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.

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