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7 ways to beat the competition and win the race to rent a home

Whether it’s your first time renting or you’re moving to a new place, here's how to boost your chances of getting the rental property you really want.

Words by: Ellie Isaac

Senior Editor

1. Set up alerts to be the first to know about new rental homes

If it seems like you’ve already seen everything that’s on the market, set up an alert for your search to be the first to hear about new rentals that suit you.

You can choose to get your email alerts as soon as a home comes up for rent, or go for daily or weekly emails - it’s totally up to you.

If you’re the first to hear about it, you can be the first to view it. And that gives you a way better chance of being the one who rents it.

Register to set up alerts

2. Try a travel time search

You’re probably already searching high and wide for the perfect rental home, but a travel time search can help you find properties you might not have considered.

A home that looks too far away might have a quicker travel time than you thought. It could open your search up to more homes, cheaper areas or slower-paced rental markets.

Search for a rental by travel time

3. Sort your finances

Having the money side of things in order can get you ahead. It’ll look good to the letting agent and help you move faster to secure a rental property.

Make sure you know how much money you’ll need to put down at the start: you'll always need a deposit and to pay some rent upfront, and a holding deposit might be required too.


The deposit can only be up to five weeks’ rent, unless your rent will be more than £50,000 a year.

The landlord or agent has to put your deposit in a government protection scheme and provide you with written details.

Deposit protection scheme guide

You’ll get your deposit back when you move out but the landlord can use it to pay for any damage. They can also keep some of it if you haven’t paid all your rent.

Upfront rent

You usually need to pay one month's rent upfront but check your rental agreement. Some landlords may charge more, especially if you have a low credit score or poor references.

Holding deposit

A holding deposit - usually one week's rent - secures the rental home for you while the letting agent checks your references. Once you’ve paid it, they can’t let the property to anyone else.

When you reach agreement to move in, the holding deposit should be given back to you or taken off the rest of the money you pay.

Make sure your money’s safe

There are some golden rules for keeping your money safe when renting a new home.

To stay safe, you should:

  • view the property before making any payment

  • get the landlord and letting agent’s contact details in writing (they can’t refuse to give these to you)

  • don't pay anything in cash

  • get receipts and written confirmation of the deposit protection scheme once paid.

The complete guide to rental costs

4. Have your paperwork ready to go

You’ll usually need references from your employer, a previous landlord and your bank.

Give them a heads up that you’ll need references from them, either by phone or a written reference. If they’re ready for it, there’s less of a chance of any delays.

You’ll also need to provide ID. You can use your driver’s licence or passport, or you might be asked for both. Make sure you have a recent bank statements and utility bill from your current address ready as well.

If you’re renting with other people, make sure they’ve got all these things sorted out too.

What reference checks do landlords do?

5. Be available to view rentals at the drop of a hat

Lots of people can only view rental homes in the evening or at the weekend. So if you can view properties during normal working hours, you could get ahead.

If you’re renting with a partner or friends, see if you can work out a rota for viewings. That will mean at least one of you can view the home as soon as it pops up.

It might be that you could do daytime viewings at the start of the week and your partner could do them at the end of the week. Or you can divide and conquer and each view different properties on the same day.

All tenants should view the property before you make a decision to make sure there are no surprises.

Have our rental viewing checklist to hand. It’ll help you make sure the property has got everything you want.

6. Turn up on time and be presentable at your viewings

Landlords and agents want to know that you'll look after the property, so just turning up on time and looking presentable will give a good first impression.

Be sure to plan your route so you know exactly where you’re going and how to get there. If you’re visiting during rush hour, keep it mind that it might take longer.

And if you’re viewing as a group, see if you can meet up in advance and arrive together. It looks more organised than showing up in dribs and drabs.

If you’re going to be late, don't forget to phone the landlord or agent to let them know. Remember, it could mean your viewing is cut short by the next prospective tenant turning up for their viewing.

7. Ask questions about the property and process

Asking questions will show you’re interested and you've done your research, plus it can help you build rapport and get off on the right foot with the letting agent.

So even if you don’t land that rental home, you’ve got the letting agent on your side. They’ll be able to keep you on their database and let you know about future rental homes on their books.

11 questions to ask letting agents at viewings

Looking for a new rental home?

Search for a new rental home by location, price, number of bedrooms and more.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.