the best, Amy
  20. The Property Ladder: A Graduate’s Guide - The Property Blog
    […] however, you decide to rent instead, you still need to do your research. Make sure you are clued up about renting your chosen type of property and the area you are looking at, so you don’t end up living […]
  21. ReplyNickname ( required )
    How long do pay rent still good keep long term years or yearly how many day week month year please tell me explain

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