The best rental homes can disappear in a flash in some busy city markets. Here’s how to get to the front of the tenant queue and stay there.
1. Have the upfront cash you need
Since landlords and letting agents were banned from charging upfront fees to tenants back in June, the requirement for upfront cash is not as taxing as it used to be.
But you will still need up to five weeks' rent to lay down as a desposit (and up to six weeks' in the most unlikely event the property is on the market for more than £50,000 a year).
In very busy markets, you could also be charged a holding deposit of up to a further week's rent, although this must be refunded within 14 days.
Money talks so, before you start, make sure you have this cash in the bank ready to go.
2. Know your notice period on your current property
If you are renting your current home, dig out the contract and check what it says about ending the tenancy.
If you’ve been at the property for less than 12 months and there is no break clause, it may be too early to leave.
Even if you are out of contract, you’ll probably have to give a full month’s notice.
Make sure you know where you stand so you can avoid costly surprises further down the line.
3. Get the documents you need in your hand
As a prospective renter, you’re going to need some documentation that confirms you are who you say you are – so locate some original photo ID such as a passport, birth certificate or driving licence.
And ,unless the Government wins its appeal against a High Court judgement that it's a breach of human rights, you'll still need need to prove you have a legal Right to Rent in the UK too. This means having an in-date passport to hand.
At the same time, dig out a utility bill and bank statement (dated from the last three months) as well as a letter from your employer confirming your job role and salary.
Get this essential paperwork together now rather than waiting until you are asked for it.
4. Check your own credit score
Letting agents and landlords not only want to ensure that you can afford the rent – using a yardstick of around a third of your annual income – but that you will be reliable in paying it.
To do this they will run a credit check on you – and the best way to know what they will find is to run it yourself first.
Your credit score is created from information held within your credit report, which you can access cheaply via a credit-reference agency, such as Equifax or Experian.
If you find you have a poor credit rating, there are some immediate measures you can take to start improving it. For example, getting on the electoral roll, correcting any errors via a Notice of Correction and closing down any unused accounts.
5. Give your references the heads up
To manage expectations and avoid delays on references, warn your employer and any other references you've submitted, to expect a call from the letting agent.
6. Don’t stop searching
Many renters spend every minute of their downtime – lunch breaks and commutes – as well as time during the working day, looking for rental property, according to some of our customer insight.
And especially in some cities, like London, if you snooze you lose.
Downloading the Zoopla app on your phone will enable you to search on the go.
7. Sign up for property alerts
Once you've input and saved your rental property search criteria, sign up to receive property alerts from Zoopla.
This means that when a home that fit the bill lands fresh on the rental market, you'll be notified immediately on your phone.
8. Take time off work
Many prospective renters are forced to organise rental property viewings after work at, say, 6pm. So beat them to it by taking a couple of days off work and visiting properties during the day.
If you like what you see and you’ve viewed enough to know, don’t be scared to put in an offer there and then.
And if the property is not right, use the opportunity to forge a relationship with the letting agent. They may keep you front of mind if a suitable property comes up for rent before they’ve even advertised it.