Annual rental growth has hit record highs this year, with the supply of available accommodation nowhere near enough to satisfy demand. While average rents overall rose by around 4.5% in the year to March, Zoopla’s last quarterly UK Market Report showed that prices for new lets saw an annual increase of just over 11%. In the last three years alone, average rents have risen by 20%, which means tenants are paying around £2,220 a year more for their accommodation that they were at the start of the pandemic.
Although inflation seems to be slowly falling, in May it was still up at 7.8% - meaning the cost of living crisis is still very real for many tenants, who are struggling to afford rising rents on top of food, transport and so on.
So, if you’re currently looking for a home to rent, here are five tips on securing something cost effective.
The first thing to say is that if a property seems like a bargain or is notably cheaper than other similar properties in the area, there’s probably a very good reason - and it may be worth double checking why it’s so cheap. There are rogues out there who prey on the most vulnerable tenants and operate scams, such as advertising a rental property that doesn’t exist and asking you to transfer a ‘holding deposit’ to reserve it without seeing the property or meeting anyone in person.
Before handing over any money or committing to a let, make some basic checks. If you’re dealing with an agent, bear in mind that the best ones will have membership of one of the self-regulating industry bodies, such as ARLA Propertymark (as we are) or RICS, and these logos will be displayed on their website. That means you can be confident they are professionally trained and work to a code of conduct.
If you’re dealing directly with a landlord, there are professional membership organisations they can join, the biggest of which is the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA). Landlords can become accredited, which demonstrates they’ve undergone initial and ongoing training and committed to best practice, and these landlords might display the NRLA accreditation scheme logo on their property adverts.
If they’re not a member of an association, they may still be a good landlord, but make sure you meet them in person at the property. Just as landlords reference tenants, you can ask them to confirm their ID with something like a photo driving licence, and these days a simple online search for a person can help put your mind at rest. Ensure they give you a formal assured shorthold tenancy agreement (AST in England) and be very wary if they ask you to make any payments in cash or via any means other than an electronic transfer to a UK bank.
Letting agents will often have a waiting list of tenants and you want to make sure you’re at or near the top of their mind when a property that’s good value comes up. Make the effort to visit them in person and be clear about your maximum budget. It’s also worth putting together some documents to reassure them that you would be a reliable tenant, e.g. get a personal reference from your current or previous landlord and have an employer’s reference that confirms your job and salary. Make sure you have a specific contact in each branch and stay in touch with them to remind them you’re still actively looking.
While the Renters (Reform) Bill that’s currently making its way through parliament proposes replacing ASTs with periodic tenancies, as it currently stands you can agree a longer fixed term. That means committing to staying in the property and paying rent for an extended period, and that might give you some negotiating power on the rent. A landlord may be prepared to accept a small reduction in the monthly amount in return for the security of a continuing let for, say, three years.
Everyone has a preferred location and type of property, but just expanding your search radius slightly could bring up more cost-effective options. For instance, rural properties are often cheaper, which could mean a lower monthly rent or simply that you can get more accommodation for your budget - as long as the location suits from a transport perspective. When you’re speaking to agents, emphasise that you’re prepared to be flexible for the right monthly rent.
Put student digs out of your mind, because these days there are some excellent room rental options and lots of house shares that only accept working professionals. For one monthly payment that includes your utility bills, services, a cleaner and a gardener, you can get a private en-suite bedroom and then benefit from the communal facilities of a large house. That makes it easy to budget and you could end up with some great company!
If you’d like to talk through your needs and see what rental options are available at the moment, our team in your local branch will be very happy to have a chat.
Looking for advice?
If you're looking to let or sell your property, we can help. Get in touch with your local branch or book in for a property valuation.