8 things you NEED to know before you rent

If you’re about to rent for the first time there are a few things that might trip you up and a couple of misconceptions people have, especially about sharing. Thankfully, we’ve been there (and been tripped up by them ourselves) so can pass on some nuggets of hard-earned wisdom.

Here are our top tips.

1) 1 month’s rent and 4 weeks’ rent are not the same thing

This one catches pretty much everyone out at some point, yet it’s obvious once you know. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say your weekly rent is £150. If you multiply it by 4 you get £600. So that’s a month’s rent, right? Wrong.

There are 52 weeks in a year (£150 x 52 = £7,800)

…and there are 12 months in a year (£7,800 / 12 = £650)

…so there’s a £50 difference. Still with us? Good – that’s £600 extra a year (or an extra month’s rent based on the original dodgy calculation).

2) And your rent won’t necessarily include bills

Again, it might seem obvious…but if the advert doesn’t state that your rent price will include bills, don’t make any assumptions.

Generally moving into a flatshare with existing renters means you get to sidestep all of those boring admin tasks, like setting up bills and working out the monthly amount everyone owes – so you should be able to take over the lease and chip in what’s needed every month to cover the gas, electricity and water. Make sure you ask about average monthly bill costs when viewing the property, if this info wasn’t included in the room ad.

But if you’re taking on a new property in a group you’ll probably be fully responsible for setting up all the bills accounts. Soz. Although a tedious task, it’s worth shopping around various suppliers to get the best deal and keep the costs down for everyone in your flatshare. Sites like moneysupermarket and comparethemarket can do the job for you in a few clicks.

3) Not all flatshares have a living room

Yep, you read that right. When we asked over 10,000 flatsharers whether their property had a living room, we discovered that one in four of them don’t.

Now, that may be because the landlord turned the living room into a bedroom to squeeze more rent out of the property, or it might mean the tenants chose to use the living room as another bedroom so they pay less rent each.

Either way, don’t just presume. If you don’t see one, ask.

4) You don’t need to have a ready-made group of friends to share with

In fact, when we asked flatsharers who made the best flatmates, the most popular answer was ‘someone you don’t already know’. Living with friends can be great, but it can also be a real pain. Adding the burden of sorting out bills and arguing over whose turn it is to clean the toilet to your friendship might just push it over the edge.

As they say, live with a stranger and you might gain a friend, live with a friend and you might lose one*.

*OK, we don’t know who they are (or if they actually say this), but it’s true.

5) You don’t have to sign a 12 month lease

People new to renting tend to think you have to sign up for a year to move in somewhere. It’s true that 12 months is still the most common lease length, but there are other options. The majority of rooms you’ll see advertised in London, for example, are advertised by the existing tenants – often replacing someone who’s moving out. If there’s less than 12 months to go on their lease, then you’re not committing to a full year.

Even if you do sign for a year, most leases have a 6 month break clause in them.

6) And you might need to butter a parent up to act as a guarantor for you

If this is the first time you’ve EVER rented before, your landlord/agent will naturally be a little wary and will probably require some references so they can make sure you are who you say you are, you’re in a position to pay the rent every month, and you’re going to be a respectful and pleasant tenant (i.e. you’re not going to trash their property, or hold all-night neighbour-disturbing raves etc…).

If you’ve already started working life, the HR team at your work can sort a reference out for you. But if you’re just going into your first employment after graduation, your landlord might want a little more reassurance – and that’s where guarantors come in.

So what is it? Essentially, a guarantor is someone who will cover the cost of your rent if you fail to do so in any given month (i.e. you’re jobless and just don’t have the money). This gives your landlord an extra layer of reassurance that they’re going to get your rent for the duration of your tenancy, even if you can’t personally pay it. Generally a parent or close family member is the best person for the job, so ask them nicely because it’s a lot of money. And it goes without saying that regardless of having a guarantor in place, you should still be able to pay your own rent every month anyway.

7) You won’t get your deposit back till after you’ve moved out…

It might feel like a long time till you’re moving again – largely because you haven’t even found your first place yet! But when you hand over your deposit, it’s worth knowing you probably won’t get it back in time to use as the deposit for your next flat.

It’s one of the things that winds people up most about renting, but it’s a fact of life so be prepared and have a back-up plan for your next deposit.

8) …and there are some things you can do to make sure you get the full amount

There’s nothing more soul destroying than moving out of a property and losing half of your deposit in the process – usually because your landlord might charge you for leaving the property in a worse condition than when you moved in (broken furniture, marks on walls etc).

Don’t panic, though, because there are things you can do at the start of the tenancy to avoid getting saddled with hefty charges when you leave. Take photos before you’ve all moved your stuff in, so you have an accurate record of exactly what condition the property was in when you took it on – these might come in handy at the end of your tenancy if your landlord flags any damage. That said, your landlord shouldn’t charge you for anything that is considered to be reasonable wear and tear. It’s totally unrealistic to expect a tenant to keep EVERYTHING in pristine condition when they have to live in a property for a long period of time, after all!

Make sure everyone in your flatshare pays their rent on time every month too. It might sound obvious, but if one of your flatmates doesn’t pay their rent and you’re in a shared tenancy agreement, this amount could be docked from your deposit when you leave.

Now you’ve got the basic info you need, how about finding that flatshare? With over 90,000 room and flatmate ads on SpareRoom, there’s bound to be one that suits you.

Happy Rent Freedom Day!

Happy Rent Freedom Day!

What does that mean? Simple – if the average UK flatsharer started the year putting all their take home pay towards rent, it would have taken till now to pay it off. That means May 12th is the first day of the year you’d be working just for yourself.

That’s a massive chunk of your life spent working just to pay the rent.

But what if every day was Rent Freedom Day?

Someone’s about to get the chance to find out, thanks to SpareRoom’s Live Rent Free competition. It’s one of those ‘does what it says on the tin’ things – we’re going to pay one lucky flatmate’s rent for a whole year.

Yep, you heard right.

What would you spend the money on? The trip of a lifetime? Starting a business? Clearing your credit card debt?

These are some of our favourite responses so far!

“I would always order guacamole when I had a burrito (even though it costs more)”

“Holiday like a Z-list reality TV celebrity”

“Buy flights to South America as I really want to go to Costa Rica and hold a baby sloth”

If you want to find out what happened to the last person we gave a whole year’s rent to, check out our blog post (**spoiler alert – this link does not include baby sloths or guacamole**)

So, what are you waiting for? Enter Live Rent Free now to be in with a chance of winning. Oh, and happy Rent Freedom Day!

How living rent free changed one person’s life

Back in 2009, when we first launched Live Rent Free, we decided to give away a year’s rent to kick things off. We figured a whole year without paying rent might give someone the opportunity to do something exciting, or maybe even life changing. Thousands of people clearly agreed and entries started flooding in. We picked a winner and emailed her with the fantastic news.

Nothing happened.

We waited a few days…still nothing. We emailed again. Nope. So we took to social media to see if anyone out there could help find our winner. Still no luck.

Then, two weeks later, just as we were having the do we need to pick another winner? conversation, an email arrived.

‘I didn’t get the original no, thank you for mailing me again. Jo.’

Quickly followed by another…

‘Didn’t fully read the last email, now I’ve read the second bit… I’m sort of freaking out. I don’t think I’ve ever won anything before!’

Turns out the original email went into her junk folder but, finally, we’d found our winner. At the time, Jo lived in London (Balham, to be precise). We worked out her prize, based on the average rent in her postcode, and sent her a cheque for £7,072, along with a note asking for a bit of info about herself and what she planned to do with the money.

‘I moved to London from Manchester in order to go back to university, where I study illustration. I entered the competition on a whim then forgot all about it. I have to say when I read your email my brain stopped responding to what I was seeing, which is a bit worrying for an art student. I have no idea what I’ll spend the money on…probably  a Cintiq, which is a sort of computer screen you can draw on. Then I guess lots of nice books and beer for my friends!’

Lucky friends!

Our lucky winner, Jo

Fast forward to 2017 and we decided Live Rent Free deserved a little bit of a refresh. We’d given away over £60,000 in our regular monthly competition by then, but, inspired by our founder Rupert’s experience of finding roommates when he moved to New York, wanted to give someone else the chance to live rent free for a whole year.

While we were discussing it someone in the office asked what had happened to Jo since she won. We had no idea, so sent her a quick email to see if she minded us asking what she’d done with the money. Thankfully, we got a quick response this time!

‘I’m so happy you got in touch! It was life changing actually.

I was studying illustration at the time, and I used the money to buy a Cintiq. It’s a drawing tablet, like a big screen you can draw directly onto to make digital artwork. After I graduated I worked at a couple of studios in London, then within the year I decided to go freelance and move to Australia. I only brought one bag of clothes and my Cintiq. 

Since then I’ve been working as an illustrator, and I actually got to do some work with the company who make the tablet (Wacom) which was amazing, they kindly gave me a Companion (a smaller Cintiq you can carry around) and I also won another small one, so I’m now the proud owner of three of them! The first one is still my favourite though, I use it every day! 

I’ve attached some pictures of my workspace, see if you can spot the cat!

If you want to see some of my artwork, there are a few pieces of personal work on here http://jo- ley.tumblr.com/ 

I really want to say a big thank you to you all for the competition and prize money. I’m lucky enough to have a job I love, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without that piece of equipment, so you really helped make my dream of becoming an artist come true.’

Jo and Gambit

We didn’t need any more convincing that a year’s rent free could change someone’s life!

So, now it’s your turn. How could a year living rent free change your life? Would you travel, start a business, go back to uni or volunteer? Or would you just use the money to pay off your debts?

Enter now for your chance to live rent free for a year.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering…a year’s rent in Balham now comes to rather more than it did eight years ago – £9,449 to be precise!)

London vs New York – Which is the best city to rent in?

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If you live in a city, chances are you spend a fair bit of time complaining about the cost of living, particularly if you live in London or New York.

Both regularly feature on lists of the world’s most expensive cities for good reason. Yet both are also amongst the most creative, vibrant, diverse cities in the world.

We decided to ask flatmates in London and NYC how they live. By looking at average rents, cost of living, who people live with and how they commute, we’ve been able to build up a fascinating head to head picture of how London and New York really compare.

Let’s dive in and look at the typical flatmate in each city….

The Typical Flatmate – UK

 

So, the average Londoner earns less, is slightly younger and is more likely to have several flatmates. But how far does her money go? Let’s look at rents.

 

Renting & Affordability – UK

 

London is definitely cheaper than New York when it comes to rent, which might come as a surprise to a few Londoners. You’re also more likely to get some outside space for your money.

Those annual savings make it pretty clear that living with flatmates is way cheaper than renting on your own too!

Next we looked at the cost of living…

 

Cost of living – UK

 

Turns out that, while Londoners earn less, they also need to spend a lot less on bills and food.

Finally, the dreaded commute. How do Londoners get around and how long do we spend commuting compared to New Yorkers?

 

Getting Around – UK

 

The typical Londoner has a longer commute than her New York counterpart. Only one in three Londoners has a commute of less than 30 minutes, compared to half of New Yorkers. Looks like Londoners are more healthy though, as we’re more likely to use our commute to exercise (and we’re less likely to hop in a cab!)

So, there you have it. Which city wins? The truth is that both London and New York are incredible places to live, but the experience is a little different – Londoners have cheaper rents, bills and general cost of living, but those higher salaries mean New Yorkers tend to have more money left at the end of the month.

So, which would you choose?

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How about living in London (or anywhere) rent free?

If you don’t already, make sure you’re entering SpareRoom’s Live Rent Free competition. Every month we give away a month’s rent to one lucky flatsharer. If you don’t enter, it’s not going to be you, is it?

Deadline for Welsh landlords to register is fast approaching

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Landlords in Wales now need to become registered, according to a ruling that came into effect on November 23rd 2015 and gave people a year to register.

That means the deadline is in less than a week.

If you haven’t registered yet here’s a quick guide to the new system and what you need to do.

Who needs to register?

If you own a property in Wales that you don’t live in and rent it out on an assured, assured shorthold (AST) or regulated tenancy you need to register.

Who else does it affect?

If you act as the agent for a property you don’t own then you won’t need to register but may need to apply for a license. Click here for more info on licensing.

What about holiday lets?

If the property you rent out is a holiday let you’re not a landlord under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 so don’t need to register.

That also applies if you let someone (e.g. a relative) live in your property rent free.

How do I register?

You can register at rentsmart.gov.wales

All you need to do is create an account and follow the steps online.

You need to complete the registration yourself – you can’t get an agent to do it for you.

What does it cost?

Registration costs £33.50 if you do it online – the fee covers you as a landlord and doesn’t increase if you own multiple properties.

Applying via a paper application instead of online costs £80.50.

What happens next?

Your registration lasts 5 years – after that you need to register again. By law you’ll need to keep your information up to date in the meantime.

That includes things like changes in name, address or contact details and adding more properties to your registration.

For full details and to register online visit rentsmart.gov.wales

‘Second Liverpool’ found hiding in the spare room

We desperately need another Liverpool.

There’s nothing wrong with the one we’ve got, we just need another. Right now. We also need another every year for the next 25 years. That’s a lot of Liverpools.

But let’s start with why we need one.

There’s a housing crisis. It’s a fact. We need to build 250,000 houses every year, enough for 460,000 people. That’s basically the population of…you guessed it… Liverpool.

We don’t build anywhere near that and we’re not about to. Last time we did was 1979-80.

Even if we could build a new Liverpool every year, where would we put it? Wouldn’t it just be easier if we had a spare Liverpool lying around?

As it happens, we do.

England’s homeowners have 19 million empty rooms between them. If we can persuade just 2.5% to rent them out they’d house 475,000 people. That’s basically the population of…you guessed it… Liverpool.

We could do that right now, with a decent incentive.

And we’ve finally got one.

As of April 6th people can earn £7,500 a year tax-free by renting out a room. It doesn’t just apply to homeowners – tenants can do it too with their landlord’s permission. It took us six and a half years to convince Government but they finally did it. Sounds like a decent incentive doesn’t it?

It’s a proper win-win. Tenants benefit from increased supply of affordable rooms and homeowners get a tax break to encourage them to open their doors.

Now, has anyone got a spare Manchester knocking about?

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You can find out more about the Rent a Room Scheme and how it works here.

Scary smoke alarm stats should have tenants & landlords checking their batteries

Are you among the 15% of flatsharers with no smoke alarm at home? Or perhaps you’re with the 7% of sharers guilty of removing the batteries from smoke alarms and not replacing them?

According to a worrying survey we did, only 57% of tenants told us they’re sure there’s a working smoke alarm in their flatshare. You can see the full findings in the table below. Time to check you and your housemates are safe and test that battery.

As of 1 October 2015, a new law kicked in requiring landlords to fit working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties. But a separate poll of landlords by SpareRoom revealed almost half (49%) are not aware of this change in regulation.

Going public with our findings earned us an email and a blog from the Chief Fire Officers Association who described the data as “worrying”.

Stats from the men and women in blue and yellow show that rented properties, flat shares and houses of multiple occupation are among the most at-risk properties when it comes to fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mark Cashin, Home Safety Lead for the Chief Fire Officers Association, advises: “Tenants who don’t have working smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors should contact their landlord and insist that they be fitted. It’s the law.”

“The law requires that a smoke alarm is fitted on every storey of a property, and that a CO alarm is fitted in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance. It is the duty of landlords to ensure these are fitted and to test them at the beginning of every new tenancy. Houses of multiple occupation are required by law to have hard-wired smoke alarms.”

The table below shows the results of our tenants’ survey, which ran between 1 and 29 October

 

Do you have a smoke alarm in your house or flatshare? (1,060 responses)

Yes

57%

Yes but I don’t know if it’s working

16%

Yes but we’ve taken the batteries out

%

No

15%

Don’t know

5%

What’s going on in the rental market right now?

It’s that time of year again – the busiest time for flatshare hunting. There are currently 44,902 rooms available and 53,939 people looking for rooms on SpareRoom right now. When demand is up rents tend to follow suit so we’ve put together a list of average rents in the UK’s 30 biggest towns and cities.

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Before you check the list to see what’s happening near you, here are the headlines:

In August, the average room rent across the UK was £591 a month, up from £544 last year, an 8.6% annual increase.

What does this mean at a local level?

At the top of the rental scale was hipster-central East London, with room rents averaging £902 a month. After London, Reading rents were second highest at £528 per month and Brighton third at £491 per month.

At the more affordable end of the scale, you’ll see Sheffield (£343), Cardiff (£342) and Newcastle (£339) per month.

We know demand is up at the moment but just how high is it?

Edinburgh led the way in July with 22 people competing for every room advertised. Glasgow and Salford weren’t far behind at 14 people per room.

Surprisingly, competition for rooms in London, where average room rents were £710 isn’t as fierce at the moment; with seven people competing for each room in the most popular areas.

Here’s the full list:

Town/City Average monthly room rent Number of people competing for every room
London £710 7
Aberdeen £484 3
Brighton £491 7
Edinburgh £466 22
Reading £528 3
Milton Keynes £449 8
Bristol £444 15
Southampton £412 7
Manchester £380 16
Cardiff £342 8
Birmingham £417 10
Portsmouth £395 6
Northampton £387 6
Luton £423 4
Plymouth £368 2
Coventry £371 6
Leeds £351 15
Liverpool £346 5
Newcastle £339 5
Nottingham £356 5
Leicester £341 6
Derby £356 3
Preston £347 1
Sheffield £343 5
Stoke-on-Trent £340 1
Wolverhampton £357 2
Dudley £375 2
Hull £340 1
Bradford £292 4
Belfast £259 9

How does your area compare? Let us know in the comments below.

Should women get a discount on rent?

The housing crisis: we’re all in it together, right? Well, sort of. The results of our latest flatshare census show females are worse off than men when it comes to paying the rent.

Here are just a few of the findings:

  • Female flatsharers earn £1,995 less per year than males. In London the salary gap widens to £4,236
  • Female flatsharers spend an average of £276 more per year on rent than males
  • 15% of female sharers spend more than half their salary on rent, compared to 8% of males
  • Of all age groups, women in their 20s in London pay the largest proportion of their salary on rent, with 19% spending over 50%, compared to 10% of males

The census also suggests that male renters are more likely to live in bigger properties and properties without living rooms – both factors that will affect the rent so it’s not as simple as women getting the worst deal. But regardless of our rental choices, it’s 2015; there shouldn’t be a housing crisis and it really shouldn’t be affecting male and female renters to different extents.

What do SpareRoom users have to say?

Charlotte-Gill-circleBlogger, Charlotte Gill, says:

“The statistics are really quite startling, and paint a depressing state of play for femkind – even in a city as progressive as London. Looking at them you could say that women are not only underpaid compared to men, but also less savvy with money. Alternatively they might also indicate that women are more picky when it comes to their accommodation – and prepared to cough up a bit more to be comfortable.

“As a woman I do feel concerned about the quality of housing I will be able to afford in the future – especially as a singleton, as this makes it extra expensive! It seems far more sensible to couple-up if you can, as strategic as that sounds.”

Jamie AndrewsSpareRoom user, Jamie Andrews, says:

“We need to pursue better salary equality.”

Another SpareRoom user, Kathryn Renshaw, says:

“When I was flat sharing I made a choice to rent the more expensive room because it was a safer area and had better facilities. Making that choice is what equality is about.”

What do you think? Are women getting a worse deal when it comes to renting? Tell us in the comments below

 

A Victory in the 2015 Budget

Raise the Roof logo

As most of you who’ve used SpareRoom in the past six years will know, we’ve been campaigning hard to get the chancellor to increase the Rent a Room Scheme tax threshold. We just found out he did just that in the budget, raising it from £4,250 a year to the £7,500 we asked for.

This is great news for renters – especially flatsharers. With around 19 million empty bedrooms in owner-occupied properties in England alone, we’re just not using our housing effectively. As we’re not building in anywhere near the numbers we need to, unlocking some of those rooms will make a big difference.

Here’s how:

  • Encouraging people to rent out their rooms means more supply – that helps keep rents down
  • There’s a huge demand for affordable rentals right now, especially rooms. This addresses that need head on
  • Average rents for people living with the owner are lower than traditional rents – good news for renters on a budget
  • Unlocking just 5% of those empty rooms would house almost a million people, that’s the equivalent of a city the size of Birmingham!

It’s great to see the government addressing the housing crisis with simple, effective measure that will make a difference to hundreds of thousands of people quickly, while they work out the longer term policy changes we need to fix the housing crisis for good.

Thanks to all of you who signed the petition or helped spread the word. We’d also like to thank the people and organisations who’ve supported Raise the Roof publicly over the past six years, including Shelter, Sarah Beeny and Generation Rent.
Great news all round.

Matt