My husband, then boyfriend, and I rented our first home together when we were only 18 and looking back I realise what a huge responsibility it was choosing to run our own home instead of moving into the student accommodation and at 18 there is no surprise that we made a few mistakes along the way. So here are our 10 top tips for renting your first house.
1. Find out what is included in the rent
You need to calculate the running cost of the whole house, not just the rent. Sometime the rent will include certain bills or grounds keeping but if not you need to remember council tax, water, gas and electric as a minimum. Then consider whether you will need a TV licence, internet, sky, and then your additional, non house related outgoings such as running a car. These figures soon add up so make sure you shop around for the best broadband deals as even if the rent appears affordable you may find that if bills aren’t included it is too expensive.
2. Have a professional relationship with the landlord
At 18 we were so grateful to have found a house that we could afford with landlords that seemed friendly and helpful, especially as we were 100 miles away from our home. However getting on with our landlords so well meant that they would randomly turn up to check the house, read the meter etc which really isn’t ideal. You want to have a polite and professional relationship with the landlord or use an agency because all though the house may be theirs it’s your home and they should make an appointment.
3. Find out what, if any changes can be made to the house.
It is important that you know what changes you can make to the house before you do any. For example some landlords will allow you to hang pictures, put up shelves and redecorate if you want too, where as others will not allow you to do any of these and if you do they may not refund the whole deposit.
4. Find out what the notice period is
This works both ways, make sure you are clear on how much notice you need to give the landlord before you leave the house but also how much notice they need to give you before they ask you to leave. Although you may be excited about getting your own home and have no plans to leave at the moment, it is vital that you are aware of how the process should work if the situation changes for either you or them. The last thing you need is to find you have to pay rent on a property you can no longer live in or find you only have 4 weeks to move out and find somewhere new.
5. Always read the meters
This is a mistake we made. Always read the gas and electric meters yourself, take a picture of them and report these numbers to your providers as soon as possible. Do not assume that the landlord has taken accurate readings even if they say they have. Inaccurate readings can result in expensive bills so check those meters yourself.
6. Ask for a forwarding address of previous tenants
Although everyone should put a redirection in place for their post not everyone does and you may find that you still receive post for them. At 18 we didn’t question this, we just let the post stack up and then handed it to the landlord (he was the previous tenant) on one of his many visits. It is better to be able to return the post to the post office of have a forwarding address just for the first couple of weeks whilst they sort things out, otherwise you may have previous tenants knocking on the door.
7. Organise your own forwarding address
As above if you want to keep receiving your own post you need to go to the post office and pay for a redirection service for a couple of months. This will mean that all post addressed to you at your previous address will now come to your new address.
8. Update all details
Although the redirection will help it is only a short term solution. Once you have moved into your new house you must make sure you let everyone know. This includes work, banks, hospitals and anyone else that may need to contact you.
9. Change your driving licence
This is free and relatively quick procedure that can be done online but is worth doing. You can face a fine if your driving licence holds the wrong address, especially if you have lived at the new address for a long time.
10. Have the correct home insurance
As a tenant you are required to have contents insurance as the landlord should have the buildings insurance but it is vital that you know what you require and what is covered should there be an accident. Again do not assume your landlord has everything insured, your belongings are your responsibility. Companies such as HomeLet can provide specialist tenant insurance
(This article was written in collaboration with HomeLet, all opinions and tips are my own.)