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Guide to Renting a House: Checklist & Advice

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Wondering how to rent a house? The process can be a tricky one, as there are lots to wrap your head around.

But, arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible can help you every step of the way. We’ve got you covered – here’s a handy guide.

First-Time Rental Checklist

First things first, let’s tick off all the different things you’ll need to consider before letting a property:

  1. Finances
  2. Budget
  3. Location
  4. Property type
  5. Costs
  6. Timings
  7. Letting agents
  8. Documents
  9. Contracts

How to Rent a House Step-by-Step

Renting your first home is exciting, but too often, tenants head into the process unprepared. Let’s try and avoid that.

Get Your Finances in Order

From checking your credit rating to your salary, you need to look at your financial situation closely.

In terms of affordability, can you rent a house?

If you haven’t already, start saving for a rental deposit. This often amounts to one month’s rent upfront. Your holding deposit may be deducted from this. This is paid beforehand to reserve the property – but doesn’t mean it will be yours.

On top of that, you’ll likely be asked to pay your rent in advance as well.

If your credit score comes back as poor, don’t panic. Renting with bad credit can be tough, but it’s not impossible. Some tips include:

Letting a property is a big commitment for a landlord, so they’ll want to know their investment is protected.

Set Your Budget

After you’ve got your head around how much you could afford to pay, set a budget and try sticking to it. This is an essential part of knowing how to rent a home.

It can be easier said than done. But, it’s vital you don’t commit to rental payments you can’t keep up with.

If your budget is on the lower end, you may have to compromise on size if you want to be near good transport links. So, work out what your priorities are and use these as a guide.

Choose Your Location

Having an idea of where you’d like to live is vital before you start your search. Consider a number of aspects, including transport links and local amenities.

Remember, you may need to be flexible as the cost of renting a house is largely determined by location. Living in a city with great transport links has its perks, but will be more expensive. For example, first time renting in London might be a lot more pricey than expected. This is why many people compromise and move further out.

Pick an area and research the price of properties there. Can you afford it?

You should also make sure you visit an area to get a feel for it, night and day. Ensure you’ll be happy living somewhere before you commit. You might not be buying there, but it will still be your home!

A property report can help you get to know an area better, providing information on everything from crime rates to local schools.

What Type of Property Are You Looking For?

One-bed flat? Four bedroom house?

Decide on what it is you’re looking for to help you narrow your search. While it’s important not to be overly fixed on one thing, having too-wide a net will make the process tougher.

It’s important to work out your most important needs – and some deal-breakers. For example, would you be willing to compromise on the number of bathrooms?

Every decision you make will affect the price you end up paying.

Also, decide if you want a furnished or unfurnished property. There are pros and cons to both, so look at your individual situation to work out what’s right for you.

Make sure you know exactly what’s included. Even if a property is ‘unfurnished’ you may still expect white goods, e.g. fridge.

The Cost of Renting a House

It’s not only upfront costs, like the deposit and rent that you’ll have to deal with. There are also a number of ongoing ones, such as:

  •  Bills
  • New furniture
  • Key replacements (if lost)
  • Damage outside of ‘fair wear and tear’
  • TV licence

Get the Timing Right

When do you need to move out? Is there a clear deadline, or can you be more flexible?

You may need to wait until you’ve saved up more to make your life easier.

Also, seasonal changes can make an impact.

Rental prices tend to be higher in the summer, but you’ll have more choice of properties available. So, try and get the timing right.

Letting Agents

Do you want to use a letting agent or a private landlord? Both have their perks.

Letting agent fees were banned in June 2019. You can now only be charged for payments such as the holding deposit, rent and early termination of the tenancy.

What Documents Do You Need to Rent a House?

So, what do you need for renting a house? Let’s talk paperwork. Some common requirements include:

  • Proof of identity – e.g. passport, driver’s licence
  • Proof of employment
  • Proof of salary & earnings e.g. recent payslips, usually 3-months’ worth (if self-employed or freelance, you may need to show evidence of tax returns. There may also be a more in-depth vetting process)
  • References for renting for the first time – usually from a current or past employer. If you’ve rented before, you might be asked for a previous landlord reference

It’s essential to familiarise yourself with what the requirements are for renting a house. If you can, have these prepared in advance to speed things along.


There are many different types of tenancy agreement, with the most common being an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). It helps to get your head around all of these before signing on the dotted line.

Read your contract carefully and don’t be afraid to question anything that doesn’t seem right.

Some things to watch out for include:

  • Break clauses
  • Tenancy length
  • Termination policy
  • Clauses e.g. pets, smoking
  • Subletting
  • Late fees
  • End of tenancy – e.g. cleaning

Guide to Renting

Ready to go ahead? Here’s a handy renter’s guide to help things run as smoothly as possible.

If you need more help, register with Move iQ for first-time rental checklists and top tips delivered directly to your inbox.

Register with Move iQ Here

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate Conditions of Rent Offer

Don’t ask, don’t get, right?

If you’re renting your first flat, or house, negotiating offers might be daunting. Don’t be afraid to haggle, e.g. for bills to be included or certain maintenance tasks to be carried out.

Bear in mind that if the property is in high demand, a landlord will be less likely to negotiate.

Don’t Rush Things

One of the most important tips for first time home renters is to take your time. In many cases, prospective tenants will be put into high-pressure situations that can make them feel they have to rush things.

But, even if the property is in demand, take your time. Renting your first flat or house is a big commitment.

  • View the rental property more than once
  • Take photos/videos
  • Visit with someone else
  • Look for damage
  • Do you feel safe in the property?

Ask Plenty of Questions

The more you know, the better. Ask your future landlord or letting agent as much as possible.

Some questions to ask when renting include:

  • What are the neighbours like?
  • Who is your first point of contact?
  • Can you redecorate?
  • How old is the boiler?
  • Are you responsible for the garden?
  • What’s the parking situation?

Check the Rental Inventory

Is everything there that should be?

You should also take photographic evidence when you move in to avoid the risk of unfair deposit deductions and disputes.

Make Sure your Deposit has Been Protected

You should receive evidence that your deposit has been registered, e.g. with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, within 30 days of the landlord getting it.

End of Tenancy

Will you be charged if you terminate the tenancy early? Make sure you know all the ins and outs.

You should also get clued up on the requirements when you move out, e.g. a professional clean.

How to Rent a House With No Proof of Income

This can be extremely difficult, as it can be hard to prove to a landlord you’d be able to keep up with rental payments.

But, it’s a situation some people find themselves in.

You might be asked to pay 6-months’ rent upfront, or get a guarantor.

Tips for How to Start Renting

It’s essential to be confident on the legal side of things; that everything is legitimate and you’ve been thorough. But, you also need to make sure this is somewhere you’d be happy to call home.

Build a Relationship With Your Landlord

Keep communication open and clear. A positive relationship with your landlord will make for a much happier tenancy.

Get clued up on your responsibilities, such as looking after the property. You should also make sure your landlord is keeping up with their side of the deal, for example ensuring it’s a safe place to live.

Make Bill Splitting Easy

Sharing with a group of friends? There are a number of ways to make splitting the bills easier and take the headache out of things, such as apps. Researching the best option for you is a good idea.

Switch Energy Bills

Remember, you have a legal right to choose your energy provider. This can also be a great chance to save money along the way.

Switch energy supplier for some extra cash in your pocket each month.

Switch Energy Supplier

Don’t Overpay for Internet

Likewise, why overspend on your internet.

Switch broadband supplier to find the best deal for you. 

Switch Broadband

Check out our renting podcast for more guidance every step of the way. It’s jam-packed with top tips from Phil Spencer himself!

Last Updated: October 13th, 2021