What first-time renters need to know

Updated on 16 July 2014

Here's what you need to know if you're renting for the first time.


If you're anything like me you'll set yourself a nice low figure for rent that ends up being wishful thinking, unless you want to live in a large, centrally-heated storage cupboard. So it's vital that you also know the actual rent you can pay.

What I mean is, if you get shown around a flat you really like and then the agent tells you it's £10 per week (£520 per year) more than you'd budgeted, you need to know whether you truly can afford it. Just a few pounds a week can throw your budget off.

Willpower, people! Be very firm with yourself. Have in your mind, before you start searching, the very most you could possibly pay within a sensible budget, and don't go a single pound over it. Otherwise, that attractive pine floor might make you do something impulsive and silly.*

Council Tax

Council Tax rates vary wildly from council to council. My own bill halved when I moved to a different area, despite the two properties being roughly the same value, in my estimate.

This local tax is divided into bands, usually A-H. Properties in band A have the lowest taxes and properties in H have the highest. The more expensive the property, the higher the band.

I reckon that, for most first-time renters, your Council Tax will be between bands A and D. In London and other expensive areas you should probably expect C or D.

Do your research to find out how much tax you might pay. You could do this by checking out the council's website for its rates.

While you're there, check to see if any discounts apply to you. One discount that's available, for example, is 25% off the full Council Tax bill if you live alone.

Estimating your future Council Tax in this way should help you budget but, before you make an offer to an agent or landlord, ask them how much the Council Tax is, in order to confirm your estimates.

Gas and electricity

This is another difficult thing to estimate, as prices vary by region and your bill is obviously affected by how much you use.

An average household pays around £1,200 for both gas and electricity each year. However, most first-time renters will probably use a hell of a lot less.

It helps to shop around for better deals once in a while.


Sadly, you can't shop around for your water supplier; you're stuck with whichever one does your area. The average unmetered water bill is around £380-£400 per year. For metered water (i.e. you pay for what you use) the average is lower, presumably as people on metered water try harder not to waste any.

Telephone and Internet

You can investigate the cost of telephone and Internet connections yourself. When doing this, use a postcode from the area you're moving to, so that you can be pretty sure you've got the right prices.

Compare phone and broadband prices via Broadbandchoices.co.uk

TV bills

A full package can cost £400 these days, I'm told, so luckily for me I don't have a TV!

You need a TV licence if you want to watch live TV, even online, at £145.50. You may feel you need all those extra channels and features that I've heard so much about. This is another expense that you can pin down to the last penny with some Internet research, so you should do so!

Household contents insurance

It's surprising how much the value of your possessions adds up, so most people should get this cover. You don't want to have to pay for a whole new wardrobe, and replacement DVDs, a TV, stereo, furniture and so on.

Furthermore, the legal cover you can get with contents insurance can be invaluable for renters.

You can't know how much your contents insurance will be until you get a quote based on the property you're moving into. However, you need a realistic estimate for your initial budget.

Personally I'd estimate at the higher end; firstly because premiums vary so dramatically, and secondly because many first-time renters will be in shared buildings or shared accommodation, which pushes the premiums up.

Once you know the post code of the property you're considering you can get a proper quote but, for your pre-search budget, make a pessimistic estimate.

Compare household contents insurance quotes

Car insurance

You'll have to tell your insurer of your new address and where your car will be parked. In all likelihood, this will change your premium, for better or worse. The insurer will probably also charge an administration fee for the change.

To help you budget before you start looking for properties, ask your insurer to quote based on the sort of area you're moving to. Give it an example postcode. However, if your property is on a more dangerous road or if your car will be parked in a less safe place, you might find your estimates are wrong.

Compare car insurance quotes


To cater for any inaccuracies in your initial budget, and to prepare for future problems, you must include a figure for emergencies. I know this can be easier said than done for first-timers, but it's vital, because small things happen all the time, and big things can happen at any time!

Other bills

Above are all the bills specific to your move from under your parents' wing to rented accommodation. Don't forget to add amounts for food, clothes, entertainment and treats too.

Things to save for

You'll need to save up before you move out, so that you can put down a deposit. Typically this is six-week's rent, so multiply your weekly rental figure by six and voila! That's how much you need.

It's also likely that you'll have to pay administration costs, i.e. fees to the estate agent for printing off a template contract (because pressing 'Ctrl+P Print' clearly requires a great deal of skill and training).

If you want unfurnished accommodation, which is often cheaper, you'll need to save up for furniture. You will also, most likely, need to buy your own kitchenware, vacuum cleaner and so on, whether or not the place is furnished. On the other hand, most places (in my experience) come with white goods: a fridge and a washing machine.


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