Ask Citizens Advice: Tips and advice on renting a home for the first time

Date published: 07 July 2024

Citizens Advice Rochdale is a local charity that provides free, independent, impartial, confidential advice to people in Rochdale.

The Citizens Advice brand is steeped in over 80 years of history and is one of the most recognised brands in the country, supporting millions of people each year across England and Wales.

Each month, we share advice around a key issue that we’re seeing across Rochdale.

Moving house

I’ve got to move house and will be renting somewhere on my own for the first time. It’s exciting but there’s so much to think about and I’m worried things could go wrong. Do you have any tips or advice on what I should do when looking for a new home?

Whether you’re renting on your own or with other people, one of the first decisions to make is whether you want to rent directly from a landlord or through a letting agent.

Renting directly from a landlord might mean you have less to pay before moving in, fewer references and you might not need to do a credit check. Alternatively, renting through a letting agent means that if they manage the property they’ll liaise with the landlord about any repairs that need doing on your behalf. However, if a letting agent behaves badly and you believe they’re at fault you can complain to their independent complaints body, known as ‘redress scheme’.

There are lots of websites you can use to find somewhere to rent but if you can’t look online, you could visit a local estate agent or ask friends and family to help you. When you’re looking, remember, never pay any money before you’ve seen the property and if you can, take someone with you when viewing properties.

Avoid renting directly from an existing tenant, this is called ‘subletting’ and the tenant might not have the landlord’s permission to rent to you, which could cause problems down the line. If a tenant is showing you around the property on behalf of the landlord they should give you the landlord's contact details.

To make sure the property you're going to rent is safe, affordable and meets your needs, ask the landlord or letting agent some key questions. For example, how much rent is and how it should be paid, if the rent includes any bills, how long the tenancy is, if there’s the opportunity to renew and if there’s a break clause in case you need to end the tenancy early.

Check if you’ll need to pay a holding deposit while the landlord carries out pre-tenancy checks, this can’t be more than a week’s rent and should be returned to you at the start of the tenancy. You should also ask your landlord or letting agent what documents you'll need to provide when you agree to rent the property including evidence of your Right to Rent.

Before you go ahead, ask how your tenancy deposit will be protected, if any furniture or appliances are included in the tenancy and, if relevant, whether you can have pets. You should also request any obvious problems with the property are fixed before you move in.

If a landlord refuses to rent to you because of who you are, this may be discrimination. For instance because of your race, religion or sexual orientation. A 'no kids policy' or refusing to rent to you because you get benefits could also be discrimination. You only need to tell a landlord or letting agent you receive benefits if they ask. Some may then require a guarantor as security if you have no renting history, or if they feel you may have trouble paying rent. They can still refuse to rent to you if they think you won’t be able to afford it.

Remember, if you need any other pointers or advice on renting or you run into any problems, there is more information on the Citizens Advice web site or you can contact Citizens Advice for help.

Citizens Advice Rochdale is here to give people the knowledge and the confidence they need to find their way forward - whoever they are, and whatever their problem.

For more information visit our web site or contact our team by phone, WhatsApp or face to face. Freephone: 0808 278 7803

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