Finding and moving into your first rental property can be an exciting but daunting experience. 

There's certainly a lot to think about, from making sure you choose the right home to knowing how to protect your rights as a tenant.

Keep reading for useful insights into how to find the ideal home, your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and what you should do immediately after you move in.

Are you getting a good deal?

If you fall in love with a particular property, it's easy to lose sight of whether or not you're getting a good deal. To ensure you don't end up paying over the odds, it's important to keep a cool head and do your research before signing a contract. Take a look at the prices of similar rental properties in the area and compare them with the property you're interested in.

Also, make sure you know exactly what's included in the rental payments before you sign a contract. For example, does the amount include council tax, utility bills or water charges? Only once you know this can you make an informed decision about its affordability.

How much is your tenancy deposit?

Whilst you're legally entitled to get your deposit back at the end of a tenancy, providing you meet the terms of your tenancy agreement, tenancy deposits can still represent a significant initial outlay.

Since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act on the 1st of June 2019, landlords cannot legally ask you for any more than five weeks' worth of rent on rental properties with an annual rent below £50,000. For properties above this threshold, the cap is six weeks' rent.

If you want to work out your maximum tenancy deposit, multiply the monthly rent by 12 and divide the answer by 52 to work out one week's rent. Then multiply this by five or six depending on whether your rent is below or above £50,000 per year.

What about other initial fees?

The Tenant Fees Act also bans letting agents and landlords from charging you any additional fees for processes such as credit checks, inventories and references. Holding fees – a fee you may pay to reserve a property while your application goes through – have also been capped at no more than one week's rent and must be returned to you within seven days of a decision unless your application failed due to specific reasons;

  1. you provide false or misleading information on your application
  2. you fail a right to rent check
  3. you withdraw from the proposed tenancy agreement
  4. you fail to take all reasonable steps to enter into a tenancy agreement

Has your rental home got the features you need?

Having a list of practical features you're looking for in your property will help you narrow down your options and choose the right rental home. Your list could include everything from parking and a reliable web connection to permission to keep pets. Think about how much storage you'll need too, and whether you'd prefer a furnished or unfurnished home. Furnished homes tend to come with at least the main items you'd expect in a property, such as beds, chairs, tables and storage units.

In some cases, they also have extras like TVs and sound systems, but often landlords may prefer not to take the risk of providing these accessories. Unfurnished rental properties, on the other hand, only feature the basics. They generally come with white goods such as a cooker and fridge, as well as floor coverings and window dressings. However, you'll need to check exactly what the landlord provides with the property and what you'll need to bring yourself.

If you plan to subscribe to media services such as TV or broadband, check what's available in the property. You may have limitations on coverage for your preferred provider, so it's always best to know what you can have when comparing services.

Is it in the right area?

Location is critical when it comes to making wise rental property decisions. Before committing to a home, make sure it's conveniently situated for you. For example, is it close to useful transport links? How long will it take you to commute to work during rush hour? Do you have easy access to shops? Is the area safe? And if you have kids, are there good schools located nearby? To get a feel for the place, it's helpful to view the area on different days and at various times of the day, you might also want to do a trial commute to work to see how long this takes.

Is the property in good condition?

A viewing gives you the chance to take a close look at the condition of a property, so don't waste this opportunity. Examine the windows and doors to ensure they're secure, and watch out for any signs of damp in the walls, ceilings and floors. Run the taps and shower to test the water pressure and ask when the boiler was last serviced. Flush the toilet to make sure this is working properly too. These checks will save you from nasty surprises when you move in.

Your rights

You have certain rights and responsibilities when you move into a rental home, and you must know what these are.

You should sign a tenancy agreement before you get the keys to your rental property. This document sets out the expectations of both you and your landlord.

You have the right to see the property's Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This tells you how energy-efficient the home is on a scale from A to G and lets you know how costly it will be to heat and light. Seeing this certificate can help you budget more accurately. Legally, as of April 2018, all rental properties must achieve a rating of at least E before a new tenancy is granted.

You also have the right to:

  • be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rental increases
  • have your deposit protected in an approved tenancy deposit protection scheme
  • get your deposit back at the end of your tenancy, as long as you meet your responsibilities as a tenant
  • live in a property that's in a good state of repair and is safe
  • quiet enjoyment, unless the landlord requests to do an inspection - for which you should receive sufficient notice ahead of the appointment (24 hours except in an emergency)

Your responsibilities

Your responsibilities as a tenant include:

  • taking care to avoid damaging the property
  • paying the agreed rent on time
  • paying all other bills and charges as specified in your tenancy agreement
  • paying for any damage caused by you or your guests
  • providing they give you sufficient notice, allow your landlord access to conduct inspections and to do any necessary maintenance work
  • not sub-letting the property unless your tenancy agreement says you can
  • reporting any problems with the property (for example, mould or broken windows) to your landlord in good time so that they can arrange for these problems to be fixed

To ensure you're fully up to speed when it comes to your responsibilities, it's important to check the terms of your tenancy agreement.

Moving in: what you need to know

Moving to a new home can be incredibly exciting, but even if you're only moving a relatively short distance or don't have too many things, moving your stuff from A to B can be a pain. It's still worth considering your removals options - especially if you need to use public transport or rely on a friend or family to help. AnyVan covers the whole of the UK and can offer instant quotes from a sofa to a whole house move. With no hidden fees and handy functions like the ability to track your driver, using professional removals could really help take the stress out of moving.

Whether you plan to arrange removal services, hire a van, or pack as much as you can into your car, your work hasn't stopped now that you've arrived at the property! There's a lot to do when you step over the threshold into your rental home, from unpacking boxes to checking inventories. Here are a few of the tasks you should prioritise:

Check the inventory

An accurate inventory can help you to avoid disputes with your landlord over your deposit when you move out, so you must check this document carefully as soon as you move in. If you spot anything incorrect, make sure you record this. For example, add the details of missing items and make a note of and photograph any damage that hasn't been detailed. As a general rule, it's wise to take plenty of pictures to support the information you give.

Only sign the inventory when you're completely happy with it.

Read the meters

On the day you move in, take gas, electricity and water meter readings and give these to the existing utility suppliers. You may want to take photos of your meters showing these readings too. Doing so will help ensure you get accurate first bills.

To save money, it's worth shopping around for a better deal on your utilities. It usually takes about three weeks to switch to another supplier, so you'll likely have to pay at least one bill with the energy current provider for the property.

Set up direct debits or standing orders

To ensure that you don't accidentally forget to pay your rent or any of your other bills, setting up direct debits or standing orders for the appropriate amounts is a good idea. The sooner you do this, the better.

Make sure you know who's responsible for which bills

If you're sharing your new rental home with other people, make sure you establish at the outset who is responsible for paying each bill.

Update your driving licence, bank and others

Don't forget to change the address detailed on your driving licence. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you fail to inform the DVLA of your move. It's also a wise idea to update your bank or building society and any other financial providers such as credit cards and loan providers as soon as possible to minimise your risk of fraud.

Register for council tax

Unless it's included in your rent, you're in full-time education, or another exemption covers you, you'll need to pay council tax. To register to do this, contact your local council.

Get a TV licence

If you plan to watch TV live or through the BBC iPlayer, even if you're only going to do this on your tablet or laptop, you'll require a TV licence. You can register to pay online, by phone or by post. If you're paying by direct debit, you can choose to pay for an entire year upfront or make smaller payments each month or quarter.

Familiarise yourself with the security arrangements

Ensure you know how to lock all the doors and windows in your new home, including any outbuildings. If there's an alarm, spend time ensuring you can use it properly.

Get to know the local rules and routines

To ensure you're up and running as soon as possible, find out everything from when the bins are collected in your street to the local parking regulations.