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First time tenant guide to renting

At Hunters, we know the lettings market inside out and have put together Eight Stages to Renting, a series of downloads for tenants, giving you all of the information you need to rent a property, from finding and securing a new home all the way through to what to expect from a tenancy agreement.


1. Prepare your finances

2. Find the right property

3. Arrange viewings and what to look for

4. Applying for tenancy

5. Staying safe and protected

6. Moving in

7. Living in your new property

8. Moving out

Step 1: Make sure you have your finances prepared

There are several cost implications to consider. Make sure you are ready!

When renting, there are costs in addition to your weekly or monthly rent, you need to factor into your budget.

In 2020, the Tenant Fees Act 2019, came into full force meaning many of the fees once paid by the tenant, are now not payable. There are however some upfront costs involved before renting a property. These costs normally include:

  • Holding Deposit (equal to 1 week’s rent)
  • Tenancy Security Deposit (equal to 5 week’s rent where the rent is less than £50,000 p/a and equal to 6 weeks rent where the rent is above this) – unless you are renting deposit free
  • First month’s rent

Questions to ask before beginning your property search

How long do you want the tenancy for?

Tenancies can range in terms of length and it’s always worth discussing this with your agent and/or landlord. Don’t let your dream property go to someone else just because the property description says otherwise. You can generally sign terms for tenancies between 6 months and just under 3 years.

What can you afford?

At the heart of your search should be your budget. If you have a monthly rental price in mind, make sure you check added costs including bills and tax. You can check how much you can afford on the Money Advice Service website.

What documents should you start getting together?

To save time when you start looking, make sure you have your identification documentation, immigration status and proof of address (less than 3 months old) easily to hand.  

Read the full Government How to Rent Guide here.

Step 2: Finding the right property for you

As a tenant it is vital to choose a Landlord and/or letting agent that you can trust – you will be renting a home from them which is a big and long-term decision.  The Hunters network of over 200 branches are trained under The Hunters Training Academy learning programmes which are endorsed by the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA PropertyMark). This means our agents operate under strict standards of professional and ethical practice.  Most of our branches are also voluntary members of safeagent (was NALS) and ARLA which offers further reassurance that you are in good hands.

What is your budget?

  • Most agents will have an income criteria as part of the referencing
  • £rent pcm x 30 – would give you an approximate guide to what your annual salary should be in terms of affordability
  • Where there are, for example, two people sharing a property which seems out of your original budget, it may well be more within your reach

When would you like to move in?

  • Properties on the rental market can often be available to view around six to eight weeks before they are ready, so work to this timescale.
  • Start your search as soon as you know you need to move, up to 8 weeks prior
  • Most agents will register you as an applicant and keep you updated on new properties during this time. 

You can begin your property search with your agent online, over the phone or in branch, but once you’ve discussed your needs and the agent narrows down the shortlist, the agent should then arrange a viewing appointment for you whether in person or via video tour.

Finding the right place to rent

There are many places you can look for your new property and Hunters makes this easy for you.

The best place to start, is our property search. Here you can filter the properties we have on the market to match your needs.

Use our rental search and adjust the filters and advanced features to narrow down the search to find exactly what you want, where you want

Register as a tenant with your local office and they’ll sign you up for property alerts making sure you’re first to know about any new properties that come to market.

Sign-up to My Hunters and you can save any property you like the look of to view and compare later on. When you progress to the viewings and offer stage you’ll be able to track the progress of your rental here too.

You can also call or visit your local office. We can offer socially distanced appointments in our branches and we can discuss your needs and register you for properties. Find your nearest branch here.

Step 3: Start viewing the properties you’re interested in

The rental market moves fast so if you see the perfect property with an Agent, you have to act quickly to secure it.  Arrange a viewing, or multiple viewings, as soon as you can and try to view properties in quick succession so it’s easier to make a decision.

Ask the right questions

  • Space: does it meet your needs? Will your furniture fit or does it have the furnishings you need? What about storage?
  • Parking: does it come with a parking space or garage? Does the parking space cost more on top of the rent? Do you need a permit?
  • Decor: you won’t necessarily be able to re-paint without permission, so does it match your preferences? Also ask about putting up pictures/mirrors – are there existing hooks for these?
  • Ask about mobile phone reception, cable/ satellite dish, broadband availability and electrical sockets
  • Who is looking after the tenancy once someone moves in? Is it the agent or the landlord?
  • If you like the property and are considering renting it, ask about any works being done (or not done) before someone moves in. If there is something you’d like doing before moving in, ask if it is a possibility as this will help you make your final decision.

Hunters top tip for​ securing a property

Once you have found the right flat or house, you’ll need to put a holding deposit down to state your intention and show good faith, this will be equal to 1 weeks rent. 

You can check the website and the local branch page for a list of all potential charges & terms. Before you move in, you will most likely have to pay the first month’s rent and a deposit so make sure you have cleared funds available for this.

Step 4: Tenancy Application

Credit and reference checks

You will be asked to give references to your prospective landlord/agent to confirm your details and background. Most agents will ask you to complete the details of your references online. Please make sure you give plenty of contact details so that the process is quick.  Its also worth speaking with your references / referees so they know they will be approached.

The typical referencing criteria consists of:

  • Three years’ address history
  • Landlord details for any property rented in the last three years
  • Confirmation of earnings, per annum, that are normally equal to the monthly rental fee, multiplied by 30
  • If you’re retired, then your (joint) pension, per annum, will also need to equal 30 times the monthly rental
  • No adverse credit in the form of a county court judgement, bankruptcy order or similar
  • If you are self-employed, either an accountants reference or evidence on the last three years’ tax returns

The tenancy agreement, the deposit and getting ready to move in

So, you’ve passed your References and “subject to contract” you are moving in!  What next?

A Tenancy Agreement is a legally binding document that sets out the terms of the tenancy and is drawn up to ensure that the rights and obligations of both tenant and Landlord are adhered to. 

It is very important that you read this as soon as you can, so you have ample opportunity to check that you understand all the terms and what your responsibilities will be.  Once all parties agree, sign and you pay your move in monies you are legally bound by this agreement until the specified end date.

Once the deposit is paid in full along with the first month’s rent and the tenancy is fully signed, the property is secured and keys can be released to you.

A tenancy deposit is held to give your Landlord protection in case you leave without paying the rent; cause damage to the property and / or its contents or you breach a term of the tenancy. From 1st June 2019 landlords in England are limited to 5 weeks’ deposit for new and renewed tenancies (or 6 weeks if the annual rent is £50,000 or more). Your tenancy agreement will show clearly what the deposit is for and how it will be dealt with under the terms of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme laws, according to what type of Tenancy you have.  You will be informed which government approved scheme is being used by your Agent/Landlord and you should get confirmation once the deposit is correctly registered, this should occur within 30 days of you paying it.

Some Agents may offer a Deposit Alternative or Deposit Free option.  A Deposit Alternative means instead of paying a traditional five weeks security deposit (or six weeks where the annual rent exceeds £50,000), you pay a fee of one week’s rent +VAT to become a member of a deposit free renting scheme which can significantly reduce the up-front costs.  This fee is non-refundable and is not a Deposit. Any outstanding costs or damages will be payable by the Tenant(s) at the end of the tenancy. Read more about our current offering – not all agents offer this but do enquire if it is of interest.

Step 5: Staying safe and protected in your rental property

Safety first

A good agent/landlord and especially those who are voluntary members of an accreditation scheme such as ARLA or safeagent will make sure they are fully up to date with the latest lettings industry legislation. This means they will constantly keep their landlords updated on their legal responsibilities for keeping their tenants safe from harm, by making sure their property and its contents (if furnished) meet the legal safety standards. Normally they will look on an annual basis at certain safety checks and you may well be contacted whilst you live there so approved contractors can enter the property to carry out the checks.


Tenants may think that insurance is not for them but this is often not the case – everyone’s belongings and liability is as important as each other’s so thinking about insurance as a tenant is a good idea. Your agent can help you with information on different insurances available.

Step 6: Moving in

Now that the proposed move-in day has arrived, there are steps you need to complete before keys can be handed over:

  1. All tenants/ guarantors to sign the Tenancy Agreement – many of our branches will do this electronically with all parties, so check with the local office. 
  2. Move-in money must have been paid and cleared, this normally includes:
         a. First month’s rent
         b. Deposit
  3. Bring to the branch any documents you’ve been asked for, such as:
         a. Photo ID
         b. Right to Rent documents (England only)
         c. Proof of recent residency
         d. Confirmation of any insurance

What information will the agent provide to you?

Your agent can then hand over a copy of the Tenancy Agreement for your records along with the contact details of who you deal with going forward -this may be the Agent or the Landlord.  They will normally also provide you with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate (if applicable), EPC, How to Rent Guide/Rent Smart Wales leaflet as a minimum.  From 1st July 2020 you should also receive a copy of an Electrical Safety Report (England only).

Future rent payments will normally be made monthly and paid by standing order – your agent will give you all the forms to complete or bank details, so you can set this up in time for the next rent due date.  If you are provided with a Payment Reference Number ensure you use this so your rent can be found quickly once paid.

Your keys will be available to collect either at the local branch or at your check in appointment from either the Landlord or inventory clerk; your local office will go through this with you beforehand and make the appointment.

The Inventory

The inventory is a detailed list of the property contents and condition at the point that you move into it. By both parties agreeing that the inventory is correct at the start of the tenancy, any risk of disputes at the end of the tenancy will be minimised. We recommend therefore that you thoroughly check the inventory before you sign. This document is used when you move out of the property to so that any changes can be easily identified and charged for, where necessary, after fair wear & tear is taken into account.

Council Tax, Water, Gas, Electric and TV Licence

From the day you move in until you move out you must ensure that your name is on the bills and all are paid on time (unless your rent includes bills).  You should contact each supplier once you have moved in but many of our Offices use a company who will also do this on your behalf – saving you lots of time!  This is a free service we provide but legally it is still your responsibility to do it.  Keep a note of your meter readings on move-in day from your Inventory and make sure you send off your meter readings regularly, so your bills are accurate.

Tenants may think that insurance is not for them but this is often not the case – everyone’s belongings and liability is as important as each other’s so thinking about insurance as a tenant is a good idea. Your agent can help you with information on different insurances available.

Hunters Top Tip for post move-in

Keep a file for your rental property, including the signed tenancy agreement, inventory and contact numbers in one place and to hand in case you ever need some information and especially for when you move out. Add your agent/landlords contact information into your phone; with some offices you can add a “bookmark” on your phone making reporting maintenance issues easy – ask in branch for details.

Step 7: Living in your new property

Property maintenance problems/ questions

If your property is managed by the Agent, you will be advised who to contact during your tenancy. They will discuss maintenance issues with you and whether action is needed either by yourself or the Landlord- depending on whether the issue is a long-term fault or through ‘wear-and-tear’.

Your Tenancy Agreement and often a Tenants Handbook will help guide you on who is responsible for what and the timescales we aim to meet.  Many offices will have access to an online maintenance reporting process, your local office will explain this to you and show you how to access it.

If your property is managed by the Landlord, you will be advised of their name and contact details and you should contact them directly with any issues you may have.

Paying rent

Under the terms of the tenancy, your rent will be due normally each month (or each week/quarter) and it will be clearly stated when and how it should be paid. The tenancy will also normally specify the bank details you should pay to along with any ‘reference’ number to use. As the Tenancy Agreement is a legally binding contract, it is important that you pay your rent as due, on time. Agents and Landlords alike understand that on occasion payments can be late, but it is best to talk to your Landlord or Agent about this as soon as it happens, or may happen, so that action is not taken.

Property inspections

A property managed by the Agent will receive regular visits carried out by a member of staff. This will give the Agent an opportunity to check the property is being cared for on behalf of the Landlord – this will normally occur only a few times a year.  It is also an opportunity for Tenants to raise any queries during their time at the property.  Many Landlords do not live nearby so the Agent is often employed to ensure the property maintains in a good condition for you to live in.  If the Landlord manages the let themselves, they also may wish to visit periodically – both Landlords and Agents must give you proper written notice of when this may happen.

Hunters Top Tip

If anything breaks down or needs repairing before or after a visit please don’t wait for the next visit to tell your Agent! Contact them straight away.

What happens near the end of your contract?

Towards the end of the fixed term of your contract the agent or landlord will be in touch to find out what you would like to do – you will need to decide whether to extend your stay or move out. Make sure you get in touch so the agent/ landlord can action the necessary. 

Staying put?

It’s best to let us know at least 1 month before the end of the fixed term that you may want to move out, if you can give us more notice than that then please do! The property will need to be left clean and tidy with all items left in their original position.  When moving to a new property we know it’s often a busy time so if you’d like us to recommend a cleaner to take care of that for you we can help and you can pay them direct should you wish.

Step 8: Moving out of the property

It’s best to let us know at least 1 month before the end of the fixed term (or give 2 months’ notice if you are on a rolling/periodic tenancy) that you may want to move out.  If we manage the property for the Landlord, we’ll arrange a check out appointment with you, so we can both ensure the property is left in an appropriate condition in accordance with the deposit legislation.  At this point, you will hand back the keys. If the Landlord manages the property, you will need to contact them directly to arrange a time and date to meet there, complete a check out and hand the keys back.

Getting your deposit back

Once you know you are moving out and you have told the agent/ landlord, you’ll need to make sure that the property is left in good condition for you to be entitled to your full deposit back (fair wear and tear excepted). Most agents will confirm in writing to you certain requirements and tips in order that you can do this easily.  If there are no deductions or disputes and all the necessary forms are filled out correctly by you and by the Landlord, your deposit should be returned ten days later – in accordance to the tenancy agreement. 

Hunters Top Tip

Make sure the property is left clean; including carpets, windows, walls and furniture (if necessary, or more convenient for you, hire a professional cleaner).  Tidy the garden and clear away any rubbish, return all the keys, remove all of your belongings, notify the energy suppliers, water company and council tax that you are moving out and settle your final bills.

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