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How to rent a home: a step-by-step guide ๐Ÿ”‘

how to rent a home

How to rent a home: a step-by-step guide

Introduction ๐Ÿ‘‹

Getting your own home to rent has got to be one of the most exciting experiences ever!

But how do you actually do it?

Renting a home is actually quite a complicated process. ๐Ÿฅด

Today we’re going to explain in simple steps how to rent a home. ๐Ÿ‘ฃ

Disclaimer: This website provides information for guidance and educational purposes only. The Grown-Up School does not provide regulated financial advice. You can seek independent financial advice from a suitably qualified and regulated professional advisor. Check out our disclaimer policy for more information.

What is renting? ๐Ÿก

Renting is where you pay to live in a home that somebody else owns.

If you rent a place to live, you are known as a “tenant”.

The person who owns the house you’re renting is called your “landlord”.

Very often a landlord will pay a business called a “letting agent” or “estate agent” to manage the home and collect your rent money off you.

1. Getting ready to rent ๐Ÿ“š

Work out what you can pay๐Ÿ’ธ

How much you can pay, helps you to decide which homes you can rent.โœจ

Make a budget ๐Ÿ“

The best way to work out what you can afford is to:

  • Make a guess of what your rent and other bills would cost๐Ÿค”- Do some research to help you!
  • Create a budget to plan out all the money you’ll spend each month, including on things like your rent, savings, and bills ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ
  • Make sure that you have enough money each month to cover everything ๐Ÿ’ธ

The 30% rule โœ๏ธ

Ideally you’d spend as little as possible on rent, so you have lots of money spare. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

It’s common to pay around 30% of the money you earn every month on rent.

Ideally you wouldn’t spend more than 35-45% of the money you make, because you need extra money to pay for other things!

As well as rent, youโ€™ll want spare money for other things like:

Based on the idea that you shouldn’t spend more than 35-45% of the money you make on rent each month, below we’ve put the spending limits you’d need to keep!

How much you earn each month ๐Ÿ’ธMaximum you could rent for
(after you’ve paid your tax)
ยฃ1,200ยฃ420 – ยฃ540
ยฃ1,300ยฃ455 – ยฃ585
ยฃ1,400ยฃ490 – ยฃ630
ยฃ1,500ยฃ525 – ยฃ675
ยฃ1,600ยฃ560 – ยฃ720
ยฃ1,700ยฃ595 – ยฃ765
ยฃ1,800ยฃ630 – ยฃ810
ยฃ1,900ยฃ665 – ยฃ855
ยฃ2,000ยฃ700 – ยฃ900
ยฃ2,100ยฃ735 – ยฃ945
ยฃ2,200ยฃ770 – ยฃ990
ยฃ2,300ยฃ805 – ยฃ1,035
ยฃ2,400ยฃ840 – ยฃ1,080
ยฃ2,500ยฃ875 – ยฃ1,125

Deposits ๐Ÿ’ฐ

On top of what you can pay each month, you need to look at how much you can pay towards a “deposit” for the home.

A deposit is sort of like a safety net for the landlord, in case the house gets damaged. ๐Ÿฅ…

It’s a chunk of money that:

  • you pay at the start of renting ๐Ÿ’ณ
  • the landlord looks after, whilst you live at the home ๐Ÿ”’
  • gets given back to you at the end of renting, when you move out ๐Ÿ’ธ

If you damage the landlord’s home, they might refuse to give your deposit back to you, and use your deposit money to repair the damage.

When you rent a home, you usually have to pay around 1 month of rent as a deposit to your landlord for them to hold onto.

For example – if the rent costs ยฃ500 per month, I would have to pay a ยฃ500 deposit and my first month of rent (ยฃ500). This means that I would have to pay ยฃ1,000 for my first month of renting.

As long as you haven’t damaged the house, your deposit should be given back to you when you move out. ๐Ÿ”

If you live in the UK your landlord should put your deposit money into a secure “tenancy deposit scheme” whilst you’re living there, instead of keeping the money in their bank account.

Guarantors ๐Ÿ‘ช

If you:

  • have never rented a home before ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ
  • are living alone ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ
  • aren’t earning a lot of money ๐Ÿ’ฐ
  • have problems with debt/borrowing money ๐Ÿ’ณ

some landlords might ask you to get a “guarantor”, to help you pay your rent.

A guarantor is someone who promises to pay your rent if you don’t pay it. ๐Ÿค

Your guarantor could be someone like:

  • your parent or guardian
  • a close relative like a grandparent, auntie/uncle, or cousin
  • a close friend

If you donโ€™t pay your landlord the rent money that you owe them, they can ask your guarantor to pay it instead. ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ

If your guarantor doesnโ€™t pay the rent money for you, your landlord can take them to court, to try and force you both to pay the money. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โš–๏ธ

Benefits (payments from the government) ๐Ÿ’ธ

If you’re struggling with money and can’t afford to rent a home, you can look for help from your local government. ๐Ÿค

In the UK you can look at getting support from place like:

  • Housing benefits – payments from the government towards your housing ๐Ÿ 
  • Universal credit – payments from the government towards your living costs ๐Ÿ›๏ธ
  • Housing associations – organisations that offer low-cost homes (“social housing”) to people in need ๐Ÿ’โ€โ™€๏ธ
  • Local councils – Local government councils often own housing and rent them to people at a low cost. You can apply for council housing through the council for your area ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ
  • Citizen’s Advice –  Citizen’s Advice are a charity that offers free confidential advice. They can give you advice on a huge range of things like housing, benefits, money, debt, and employment. ๐Ÿ’ฌ
  • Homeless charities – Homeless charities offer advice and support if you are struggling to find somewhere to live. ๐Ÿ˜๏ธ

Get your documents together ๐Ÿ“‚

When you start applying for homes to rent there are quite a lot of documents that they could ask you for, so make sure you have them to hand!

When you rent, the people you’re renting the home from might want to know things like:

These documents are really important and if they fall into the wrong hands, you could get scammed! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ – Make sure to keep them safe, and only share them with trustworthy organisations.

2. Finding a home to rent ๐Ÿ”

Where you want to live ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ

When deciding on what area you want to live in, there are lots of things to consider.

You should think about things like:

  • Prices๐Ÿ’ธ
  • Whatโ€™s nearby? ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ
  • Transport links๐Ÿš‰
  • Nearby workplaces ๐Ÿ’ผ
  • Green spaces๐ŸŒด
  • Natural disasters ๐Ÿ’ฆ
  • Crime ๐Ÿฆนโ€โ™€๏ธ
  • Closeness to your family/friends ๐Ÿ‘ช
  • Air quality ๐Ÿƒ
  • Environment ๐Ÿž๏ธ

Types of home ๐Ÿก

There are also lots of types of home to choose from!

You could consider homes like:

  • Flats/apartments ๐Ÿข- Flats are buildings which are split up into smaller homes. In a flat you might have neighbours living on the floor above you, below you, and next to you.
  • Terraced houses ๐Ÿ˜๏ธ- Terraced houses are houses that sit in a row and share walls with the houses either side.
  • Semi-detached houses ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ - Semi-detached houses are houses that share just one wall with another house. You might still have other houses next to you, but you will only share a wall with one other house.
  • Detached houses ๐Ÿก- Detached houses are houses that don’t share walls/aren’t attached to any other houses. You could still have neighbours living on the plots of land next to you.
  • Maisonettes/Duplexes ๐Ÿฌ- Maisonettes are flats that cover 2 floors, and you get your own main door to the home. This means that you don’t have to share a corridor with other homes.

Searching for a home ๐Ÿ”

You can find a home to rent by:

  • Looking at property websites๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ป e.g.

Zoopla (UK)
Zillow (USA)

  • Checking newspaper listings ๐Ÿ“ฐ
  • Looking for “to let” signs in your local neighbourhood ๐Ÿชง
  • Joining social media groups to look for listings ๐Ÿ“ฑ
  • Asking friends and family ๐Ÿ‘ช
  • Visiting estate agents (estate agents are businesses that sell, rent, and manage buildings)๐Ÿฌ

Be very careful when dealing with online adverts for rental homes – they can be scams! ๐Ÿ˜จ

Make sure to check that any home you want to rent is from a legitimate person/organisation. โœ…

Private vs Agency โš–๏ธ

There are two ways that you can usually rent a home:

  • Through a private landlord ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ – the landlord (owner of the home) manages everything e.g. if the shower breaks in the house, you contact the landlord directly.
  • Through a letting agency/estate agent ๐Ÿข – the letting agency manages everything on behalf of the landlord e.g. if the shower breaks in the house, you contact the letting agency, and they’ll arrange it with the landlord.

Benefits/drawbacks of private landlords and agencies include:

Private ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธAgency ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿ’ผ
Might offer cheaper rent because they don’t have to pay an agencyAgencies are usually experienced at handling house issues whereas a private landlord might not be
Might get things done more quickly because you’re contacting them directlyMight get things done more quickly because there are more staff available to handle problems
Could be more flexible because you’re dealing with them directlySome scammers pose as “private landlords” to advertise fake homes – agencies might be more trustworthy
More difficult to make complaints about because you’re dealing with an individual personEasier to make complaints about because they’re a business

3. Viewing the home ๐Ÿ‘€

Before you decide on a home to rent, you usually get to go and visit it first at a “house viewing”. ๐Ÿ‘€

House viewings give you a chance to inspect the house, so that you can decide if you want to live there or not! ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ

When you’re viewing a potential home to rent it can be difficult to remember all of the things to check, to make sure there aren’t any surprise problems. ๐Ÿฅด

We’ve put together the ultimate rental checklist below, to help you remember everything you need to look out for when renting! โœ…

50+ things to look for at a house viewing (renting!) ๐Ÿ“

4. Making an offer ๐Ÿค

Once you’ve decided that you’d like to rent the home, you can offer an amount to rent it for. ๐Ÿ’ธ

You could offer:

  • Less than the amount advertised (if you think that the landlord would accept a lower price) โฌ‡๏ธ
  • The same amount advertised (if you’re happy with what they’ve advertised it for) ๐Ÿ‘
  • More than the amount advertised (if you really want to, can afford it, and if there’s a lot of other people competing to rent the home) โฌ†๏ธ

Renting a home can be competitive, so it might be worth selling yourself to the landlord/estate agent as a renter when you make an offer.

You can use this as an opportunity to highlight your best qualities as a renter. ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿ•บ

Some landlords/estate agents tend to like it when renters:

  • Can rent the home really soon (so the landlord gets money sooner) โŒš
  • Have a really good relationship with their current landlord ๐Ÿ™Œ
  • Earn lots of money so can comfortably afford the rent ๐Ÿ’ธ
  • Are renting with someone else (in case one person loses their job) ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘
  • Have a stable job that they’ve worked in for a long time ๐Ÿ’ผ
  • Want to rent long-term (so they don’t have to go through the effort of finding new tenants)๐Ÿ“†
  • Have never skipped a rent payment ๐Ÿ’ธ
  • Want to improve the house for free e.g. gardening, installing a new shower ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ
  • Have taken their pets to training classes (if you have pets ๐Ÿถ)

If they’re happy with your offer, then they’ll usually invite you to “apply” to rent! โœ…

5. Applying โœ๏ธ

At this stage you might be asked to fill in lots of paperwork, and pay a “holding deposit” or something similar, to reserve the house for you. ๐Ÿ’ณ

This means that once you’ve paid a holding deposit, nobody else should be accepted to apply to rent the home whilst you’re applying.

The paperwork you’ll be asked to fill usually asks about things like:

  • Who you are – e.g. checking your identification documents
  • Where you live – e.g. asking for proof of your address
  • Who your last landlord was (so they can get in touch with them)
  • Your information so that they can run a credit check (What is a credit rating? ๐Ÿ“ˆ)
  • How much money you make – maybe asking for proof of how much you earn like your payslips
  • Who your employer is (so they can get in touch with them)

6. Referencing ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ

Referencing is where the information you’ve provided on your application is “investigated” to see if it’s true, and to help decide if the landlord wants to rent the home to you.

Usually as a minimum it will include:

  • References from your current landlord and employer (asking them if you rented from them, were you a good tenant etc.)
  • Affordability checks (making sure you get enough money every month to pay the rent)
  • Credit checks (What is a credit rating? ๐Ÿ“ˆ)
  • Providing identification of who you are

In some situations you may be asked to provide a guarantor. The same reference checks are usually then carried out for your guarantor as were done for you. ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘

7. Signing a contract ๐Ÿ“œ

Once you’ve passed referencing, you should be given a copy of your contract to rent the home to sign. ๐Ÿ™Œ

This is usually called a “tenancy agreement” or “occupation contract” or “lease“.

The tenancy agreement should explain all of the legal and contractual rules that both you and your landlord have to follow. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โš–๏ธ

It’s really important to make sure that you:

  • Read all of the contract (even if it’s really boring!) ๐Ÿ‘€
  • Challenge anything that you’re not happy with in the contract ๐Ÿ‘Ž
  • Make sure that you can definitely carry out all of your responsibilities in the contract before signing ๐Ÿ‘
  • Get help if you don’t understand it (a legal professional like a lawyer could help you) ๐Ÿง‘โ€โš–๏ธ

Insurance โ›‘๏ธ

Your landlord also might also ask if you’re getting home insurance. ๐Ÿก

Getting insurance is where you pay money to “protect yourself” from different emergencies.

If you find yourself in the emergency, you will often be given emergency money to help you.

You can pay for insurance to help you in situations like:

  • Your phone breaking (mobile phone insurance) ๐Ÿ“ฑ
  • Pets getting sick (pet insurance) ๐Ÿถ
  • Your car getting stolen (car insurance) ๐Ÿš—

or in the case of home insurance, you could get “contents insurance” to protect the belongings in your home from things like:

  • flooding ๐Ÿ’ฆ
  • fire ๐Ÿ”ฅ
  • theft ๐Ÿฆนโ€โ™€๏ธ

If these emergencies happen you can get paid a sum of emergency money when you have insurance cover in place.

8. Inventory checks โœ…

Usually when renting out a house, a landlord will take an “inventory” to list everything included in the house, and take pictures to show what condition it was given to you in. ๐Ÿ“ธ

When you move out, the landlord will use the inventory to help decide if they’re going to give you your deposit back! ๐Ÿ’ฐ

It’s really important to ask to review the inventory to make sure that it’s accurate. ๐Ÿ“

If the landlord says that everything is “brand new” in the house when it isn’t, they might try and claim that you’ve damaged the home later on to get money from your deposit. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Make sure to point out any damage to the house straight away, and take photos to keep your own record of the condition the house is in. ๐Ÿ“ƒ

9. Contract start date and key collection๐Ÿ“†

Your tenancy agreement should say what date is your start date, and by then you should have been given your new keys! ๐Ÿฅณ

You might not move in on your contract start date, but it is the day that you become legally responsible for following the rules in the contract. ๐Ÿก

โš ๏ธTake meter readings!โš ๏ธ

On both your moving in date and contract start date, it’s important to take meter readings. ๐Ÿ“

You should check and write down/photograph the reading for the home’s:

  • Electricity meter (to power the home’s lights etc.)โšก
  • Gas meter (if your home uses gas for the cooker or heating system)๐Ÿ”ฅ
  • Water meter (for running tap water, toilets, showers etc.) ๐Ÿ’ฆ

This will help you to avoid getting bills for electricity/gas/water that you haven’t used!

Moving in before your contract start date ๐Ÿšš

Some landlords might give you the flexibility to move into the home before your contract start date – but beware! This can come with a lot of complications, such as:

  • Your landlord turning up at the home whenever they want (because your contract hasn’t started yet) ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ
  • Belongings being left at the home that won’t be moved until the contract start date ๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ
  • The home not being clean, or fit to live in because there is still improvement work to be done ๐Ÿงฝ๐Ÿ› ๏ธ
  • The rules in your contract aren’t legally active until the start date, so the landlord might not follow their responsibilities ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โš–๏ธ
  • Your insurance for your belongings might not match the date you move inโ›‘๏ธ
  • The landlord should have “landlord insurance” or “buildings insurance” to protect the house, and this might be invalidated if you don’t have a tenancy agreement in place. This means if there’s an emergency e.g. the house floods, your home might not be protected. ๐Ÿก

10. Moving in! ๐Ÿ“ฆ

Congratulations, once all the above steps have been followed, you can move into your new home! ๐Ÿšš

This means arranging things like:

  • Moving your belongings to the new home ๐Ÿšš
  • Setting yourself up to pay bills for the home What bills should I be paying? ๐Ÿ’ธ ๐Ÿงพ
  • Finding out about bin collection dates ๐Ÿ—‘๏ธ
  • Meeting your new neighbours ๐Ÿ‘‹
  • Updating your address for things like your driving licence, council tax, work, electoral roll, postal address ๐Ÿ“ฌ
  • Getting to know the area ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ

11. Moving out ๐Ÿ‘‹

“I want to move out” ๐Ÿšš

The amount of time you need to give your landlord as notice of you leaving, should be set out in your tenancy agreement. ๐Ÿ“†

For example, you might have to tell your landlord that you want to end your contract 4 weeks’ before you plan to move out.

There might be some rules in your tenancy contract that say you’ve got to live in the house a certain amount of time before you can end the contract e.g. you can end the tenancy after 6 months.

“My landlord asked me to leave” ๐Ÿšช

The amount of time your landlord has to give before asking you to leave, should be set out in your tenancy agreement. ๐Ÿ“†

Depending on where you live, there might be local government laws that say how long landlords have to give you notice for too. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โš–๏ธ

This often depends on the reason why they want you to leave, for example:

  • If you haven’t done anything wrong, your landlord might have to give you 6 months’ notice that they want you to leave.
  • If you’ve been anti-social and upset your neighbours, your landlord might only have to give you 1 months’ notice that they want you to leave.

Conclusion ๐Ÿ‘

So that’s it!

The main steps to renting a home are:

  1. Getting ready to rent ๐Ÿ“š
  2. Finding a home to rent ๐Ÿ”
  3. Viewing the home ๐Ÿ‘€
  4. Making an offer ๐Ÿค
  5. Applying โœ๏ธ
  6. Referencing ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ
  7. Signing a contract ๐Ÿ“œ
  8. Inventory checks โœ…
  9. Contract start date and key collection ๐Ÿ“†
  10. Moving in! ๐Ÿ“ฆ

If you know any friends or family members who might benefit from learning about how to rent a home, share this post with them!

Finally, don’t forget to check out our similar articles below!

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Is borrowing money a bad thing? ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

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