Whether it’s your first time renting and you’re looking for some advice or you’ve been renting for a short while but have some questions, you’re in the right place. I’ve been renting since I was 17, have had more than 7 addresses and I can assure you that I’ve seen it all! Let’s face it, none of us want to pay someone else’s mortgage or fight our flatmates over a loaf of bread, but sadly most of the time we don’t have a choice. Thankfully for you, over the years, I’ve learned useful tips that helped me improve my renting experience and I’m going to share them with you.
Don’t share with more than 3 people
Although this depends on how big the property is, in my experience sharing with more than three other people is never ideal. You’ll end up having to wait to use the kitchen and/or even the bathroom depending on how many bathrooms there are. It can even lead to conflicts and create a hostile environment, and feeling uncomfortable in your own home is the worst feeling ever. Thus why it’s important to minimise the number of people you’re sharing with. This also applies if you’re sharing with friends or people you get along with; I’ve heard countless stories of friends moving into a new place together and ruining their friendship.
There is always better for cheaper
It’s really important to not overspend on rent, don’t forget that you’re basically paying someone else’s mortgage. If you don’t like your current room, instead of thinking about settling for more expensive accommodation, try to check listing websites regularly for new available rooms. In many cases, you’ll find something nicer for less than what you’re paying now. Don’t settle for worse, keep looking!
You need to be fast to secure a room
If you see a room you’re interested in, you have to be ultra-fast to secure it, make sure to get in touch with the landlord or agency as soon as possible since rooms get taken very quickly. Be prepared to pay a month’s worth of rent upfront and the security deposit quickly. When calling or messaging the landlord or agency, be straightforward, tell them about yourself, that you’re ready to view the property on the same day or week, and that you can provide a reference if required. If you like the room and are fast enough you might even be able to sign a lease within a few days.
Avoid London if you can
Definitely avoid renting in the capital if you can. The prices have brutally gone up recently and you get much less space and quality for what you pay. Not only that but if you’re not used to living in a huge city you’ll find it loud, busy and exhausting. Rooms between zone 2 and 3 are currently averaging £875pcm, in addition, people spend £122 on public transport in London on average every month. So combining rent and public transport alone, you can expect to spend almost £1000, this is 50% of your take-home pay if you make £30,000. If you really have to stay in London, try to avoid zone 1 and 2 and dedicate some time to flat hunting every day, you could find a good room for less than 700. Invest in a bicycle to save money on traveling, and remember to cook your own food as much as you can.
Protect your deposit
Most landlords will ask for a deposit to secure the room. Even if you believe you’ve found the perfect room, you must make sure to view the room and make sure that you are happy with it before paying the deposit, otherwise, you could completely lose it or end up living somewhere you hate. Most importantly, before doing anything, make sure that the deposit will be protected under the DPS scheme, otherwise, you’re very likely to lose all your deposit or a good part of it. Once you’ve signed your lease, take pictures of the room and send them to your landlord via email, as written proof could be used as evidence in case there is a dispute. Some landlords may try to charge you for something you have nothing to do with.
Be a nice housemate
Turns out that most people are decent human beings, and that they want to avoid confrontation. After years of flat sharing, I’ve learned that the best way to get along with my housemates was just to be nice to them. It’s about doing small things that make everyone’s life easier and by doing so people will also feel like doing something in return. For example, in a previous houseshare, I started cleaning the kitchen occasionally and my housemates appreciated it so much that they did the same, they cleaned after themselves, took out the bins and cleaned the bathroom, etc. It’s much easier to work together if you’re nice and polite than if you try to be confrontational. Also asking your housemates about their day or if they need anything from the shop from time to time will be very much appreciated. Ultimately, creating a positive atmosphere will help you feel more comfortable at home.
Given the current housing crisis, renting and sharing can be frustrating for many people. Most of us want to get on the housing ladder to finally get our own space and stop wasting money on rent. However, you can significantly improve your experience if you’re careful with how you choose a property. For example, I got a huge room in London – zone 2 in a nice flat a few years ago for just £600, I thought I had got the best deal ever but it was right by a bus stop on a main road; I didn’t get any sleep during that period! Hence, it’s important to spend a lot of time and effort looking for accommodation, especially in bigger cities where the demand is high. Finally, make sure you’re not overspending on rent and be a decent housemate!