Renting a property for the first time: Follow our tips

Renting a property for the first time: Follow our tips

Renting your first home should be an exciting time, but often first-time tenants can feel daunted by the process, paperwork and commitment of taking on a property.

According to Office for National Statistics data, in 2017 there were 4.5million properties being rented in the UK.

And the popularity and flexibility of renting means those numbers will only increase.

Here, we’ll look at everything you can expect before renting for the first time, including what bills you’ll need to pay, how long the process of renting takes and what documents you’ll need to complete your tenancy agreement…


First-time home renter checklist

Take a look at this checklist, which outlines some of the major things you’ll need to consider before renting a property for the first time.


1 Set your budget

Establish the maximum amount of rent you can afford, and you’re willing to pay, before you start looking for properties to rent.

This will not only help you keep on top of your finances, it will also help you filter out any properties above your budget once you start looking online.


2 Factor in other costs

When working out your maximum budget, don’t forget to factor in other costs on top of your monthly rent.

We’ll talk more about the bills you’ll have to pay when renting later, but you’ll also have to pay some money up front to secure your rental property.


That will more than likely include: 

  • A tenancy deposit, which is capped at no more than five weeks’ rent (if your annual rent is under £50,000) or six weeks’ rent (if your annual rent exceeds £50,000)
  • A refundable holding deposit to secure your property, capped at no more than one week’s rent
  • A month’s rent up front


Following the tenant fees ban in 2019, these are the only up-front payments your landlord or letting agent can request from you, although there could be other charges if you request to terminate your tenancy early, request to amend your tenancy agreement, default on your rent or lose your keys.


3 Think about how long you want to stay

When you start renting a property, you’ll sign a tenancy agreement that states how long your tenancy lasts for.

This is known as the ‘fixed term’ and ties you to your rental property for that period of time.

Before taking on your tenancy, think about how long you want to stay in the property, or the area, for.

Most fixed-term tenancies are for at least six months, with some lasting a year or more.

If you’re only looking for a short-term tenancy, consider a six-month agreement.

If you’re thinking you’d like to stay for the long-term, you could consider a longer agreement, perhaps with a break clause, allowing you to give notice, after a certain period of time.


4 Make sure a property meets all your main needs

When you go on a property viewing, look at everything carefully.

  • How clean is the property and any communal areas?
  • How much storage is there?
  • If you have your own furniture, will it all fit?
  • What are your neighbours like?
  • Are you close enough to local amenities or transport links?


Also, think about how well a property suits your lifestyle as much as it is a functional space.

That helps to focus the mind!


5 Line up a guarantor

When renting, you’ll be screened and assessed by a landlord or their lettings agent before your tenancy is agreed.

Your landlord will need to be satisfied that the rent is affordable for you and might insist that you have a guarantor.


You could need a guarantor if:

  • You earn less than two-and-a-half times the annual rent
  • You’re on housing benefit
  • You are on a zero-hour contract
  • You have a CCJ or poor credit history


A guarantor is someone who will pay the rent if you’re unable to and is usually a parent.

As you’re a first-time renter, it can sometimes pay to have your guarantor lined up before you start looking for properties as this will save time when you find one you like.


Renting a home for the first time: The bills you’ll need to pay

We’ve already established some of the up-front costs you’ll need to cover when renting for the first time.

And as well as your monthly rent, there are other bills you may need to pay, too.


They could include:

  • Council tax
  • Gas and electric
  • Water and sewerage
  • TV licence
  • Landline phone and broadband
  • Contents insurance


Some landlords include some of these bills in the monthly rent payment, so make sure you check your tenancy agreement so you’re clear on which ones are your responsibility.


How long does the renting process take in the UK?

Renting a property is, without doubt, a faster process than buying one.

And it’s the speed with which you can secure a property that appeals to many renters.

But the renting process can still take time.

Most rental applications and tenant referencing take between 24 and 72 hours, so it’s possible to be in your new rental home very quickly, depending on whether the property has existing tenants, their period of notice and when the property becomes vacant.


What documents do I need to rent a house in the UK?

To rent a property in the UK, you’ll need to provide your landlord or lettings agent with certain documents, including:

  • Photographic ID (passport or driving licence)
  • Proof of current address (utility bill, bank statement)
  • Proof of income (payslips or accounts)
  • Other documents that prove you have a right to rent in the UK


Further reading…

As well as everything else you need to consider when renting for the first time, you’ll also need to think about whether you want to rent a furnished or unfurnished property.

Our guide explains everything you need to know about the differences between furnished and unfurnished properties and the pros and cons of both.

You also need to be fully aware of your right as a tenant.