A tenant's checklist before renting a home

It is easy to get flustered when you are renting a house or apartment for the first time, or even if you have previously gone through the procedure. The important thing is to keep a cool head and to make a checklist for all that you have to keep in mind when you go to complete things with your soon-to-be landlord. Rentila helps in getting you all kinds of property. Whether you are looking for an apartment, office space or house, Rentila is here to help!

Check the area

So you’ve just landed your first job after Uni, and it means that suddenly you’re in a new city. Being new to a city brings its own challenges, so you need to consider what’s important to you. A first job doesn’t always bring a huge salary, so you may or may not be using a car to travel to work. If not, then you must rent somewhere that has GREAT public transport links. A new job is stressful enough without finding out you must take three buses and a train to get to the office.

It’s also very easy to get swayed by cheaper rentals – but they are likely less expensive for a reason. Asking a landlord if the area is safe, is unlikely to get you an unbiased answer. If it looks dodgy, then trust your instinct. Properties on the outskirts of a city have the benefit of being close to the city centre and your workplace. However, if you’re going to come home to find that your home has been burgled, then the short commute will seem like a sparse benefit.

Don’t take a prospective landlord’s word for whether an area is safe. The surefire way to know if and how safe an area is to speak to insurers. Put prospective post codes into an insurance website, and you’ll soon find out how safe an area is. It may surprise you that some insurers flat out refuse to insure the contents in some areas due to terrible crime hotspots. Many landlords are happy to buy cheap property to rent in areas they would never allow their family to live in. Don’t be fooled and check out new areas this way.


Before taking on the lease, make sure you understand what is included in the contract. Some landlords rent out properties that have everything included from bedding to cutlery, and they will also include bills in the rental amount, including wifi. It’s a little like still being a student. If you prefer a deal like this, then you are likely to find many one-bedroomed apartments that are just what you’re looking for.

However, mostly, you’ll be expected to pay bills. And that includes council tax! Expect to pay around £100 – £150 per month. You must consider this amount, and water, gas and electricity, TV license, renter’s insurance, and your phone/wifi/cable bills. It can add up to quite a significant amount, so make sure you work out what you can afford before taking on a property. Your landlord is required to provide you with an Energy Performance Certificate, which gives you an indicator of how efficient the property is.

Renter’s Insurance

If you have laptops and other expensive items, you need to know you can’t claim for the damage or loss of these items on your landlord’s insurance. You’ll need a separate policy. And it’s also worth asking your would-be landlord what is covered on his or her policy without sounding like you make a habit of making insurance claims. You can then take out additional cover for wherever the landlord’s insurance falls shorts.

A key insurance claim would be if there were damage to the property, and you needed to move out. The UK is notorious for sustaining heavy flood damage in some areas. If this were to happen, your landlord has no legal responsibility to rehouse you for any period, while the downstairs of the property is three feet high in floodwater. Your landlord can’t charge you rent while you cannot live in the property, but you would need to pay for your accommodation elsewhere. So cover yourself for this eventuality, if your landlord won’t be covering it for you.

Good to know

You can find out how much you will have to pay by using this council tax calculator.

Keep Safe

As you look around the property, make sure it has smoke alarms and that they work. Your landlord should have installed them on every floor, and there should be carbon monoxide detectors where fuel is being burned. If the property has gas, then also ask to see the gas safety certificate. These are mandatory, and must be updated annually, so you will need to give the landlord access to the property when the certificate requires updating.

Repairs and breakdowns

Make sure you know who to contact if there is a problem with the property, whether it’s the landlord directly or a letting agent. If there is damage to the property, for example, a burst pipe, it’s your responsibility to let the landlord know, so they can inspect the property and take the appropriate course of action. You may think you have it all under control, but the property is your landlord’s investment, and there may be structural damage behind the scenes.


If you rent a home with a garden, check with your landlord about the upkeep. If you’re expected to keep the garden maintained, first, consider, do you want to, and do you have the tools? If you don’t mind a spot of gardening, then great, but check that your landlord has left you some tools, including a lawnmower.

And don’t forget that lawns grow quickly in the summer. You must keep a weekly check on the lawn to prevent it from getting overgrown. If you don’t want to or don’t have the time, then it’s best to look for a home with lower maintenance. Or it might be the landlord is happy to do the maintenance for you. But check otherwise, you will end up with an overgrown garden that’s not only an embarrassment but a dent out of your security deposit when you leave.


Before you move in, check out the home, and for your own peace of mind, take high-quality dated photographs of the property. If the furniture is already a little shabby, then you don’t want to be held responsible for it looking shabby later on. You should have all the fixtures and fittings detailed on your tenancy contract, and the landlord cannot bill you for reasonable wear and tear. If the microwave is old, for example, taking photographic evidence means you can’t reasonably be billed for when it finally stops working. That being said, if everything is new, then trying to take care of all the contents is the best way you can get your security deposit back.

The Contract

Make sure you have a tenancy agreement that is clear, and you read through it thoroughly. Most contracts are for a year, but some are for six months. The lease is usually binding, meaning you are responsible for paying rent for that amount of time, so make sure you can commit to that timeframe before you may want to move on. Check that all the fixtures and fittings are detailed accurately, and you know what is expected of you in terms of maintenance. If you are renting a property as a group of young professionals or students, then you could ask your landlord for a room-only contract, which will give you less responsibility should there be an issue with another tenant.


Usually, the landlord expects that you pay for your first month’s rent, and also pay a security deposit equal to another month’s rent. Gone are the days when your deposit was just taken by unscrupulous landlords that you stood little to no chance of ever getting back. Once you have handed over your deposit, it’s up to you to treat the property well, pay your bills, and then after the 6 to 12-month rental period is up and you move on, you can quickly get your deposit back.

After you have handed over your deposit, expect to hear details from your landlord within 30 days to find out which government-backed scheme your deposit is being safely held. If you don’t hear back in 30 days, you can and should take action against your landlord.

Good to know

If your landlord does not give you details of your security deposit in 30 days, then first contact the deposit protection scheme to see if your deposit has been registered with them. If not, contact the local county court to start proceedings against your landlord. The court will order the landlord to repay between one and three times the deposit amount.

If you follow this checklist, then you should be able to rent a safe property you can afford. It will help you avoid any potential pitfalls associated with renting. You can also sign up with Rentila free as a tenant giving you access to agreements, receipts, and reminders.

Tenant’s Checklist: Important things to remember

  • Check the area for safety by receiving possible insurance premiums.
  • Check out public transport links if you rely on them.
  • Take out renters insurance to protect your contents from loss, theft or damage.
  • Check there is a valid gas safety certificate.
  • Check there are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the property.
  • Your landlord has 30 days to provide you with details of where your security deposit is being held.
  • Take a clear inventory of the property when you move in to help protect your security deposit.
  • Read the contract and stick to the terms and responsibilities in the agreement to protect your security deposit.
  • Make sure you have a contact number to call and report any damage to the landlord in good time.
  • Check with the landlord if he or she is covered for rehousing costs. If not, take out additional renter’s insurance to cover this cost.

Download free tenancy agreements

When you sign up with Rentila, we provide tenancy agreements as part of the deal. To join the Rentila community and grab a tenancy agreement, head to our sign-up page.

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