How to find a cheap property to rent

publication date: Dec 7, 2018
 | 
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Renting a property cheaply

House

If you want – or need – to move to a rented property, it can be extremely frustrating if you cannot find a suitable home within your budget. Here are some tips which may help you put a roof over your head.

Negotiate a discount on the rent

Unlike buying a property – where the price in England in Wales is usually up for negotiation – when you rent a property you generally pay the asking rent. Certainly in the current property market, there are often several applicants for each property so the price is not up for debate.

However, if you can find a property which has been available to let for some time, the landlord may consider accepting a lower rent than advertised, purely to avoid it standing empty, which could cost the landlord over £300 a month. Do check there are no major problems with the property first, such as something which makes it unsafe.

How to avoid a rogue landlord

You may also be able to negotiate a lower rent in return for decorating or sprucing up the garden, if necessary. These issues can put tenants off, so finding one who is willing to take on the work could be the answer to the landlord’s prayers. Do ensure you get a written agreement about the work you commit to carrying out and any payments you have agreed between them.

And if you plan to stay in the property for a long period, this may make you an attractive prospect for the landlord, as they will avoid the hassle and costs of remarketing. However, this is unlikely to work if there are several tenants competing for the same property.

Rent a property in a cheaper location

Simply broadening your search area can lead you to cheaper properties. Homes in city centres or which are near to railway stations and bus routes are generally more expensive to rent. If you have your own transport, or don’t need to commute every day, could you rent in an out-of-town location or even somewhere more rural, to save on costs?

For example, this two-bedroomed flat in Hemel Hempstead was available to rent at the time of writing for £805 per calendar month, while this one near to the station in nearby St Alban’s, was available for £1,400 pcm. The Hemel Hempstead flat is just a 20-minute drive from the centre of St Alban’s, putting the capital within easy reach. You would need to weigh up the costs of transport and parking, but it’s something to consider.

Rent a room or part of a property

Renting a room is a way of gaining your own space at a much cheaper rate than renting a whole house or flat.

There are several ways you can do this:

Rent a property with a friend

If you have a friend or partner you can share with, this will halve your accommodation costs and bills. Sharing meals is generally cheaper than cooking separately, too. It’s a good idea to set out some ground rules about sharing the chores from the start, to prevent potential conflict later on.

Living this way enables you to choose who shares your home but, remember, ideally do this on an individual AST, as if you rent on a joint tenancy basis you are ‘jointly and severally liable’ so if one of you defaults on their rental payment, or causes damage, you share responsibility.

Rent a room in a shared house or HMO

Renting a room in a shared house (House in Multiple Occupation, or HMO) gives you your own bedroom, sometimes with an en suite bathroom, and you share kitchen facilities and living space. You are unlikely to have much say in who rents the other rooms but this can be a good way of meeting people and avoiding feeling isolated in a new city.

The difference between renting this way and renting with a friend is the tenancy agreement. Make sure you have an individual tenancy agreement, which means you are only responsible for your own rent.

You can find rooms to rent through sites such as Spareroom.co.uk and Idealflatmate.co.uk.

Rent a room as a lodger

You may also find accommodation by renting as a lodger in somebody’s home. You are considered a lodger if your landlord lives in the same property and you share facilities such as kitchen or bathroom. Even though this is a less formal arrangement than a tenancy, its are still recommended to have a written agreement.

Again, you can find lodgings through sites such as Spareroom.co.uk and Idealflatmate.co.uk

Offer your services as a house-sitter

If you love animals and don’t have a strong urge to put down roots, becoming a house-sitter could give you opportunities to live rent-free, while exploring new places and even getting paid!

People who use house-sitters may be simply going on holiday for a few days or have to be away from their home for several months or a year. They feel secure knowing their home is lived in and, in many cases, they have pets and would rather have somebody in their home than use boarding kennels.

Most listings are for short-term stays but it can be a good idea to take on a few of these first as a way of finding out if house-sitting is for you and to build up your profile. People need to know they can trust you before they hand over their keys, so opportunities will open up more readily once you have some good references.

This is only suitable as a long-term prospect if you have a base to return to, and can work flexibly, like long-term house-sitter Kristie, who has lived all over the world.

There are some costs to consider, too, including travel to the properties and membership of house-sitting websites. You may also be expected to pay for electricity and phone usage during your stay; this, along with any expectations of maintenance etc, should be agreed in writing beforehand.

Find a job with accommodation

Certain jobs – mostly in the hospitality trade or caring industries – offer accommodation as part of the package. You may have to pay tax on this benefit, unless living on the premises:

  • is necessary to your ability to perform the role
  • makes it easier to perform your role and is usual for your type of job
  • keeps you safe, eg if you are in the armed forces.

There is a list of types of living accommodation which are exempt from tax in the government’s self-assessment guidance.

One disadvantage is that you may feel you never truly leave your workplace – you may even be on call 24/7 – but it can be a useful way of gaining independence, experiencing a different part of the country perhaps, and saving money for your next home. Even if you are taxed on the benefit, it could still work out cheaper than renting your own place.

Become a property guardian

When a property stands empty it becomes vulnerable to vandals and squatters. Simply having somebody living there can help prevent such issues, which is why many property owners take on ‘guardians’.

A property may be empty because it is awaiting demolition or redevelopment; the guardian lives there temporarily at a lower rent, in return to keeping an eye on the place and reporting any issues.

One company which has taken this concept a step further is Dot Dot Dot, which offers the opportunity to become a property guardian at a discounted rate, in return for a commitment to at least 16 hours a week of voluntary work with a charity of your choice. In this way you could, for example, rent a one-bedroomed maisonette with a large garden in East London for £700 per month; the cheapest equivalent property advertised on Rightmove at the time of writing was £1,200 per month.

It’s worth noting that guardianships are not available to those with children, are short-term lets and your rights are different as you are a licensee rather than a tenant. For example, the notice period for leaving is just 28 days, and the owner or property guardian company can enter the property without giving you notice. Health and safety standards should be the same.

Shelter has more information on the rights of property guardians here


All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner, author of
Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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