How to rent guide: Help for first time renters & experienced tenants looking for a rental property

The rental market is extremely fast paced and it’s estimated ¼ of us will rent from private landlords by 2021. Coupled with the decline in mortgages being awarded, it’s easy to understand why competition for finding the best rental property is increasing. Fear not, by following our tips you can stay one step ahead of everyone else and secure your new home before they’ve even seen the listing.

The best practice when looking for your new rental property

By incorporating these pointers into your property search you’re ultimately increasing the number of properties you’ll find - meaning you’re much more likely to find your next home.

Rental websites and property finders

Gone is the age of visiting multiple estate agencies in your area. Whilst it can still be beneficial to contact agencies personally and monitor their company website, the majority of properties will be listed on property search websites.

Top tip: Estate agencies often leave let agreed properties on property finder websites. Be sure to arrange your view by ‘newly listed’ to avoid time wasting and frustration!

Here’s our 9 favourite rental websites


All property and rental types.


All property and rental types.


You’ll find a combination of properties listed by estate agencies and private landlords.

Open rent

Private landlords looking for reliable renters.

Facebook groups

There’s a wide range of private landlords, renters looking to fill a room and property owners needing a lodger.

Tip: Join groups specific to your area with search terms such as ‘Properties to rent London’.

Prime location

Private landlords looking for reliable renters.


Property house shares.


Spare rooms in properties.

Whether you’re looking to rent a house, flat, bungalow, apartment or home share, this will aid your property search

If you’re searching the various websites in the evening after work, or maybe just on weekends and you’ve found properties are being unlisted before you can even arrange a viewing, here’s what to do.

Property alerts

By setting up property alerts you can save your online search preferences. Not only will this save you from having to manually enter them across each website, but you’ll also be notified when new properties matching your criteria are listed.

Discuss the move-in date

You’ll find that some properties are put online and available immediately, but more often there is around a 2 week - 1 month difference between the listed date and move in date. This is to ensure the property manager has enough time to make repairs and handle any grievances. It’s always worth asking if the date can be moved. Don’t be put off if you need a property 2 days before the stated move in date, this is often a guideline and property managers would much rather secure the property than reject you.

Choosing your rental agency

Depending on your circumstance, this may be a luxury. Realistically you’re faced with the following two scenarios:

  1. View all properties that match your preferences regardless of the agency and risk dealing with a badly reviewed company.
  2. Only enquire with companies that boast a positive reputation, but in doing so restrict the properties available to you.

This decision is ultimately down to you, but bear in mind that no matter what agency you take a contract with, they all hold the same legal responsibilities towards you as a tenant.

Your property finder won’t tell you this, but it should be considered when looking for a rented property

There are certain questions that rental search sites won’t be able to answer. When you’re spending a lot of your time finding somewhere to live, you’ll often forget to think about these:

  1. Can your current broadband provider offer your existing services at your new location?
  2. How busy is the on-street parking and where are the nearest residential roads?
  3. Are you going to be affected by populated areas such as schools? This may affect the time taken and route to work.
  4. Is there suitable and safe bike storage? How is it accessed and allocated?
  5. Is your off-road parking guaranteed, allocated or first come first served?

You’ll be able to find out this information by asking the property manager, but bear in mind that they’re trying to secure a sale. It may be worthwhile to look into the above yourself.

Found somewhere to rent? Your guide to moving in

Once you’ve found a rental property and agency/landlord you’re ready to commit to, you’ll need to start actioning the following:

Your contract

Take time to read and understand your tenancy agreement to help guide your expectations and requirements as a tenant. For example, if you’re expected to professionally clean the property at the end of your tenancy, ensure that you receive it in the same way.

Meter readings

To save yourself future hassle, submit energy readings from your past and new property to ensure you’re only being billed for what you’ve used!

First point of contact

It may be a private landlord, estate agent or public body. Knowing who to contact when a problem or change arises is important. You’ll often find that your tenancy agreement requires you to report faults immediately, so having this information on hand is vital.

Deposit protection

Your property manager is legally required to protect your deposit. If you have not received confirmation of this, raise the issue immediately.

Moving your possessions

Rather than making 6 car trips, why not look into paying a van owner to help you move? You can save costs, support local residents and avoid a lot of hassle for a small fee. (Gumtree is a great way to find such people!).

Mail redirection

The importance of redirecting and forwarding mail is often overlooked. It’s essential that you have access to all your mail correspondence and equally as important that strangers aren’t accessing anything confidential.

Complete this renters checklist once you’ve moved in

  1. Purchase contents cover for your belongings.
  2. Update your council tax information.
  3. Move/purchase your TV licence.
  4. Compare your energy providers to see if you could make a saving.
  5. Check the inventory and take photos of any discrepancies.
  6. Test the fire/smoke alarms.
  7. Find the stopcock in case of emergencies.
  8. Report any required property maintenance immediately.
  9. Arrange direct debit payments for your rent.
  10. Move your monthly billing dates to match your monthly pay date.
  11. Calculate your monthly budget and start saving towards your own property!

Leaving your rental property? Preparing this for your next home search will make you an expert renter in no time

So, you’re a master property searcher and move-in master, but what on earth needs to be done when you’re moving out? We’ve covered that too.

Revisit your contract

Your contract will state any work you’re obliged to take before leaving the property. Usually, it’s expected that you professionally clean the entire property.

Make any repairs yourself

If you’ve altered the state of the property in any way, such as inserting screws into walls, it’ll be much cheaper to undertake these repairs yourself. Failure to do so will result in premium fees that will eat into that deposit of yours!

Your deposit

Ensure that you attend the final inspection to cover any issues raised by the property manager. Be firm and only accept an agreement you feel truly represents the state of the property. (This is why it’s important to check the inventory and take your own photos when moving in). If you’re worried about a dispute, Citizens Advice is a great resource for tenants looking for help.

Cancel direct debits

Unfortunately, it’s much quicker and easier to pay money in than it is for organisations to return it. Ensure that your direct debit has been cancelled after your final billing date.

Provide final meter readings

To avoid future headaches, provide a meter reading and inform your provider that you’re vacating the property.

Clear through your belongings

Now is a better time than ever to sort through the ‘I might need this in the future’ pile. Offloading unnecessary goods will save you time and money, and you might be able to help someone else out in the process. If you’re looking to offload goods quickly, Gumtree and Freecycle are a great platform to do so.

Find out how our Virtual Mailing Addresses can help you

Preparing yourself for future rentals

UK residents will move into around 7 different homes in their lifetime, and this figure is only expected to increase. Unfortunately, there’s many parts of the process that can’t be simplified, but it wouldn’t be much of a how to rent guide if we didn’t offer up a single solution...

Virtual mailing address

A change in address means that there’s a lot of companies that hold out of date information on you. Here’s why that’s a problem:

  1. You may lose mail that was posted before you update your information.
  2. You forget to tell every company that holds your old address that you’re moving.
  3. Your personal mail makes it into the hands of a stranger, leaving your privacy vulnerable.
  4. You won’t be able to act on any urgent mail.
  5. Setting up multiple mail redirects is expensive.

UK Postbox have come up with a solution to help renters with this issue, helping you to keep your privacy and reduce admin over your lifetime. We’re not looking to tie you into a contract that you’d only use when moving house, so we even offer pay as you go services.

Through us, we allocate you with a virtual mailing address that you can use to receive your mail, regardless of your physical address. This removes the need to contact the mass of companies that would otherwise hold out of date contact information. You also get access to our mail management app that allows you to read and action all of your received mail online, from any of your devices. Sound useful but want to know more? Here’s everything you need to know about UK PO Box addresses.

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Donna Chester