Renting: the process

Renting a house can be a daunting process, there are a million points to consider (roughly), from location to size, to access, to finances. Home & Decorating Magazine caught up with Richard Jacques, Lettings Director at Purplebricks to ask for his advice:

Housing has been in the news a lot recently. Latest research shows that the number of people in England who own their own homes has dropped to the lowest level in 30 years – from 71% of the population to 64%*

When you consider this against the backdrop of a fall in the number of buyers** and rising first time buyer reliance on the bank of mum and dad, it means that more people than ever are renting their properties.

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all. Renting a property can be cheaper than owning one, making it easier to save for a deposit and it also means that if something goes wrong with the property, the tenant doesn’t have to shell out to fix it.  Plus, rental properties have come a long way and the quality of accommodation and standards of décor are higher than ever before.

If you’re looking at renting somewhere, do your due diligence first of all and think about what kind of place works for you. A penthouse might sound perfect, but can you handle lots of steps? And that town centre terrace might be convenient for the shops, but convenience will be the last thing you’re thinking of when you’re kept awake at pub kicking out time. Those with families will need to think about schools in the area, too.

So think carefully about what you need and don’t get carried away. Once you’ve established where you want to be and what kind of place you want to rent, it’s time to start looking for your dream home. Timing can be an issue, as some properties normally won’t be available for at least a few weeks in advance, so make sure you factor this in.  An online search is usually quickest and if you head to you can register to receive property alerts, which will be emailed to you when something that fits the bill is listed.

It’s important to see a few homes before you make your decision, so you can compare properties and what you get for your money. When you are doing your viewings, make sure you think about the interior. Do you need a furnished property, or will you be using your own furniture? Is there a shower in the bathroom? Do you need a washing machine? Some landlords may consider furnishing or even “un-furnishing” a property to suit the tenant, so it’s always worth asking the question if you’ve fallen in love with a particular place.

Look at the state the property is kept in. Is it clean and well maintained? Do the doors and windows look secure? Is there any damp visible? The landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance so how the property is kept might give an indication of how responsive they will be to your maintenance requests. If the building is shared, it’s nice if there’s somewhere secure for your post, rather than it landing in a communal area.  It’s not always possible, but visiting a place at different times of day can be a good idea, as it gives an idea of traffic and noise.

Once you’ve found “the one” you need to get in and reserve it. Some estate agents will charge a reservation fee to hold it (we don’t!) but just make sure you don’t lose it, as the best rental properties will go fast.

At this point, ask about what fees you’ll need to pay. We charge a fixed fee of £118 per tenant, which covers the cost of drawing up the tenancy agreement, referencing and credit checks. If the landlord requires an inventory, the tenant will also pay 50% of the cost of this (the landlord pays the other half) – either £45, or £60, depending on the size of the place.

You’ll need to sign a lease agreement, normally for a minimum of 6 months, after which you and the landlord can negotiate notice periods if you decide to move out, or the landlord would like the property vacated. This protects both parties.

Usually, one month’s deposit is required, which the landlord will hold onto until the tenant moves out of the property and checks everything is in the same state as it was when they moved in. This should be held in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. Rent is normally payable a month in advance. Make sure you factor in these costs, along with your fees.

Finally, don’t forget, an alternative to renting on your own, particularly if you are on a budget and want to save money on your rent, is to go into a flatshare. It’s particularly popular with students, professionals working in expensive areas like London and those who simply don’t want to live on their own.

Article by Richard Jacques, Lettings Director at Purplebricks

*Resolution Foundation

** English Housing Survey