How to rent a home: a step-by-step guide –
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. 🥴
Today we’re going to explain in simple steps how to rent a home. 👣
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? 🏡
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 📚
Work out what you can pay💸
How much you can pay, helps you to decide which homes you can rent.✨
Make a budget 📝
The best way to work out what you can afford is to:
- Make a guess of what your rent and other bills would cost🤔- 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 🕵️♀️
- Make sure that you have enough money each month to cover everything 💸
The 30% rule ✍️
Ideally you’d spend as little as possible on rent, so you have lots of money spare. 🤷♀️
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, you’ll want spare money for other things like:
- bills (What bills should I be paying? 💸) 📃
- food 🍔
- emergency savings 🚑
- saving for when you’re older 🧓
- fun 💃🕺
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 💸||Maximum you could rent for |
(after you’ve paid your tax) 🔑
|£1,200||£420 – £540|
|£1,300||£455 – £585|
|£1,400||£490 – £630|
|£1,500||£525 – £675|
|£1,600||£560 – £720|
|£1,700||£595 – £765|
|£1,800||£630 – £810|
|£1,900||£665 – £855|
|£2,000||£700 – £900|
|£2,100||£735 – £945|
|£2,200||£770 – £990|
|£2,300||£805 – £1,035|
|£2,400||£840 – £1,080|
|£2,500||£875 – £1,125|
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. 🥅
It’s a chunk of money that:
- you pay at the start of renting 💳
- the landlord looks after, whilst you live at the home 🔒
- gets given back to you at the end of renting, when you move out 💸
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 £500 per month, I would have to pay a £500 deposit and my first month of rent (£500). This means that I would have to pay £1,000 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. 🔁
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.
- have never rented a home before 🤷♀️
- are living alone 🙋♀️
- aren’t earning a lot of money 💰
- have problems with debt/borrowing money 💳
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. 🤝
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 don’t pay your landlord the rent money that you owe them, they can ask your guarantor to pay it instead. 🙋♀️
If your guarantor doesn’t pay the rent money for you, your landlord can take them to court, to try and force you both to pay the money. 👩⚖️
Benefits (payments from the government) 💸
If you’re struggling with money and can’t afford to rent a home, you can look for help from your local government. 🤝
In the UK you can look at getting support from place like:
- Housing benefits – payments from the government towards your housing 🏠
- Universal credit – payments from the government towards your living costs 🏛️
- Housing associations – organisations that offer low-cost homes (“social housing”) to people in need 💁♀️
- 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 🗺️
- 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. 💬
- Homeless charities – Homeless charities offer advice and support if you are struggling to find somewhere to live. 🏘️
Get your documents together 📂
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:
- Your identity e.g. passport, birth certificate, driving licence
- How you get money (a job/employment/benefits) e.g. a copy of your contract from work or your payslips (How do payslips work? 🧾)
- Your immigration status
- Your credit history/credit rating (What is a credit rating? 📈)
These documents are really important and if they fall into the wrong hands, you could get scammed! 😱 – Make sure to keep them safe, and only share them with trustworthy organisations.
2. Finding a home to rent 🔍
Where you want to live 🗺️
When deciding on what area you want to live in, there are lots of things to consider.
You should think about things like:
- What’s nearby? 🗺️
- Transport links🚉
- Nearby workplaces 💼
- Green spaces🌴
- Natural disasters 💦
- Crime 🦹♀️
- Closeness to your family/friends 👪
- Air quality 🍃
- Environment 🏞️
Types of home 🏡
There are also lots of types of home to choose from!
You could consider homes like:
- Flats/apartments 🏢- 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 🏘️- Terraced houses are houses that sit in a row and share walls with the houses either side.
- Semi-detached houses 🏠🏠- 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 🏡- 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 🏬- 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 🔍
You can find a home to rent by:
- Looking at property websites👩💻 e.g.
Zoopla (UK) https://www.zoopla.co.uk
Zillow (USA) https://www.zillow.com
- Checking newspaper listings 📰
- Looking for “to let” signs in your local neighbourhood 🪧
- Joining social media groups to look for listings 📱
- Asking friends and family 👪
- Visiting estate agents (estate agents are businesses that sell, rent, and manage buildings)🏬
Be very careful when dealing with online adverts for rental homes – they can be scams! 😨
Make sure to check that any home you want to rent is from a legitimate person/organisation. ✅
Private vs Agency ⚖️
There are two ways that you can usually rent a home:
- Through a private landlord 🙋♀️ – 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 🏢 – 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 🙋♀️||Agency 🧑💼|
|Might offer cheaper rent because they don’t have to pay an agency||Agencies 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 directly||Might get things done more quickly because there are more staff available to handle problems|
|Could be more flexible because you’re dealing with them directly||Some 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 person||Easier to make complaints about because they’re a business|
3. Viewing the home 👀
Before you decide on a home to rent, you usually get to go and visit it first at a “house viewing”. 👀
House viewings give you a chance to inspect the house, so that you can decide if you want to live there or not! 🕵️♀️
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. 🥴
We’ve put together the ultimate rental checklist below, to help you remember everything you need to look out for when renting! ✅
50+ things to look for at a house viewing (renting!) 📝
4. Making an offer 🤝
Once you’ve decided that you’d like to rent the home, you can offer an amount to rent it for. 💸
You could offer:
- Less than the amount advertised (if you think that the landlord would accept a lower price) ⬇️
- The same amount advertised (if you’re happy with what they’ve advertised it for) 👍
- 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) ⬆️
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. 💃🕺
Some landlords/estate agents tend to like it when renters:
- Can rent the home really soon (so the landlord gets money sooner) ⌚
- Have a really good relationship with their current landlord 🙌
- Earn lots of money so can comfortably afford the rent 💸
- Are renting with someone else (in case one person loses their job) 🧑🤝🧑
- Have a stable job that they’ve worked in for a long time 💼
- Want to rent long-term (so they don’t have to go through the effort of finding new tenants)📆
- Have never skipped a rent payment 💸
- Want to improve the house for free e.g. gardening, installing a new shower 🛠️
- Have taken their pets to training classes (if you have pets 🐶)
If they’re happy with your offer, then they’ll usually invite you to “apply” to rent! ✅
5. Applying ✍️
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. 💳
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? 📈)
- 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 🕵️♀️
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? 📈)
- 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. 🧑🤝🧑
7. Signing a contract 📜
Once you’ve passed referencing, you should be given a copy of your contract to rent the home to sign. 🙌
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. 👩⚖️
It’s really important to make sure that you:
- Read all of the contract (even if it’s really boring!) 👀
- Challenge anything that you’re not happy with in the contract 👎
- Make sure that you can definitely carry out all of your responsibilities in the contract before signing 👍
- Get help if you don’t understand it (a legal professional like a lawyer could help you) 🧑⚖️
Your landlord also might also ask if you’re getting home insurance. 🏡
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) 📱
- Pets getting sick (pet insurance) 🐶
- Your car getting stolen (car insurance) 🚗
or in the case of home insurance, you could get “contents insurance” to protect the belongings in your home from things like:
- flooding 💦
- fire 🔥
- theft 🦹♀️
If these emergencies happen you can get paid a sum of emergency money when you have insurance cover in place.
8. Inventory checks ✅
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. 📸
When you move out, the landlord will use the inventory to help decide if they’re going to give you your deposit back! 💰
It’s really important to ask to review the inventory to make sure that it’s accurate. 📝
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. 😬
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. 📃
9. Contract start date and key collection📆
Your tenancy agreement should say what date is your start date, and by then you should have been given your new keys! 🥳
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. 🏡
⚠️Take meter readings!⚠️
On both your moving in date and contract start date, it’s important to take meter readings. 📏
You should check and write down/photograph the reading for the home’s:
- Electricity meter (to power the home’s lights etc.)⚡
- Gas meter (if your home uses gas for the cooker or heating system)🔥
- Water meter (for running tap water, toilets, showers etc.) 💦
This will help you to avoid getting bills for electricity/gas/water that you haven’t used!
Moving in before your contract start date 🚚
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) 🤷♀️
- Belongings being left at the home that won’t be moved until the contract start date 🛋️
- The home not being clean, or fit to live in because there is still improvement work to be done 🧽🛠️
- The rules in your contract aren’t legally active until the start date, so the landlord might not follow their responsibilities 👩⚖️
- Your insurance for your belongings might not match the date you move in⛑️
- 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. 🏡
10. Moving in! 📦
Congratulations, once all the above steps have been followed, you can move into your new home! 🚚
This means arranging things like:
- Moving your belongings to the new home 🚚
- Setting yourself up to pay bills for the home What bills should I be paying? 💸 🧾
- Finding out about bin collection dates 🗑️
- Meeting your new neighbours 👋
- Updating your address for things like your driving licence, council tax, work, electoral roll, postal address 📬
- Getting to know the area 🗺️
11. Moving out 👋
“I want to move out” 🚚
The amount of time you need to give your landlord as notice of you leaving, should be set out in your tenancy agreement. 📆
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” 🚪
The amount of time your landlord has to give before asking you to leave, should be set out in your tenancy agreement. 📆
Depending on where you live, there might be local government laws that say how long landlords have to give you notice for too. 👩⚖️
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.
So that’s it!
The main steps to renting a home are:
- Getting ready to rent 📚
- Finding a home to rent 🔍
- Viewing the home 👀
- Making an offer 🤝
- Applying ✍️
- Referencing 🕵️♀️
- Signing a contract 📜
- Inventory checks ✅
- Contract start date and key collection 📆
- Moving in! 📦
If you know any friends or family members who might benefit from learning about how to rent a home, share this post with them!
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