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A guide to renting – keeping costs down

people renting a house

By Yvonne Hignell, Care & Support Services Director

With ever increasing house prices, a record number of us are renting. As much as 22% of the UK rented from private landlords in 2015 (ResPublica), compared to only 9% back in 1985.

Renting can help you save money on the maintenance costs that come with owning a house and there are loads of other ways you can squirrel cash away for a rainy day.

Before you move in

When you’re looking to rent a place, work out how much money you have to play with and stick to your budget, no matter what. What are your current incomings and outgoings before you have to factor in bills and council tax? Be realistic about what you can afford. You may find our website’s budgeting tool useful.

It’s also a good idea to bear in mind letting agency fees. Find out exactly what they will charge you before you commit. If you’re offered any discounts, make sure you get these in writing.

You can also look at our ‘Keeping the Roof Over your Head’ brochure for more information on your rights as a tenant.

Keep your rent money separate

Open up a separate account just for your rent. Then set up a standing order so that your rent goes straight into this account untouched until rent day. There are accounts available to open for this reason. More information is available on www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk

Energy bills

Remember to check your meter readings when you move in and take a photo of them. This will help you avoid being charged for energy you haven’t used.

Check if your landlord will allow you to change energy providers. If they will then this is a good opportunity to shop around and find the best deals.

Savvy food shopping

Food is expensive. But, if you aren’t lucky enough to live down the road from a cheap supermarket, there are still ways you can save.

First off, stick to the golden rules of food shopping:

  • No supermarket express shops – their prices are extremely inflated.
  • Buy your food in bulk. Buying your food daily is a recipe for disaster, resulting in a fridge full of bits and pieces that not even the most resourceful cook could cobble into something both tasty and in-date.

Finally, if you live in a house share or are renting with a group of mates, a good strategy can be to do big online group shops. This means you share the cost of delivery, and you can even buy those ridiculous 10kg bags of rice!

House sharing

House sharing is a great way to save money on living costs – and you might even make some friends in the process. Whether you’re looking for a place to live or a lodger for your spare room, you can try Spareroom, Easyroommate, Housepals and Roombuddies.

Track and split bills

In a shared house, keeping track of bills and who owes what can be a nightmare. However, help is at hand from an app called Splittable. To get started, download the iOS or Android app, or create an account on the website. You can invite others to the account from your phone’s contacts.

All those with access can then add bills or expenses that they’ve either paid or are coming up (including due dates) – these might be utility bills, council tax or just home supplies. You can record one-off and regular payments, and it’ll also let you add attachments and comments for a particular expense.

Become a property guardian

If you work full-time, can up sticks at very short notice and have an adventurous streak, this may be the option for you! Building managers look for guardians to live in empty properties, so for a reduced rent you could find yourself shacked up in anything from a former school to a deserted mansion.

Be aware that guardians have fewer rights than tenants and you may need your own furniture.  It’s worth doing some research before considering this as an option. You can look at what’s available on sites such as Ad Hoc and Camelot.

Rent arrears

If you fall into arrears on your rent:

  • Always talk to landlord, housing association or council if you’re in trouble
  • Keep them up to date with the situation
  • Always open letters and return calls
  • Try to negotiate with them to find a practical solution

More advice about rent arrears and eviction can be found at www.shelter.org.uk and www.citizensadvice.org.uk

If you are worried about falling into arrears or losing your home, you can also ring our free, confidential helpline on 08081 311 333.

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