Before you begin the process of finding a suitable flat or house to rent, give as much consideration to your requirements as you would if you were buying.
It’s important to think about your requirements before you start your property search. Be clear about where you want to live, the kind of property you are looking for, what amenities you need to be close to and the budget you have available.
Houses and flats to rent are generally on and off the market more quickly than properties for sale, so you'll need to move quickly and be ready to pounce when the right property arrives on the market.
List your requirements
- Flat, house, studio, room
- Length of tenancy period
- Furnished or unfurnished
- Number of bedrooms, bathrooms, reception rooms
- Off-street parking
Set a budget
Draw up a manageable budget and stick to it. Letting agents market rental properties either by stating the weekly rental price or the monthly rental price. Be aware that a £400 a week rental price does not mean a cost of £1,600 a month. Multiply the weekly rent by 4.33 to get your monthly rental costs. Try not to be tempted (or let your agent tempt you) into looking at properties beyond what you can comfortably afford.
Search for property to rent on PrimeLocation now and look at the local prices, both to make sure that your budget is sensible and to get an understanding of what your budget is likely to achieve in the current market.
In addition to your rental costs, you'll also need to budget for other related expenses. These might include:
- Your own house contents insurance: you will need to arrange this yourself for all your personal belongings inside the property
- Council tax: the tenant is often responsible for paying this, so ask for an estimated cost from the agent or landlord
- Utility bills: you will be expected to take on most of these bills (sometimes water bills are paid by the landlord) from the day you move in
- Service charges: if the property is in a block of flats or is a serviced apartment, there may be a service charge to pay, so clarify with your agent or landlord whether it's included in the rent or an additional charge
- Deposit: typically the value of a month's rent
- Removal costs: budget for the cost of hiring a removal company
Decide on the location
There are plenty of factors to consider when thinking about the location of a property. It is important that you prioritise what's most important to you in terms of location before starting the search, as this will save time in the long run.
For example, how important are the local amenities to you, the commute distance to work, accessibility to restaurants and bars, access to public transport, closeness to friends or relatives, crime rates and neighbours?
All of these things will vary in importance, but it pays to prioritise them, and any other factors that may be relevant, to help you determine your ideal location and to make your search as efficient as possible.
Other rental considerations
One of the advantages of renting a house or flat is the variety of options available on the market. But much will depend on your personal circumstances and your life stage. You might want to consider:
- A house or flat with a sole tenancy: a person or family are the only tenants in the property
- A house or flatshare: a person or couple may rent a room in a property also occupied by other tenants, or a group of friends may share occupancy and split the rent between them
- Studio flats: usually a single room containing bathroom, kitchen and bed
- Lodging: renting a room from a private property owner who also resides in the property
- Purpose-built rental accommodation: homes with communal areas, such as a concierge desk or onsite gym.
Many rental properties will be listed as being furnished or unfurnished, while in some cases the landlord may be flexible about letting you decide which option you prefer. While a furnished property may take away the hassle of having to buy lots of new furniture, damaging the existing landlord's furniture or fittings may increase the risk of your deposit being swallowed up.
Search for property to rent
Once you have a firm idea of what you're looking for and where, it's time to start searching for the right rental property. These days, searching for rental properties has never been easier and there are plenty of ways to track down the one for you.
A property portal, such as PrimeLocation, is the best place to search thousands of properties all over the country and abroad. In fact, according to research by PrimeLocation, property hunters rate the internet as their preferred and most used source for finding property.
There are many pros of renting a house or flat by searching online, including:
- Convenience: search among the properties of thousands of agents, all in one place
- Effective search: list and filter properties by price, number of bedrooms, location, or by keywords
- Access photos and floorplans: get detailed information on each individual property
- Get free email alerts: register with PrimeLocation and receive alerts about suitable properties to rent as soon as they come to market
- Manage saved properties: save and manage relevant properties to rent that you find on the site in your own 'myPrimeLocation' dedicated area, exclusive to you
- Find letting agents with the best properties: search for letting agents in your area now
Other ways of searching
In addition to the Internet, there are a number of other ways you can search for property. These might include:
- Local newspapers and classified sections: a useful source for finding properties, but be aware that by the time many papers are printed, some properties may already have been let
- Letting agents: walk into your local estate agent offices and ask for details of relevant houses and flats which you can look through at your leisure. It's a good indicator of whether the agent has a decent number of properties to rent that match your criteria on their books
- 'To Let' boards in your area: drive around your designated areas and have a look at any 'To Let' boards that are up and make a note of which agents they are with
- Property search agents: you can always hire a firm to find relevant properties to rent for you, arrange viewings and give advice on securing your property for you.
- Make sure the agents you deal with are members of Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) as they have a code of practice all agents must adhere to
- It pays to contact as many letting agents as you can find in your local area to give you the best chance of finding properties to rent
- Keep in touch with agents regularly by telephone, as rental properties tend to come and go quite quickly, particularly in a fast-moving market - persistence pays
Be aware, once you've found a rental property, letting agents will charge you a fee to handle administrative work, such as checking references. These administrative costs can range from £25 to £150 or more, depending on the agent, the property and the location. In addition, they may also ask for a holding deposit of £50 to £200 or more to secure the property for you, and will subsequently deduct it from your first month's rent. Try and establish these costs with the agents in advance of your search as they may vary.
Before you begin the task of viewing a property, make sure you clarify with the agent that the house or flat meets your requirements so you don't waste any time. While you're viewing an unsuitable property, you may be missing out on the one that's right for you.
Take a look at our rental property viewing checklist for everything you need to know about what to look out for in a rental property and questions to ask the agent or landlord.
Making a complaint
Very occasionally, things can go wrong. First of all, lodge a complaint in writing with your landlord or agent, and keep copies of any letters or photos you send, as evidence of your efforts.
If you don’t get a response to your first complaint in a satisfactory and timely manner, make another complaint by certified mail.
If you still fail to get satisfactory or timely response, it’s time to go to the official bodies. You can complain to the Housing Ombudsman if you’re a council or housing association tenant.
Alternatively, you can approach one of the two government-approved redress schemes that agents must join: The Property Ombudsman (TPO) and The Property Redress Scheme. You can also seek further advice from Shelter and Citizens Advice.