Many first time buyers, or movers in between permanent addresses, call a rental property home.  In fact recent figures show that around 5m UK households are in private rented accommodation. That’s 21% of the nation’s total, and a figure that looks set to rise with research predicting that almost one in four households in Britain will be renting privately by the end of 2021.

Compared to paying a mortgage, renting can be an expensive option that puts money in your landlord’s pocket with no hope of you ever owning the home you live in. However, as the figures demonstrate, it’s the only choice for many with rising house prices making ownership difficult, if not impossible. What’s more, many of us enjoy the freedom and lack of running costs and repair bills that also come with renting.

So, if you’re one of the millions of renters in the UK, how can you sign your contract with the satisfaction of knowing you’re getting the best value?

Follow these ten tenets of tenancy from the Smoove Move team to make sure your lease leaves no room for doubt that you’ve not signed up for the best rental deal.

#1 Do your research

As a wise (and therefore powerful) person once said, knowledge is power. Get to know the market to make sure you’re getting the best price for the property you want to rent. This can be as simple as searching a few different websites to compare the rental prices of various properties, and arming yourself with info on average rents in the same neighbourhood or street so you can move on to tenet #2 with confidence.

#2 Haggle

Or to put it another way, negotiate. Just like property for sale, rental properties are often listed at a slightly higher price than the landlord or letting agency will accept just to see if anyone bites. So there’s absolutely no shame in offering a lower price to see if they go for it. A few simple negotiation tips will help here. First off, if you’ve researched the area you’ll know the average rents and if they’re asking too much, show them the figures. Secondly, try and offer something in return such as a few extra months’ rent up front, willingness to sign a longer lease or just the fact that you’re a model tenant who’ll clean the property four times a day, never ever watch loud TV and doesn’t have any friends who love to party.

 #3 Pit landlords against each other

If you’re searching in an area with a wide choice of rental property, this strategy could work well for you. Find two or three potential places you’d like to live, then initiate #2 but with the added leverage of other interested landlords. So you can tell landlord No.1 that landlord No.2 has the same size apartment in the same block for £100 a month less…and what are they going to do about it? Add another landlord to the mix and they’ll be in a frenzy of price-dropping to get you signed.  

#4 Play the long game

Short-term rentals (less than 6 or 9 months) nearly always cost more to rent than longer leases. If you’re prepared to commit to a longer term, the rent should normally work out lower.

#5 Choose unfurnished

If you’re looking to rent for a longer rental term, unfurnished is the way to go as these rental properties are usually more affordable. Furnished houses and apartments tend to be in areas with a fast through flow of tenants like city centres and student neighbourhoods. Plus, those in between selling and buying a home or wishing to settle in an area before committing to purchasing will often have their own furniture and be quite happy to make a place their own.

#6 Question those fees

Nothing will turn a relaxed renter into a temperamental tenant faster than the word ‘fees’. These are the charges that letting agents slip in for ‘services’ such as credit checks and ID checks. In Scotland, these fees were made illegal in 2012 but they are still allowed and very much in evidence in England.

These are levied to cover things like:

  • Drawing up the contract
  • Making an inventory of the property
  • Carrying out credit checks
  • Getting references from your employer
  • Admin costs for things like phone calls and postage
  • Right to rent immigration checks

All of which can mean a sizeable wedge of cash leaves your pocket before you’ve even paid your deposit. So what can you do about it? Unfortunately, legislation seems to be on the side of the letting agents here so the first thing to do is avoid those agencies charging lots if unnecessary fees; and if you do want to use these companies, makes sure you know every detail of what you’ll be charged before you put pen to paper and sign a contract.

Then, ensure you’re not being overcharged for a fixed rate service such as credit reference that shouldn’t cost more than £40. Many dodgy agents mark up these fees and should be called out if so. Also, be very wary of ‘admin’ charges and make sure you know what these cover. Finally, if all else fails move on to step #7.

#7 Go direct

Back in the day, letting agents were a rarity and most people dealt with landlords or owners direct. If you can find a place you’d love to live  where there’s no-one between you and the owner to cause problems, mark up fees and take a cut for doing very little, go for it. Establishing a good relationship with the owner is the best way to have a happy, relaxing time living in a rental property and will mean a better chance of negotiating a better deal when your lease is up for renewal.

#8 Get your timing right

Certain times of the year such as Christmas and New Year are dead zones for rental properties. No landlord wants to be looking at an empty property that’s not earning income, so if you choose to rent in November or early December, you have a good chance of being able to negotiate a lower rent. Renting in busy periods such as the start of the academic year will also mean it’s a seller’s market with less chance of you being able to cut a deal.

#9 Give something back

Many people need tenants to look after a property while they’re away, feed pets or generally take care of a place, and if you’re lucky you can bag a palace for a peppercorn rent. You could even become a property guardian and call anything from a mansion to a monument your home to save up to 60% on rent payments.

#10 Widen your search

Okay, a last resort but if you’ve tried all the above methods with no luck then this is a sure-fire way of lowering your rent. If your postcode is just too pricey, then cast your net wider. You’d be surprised at how a few miles can shave pounds off the rent without affecting your lifestyle. So think outside the box and you could be a great deal better off in your rental property.

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