Knowing what you can afford and costs to expect

The costs of running your home can add up and the initial cost of moving and setting up your home can be costly.

When thinking about how much you can afford to spend on your monthly rent it’s important to consider any additional costs you may need to pay, including other outgoings and financial commitment you may have.

Here are the typical costs of renting and some suggestions as to how to best manage them:

Rent

Rents are usually quoted as either price per week (ppw) or price per calendar month (pcm).

When switching between the two figures, it’s important to remember that the price per calendar month does not equal the same as four weeks’ worth of rent. Instead, the monthly rent is normally calculated by taking the weekly rent and multiplying it by 52 (the number of weeks in a year) and then dividing by 12 (the number of months in a year).

For example, if the rent is £300 per week then the monthly rent would be £1,300.

Tenant fees & deposits

A new law on residential letting fees, which came into force on 1st June 2019, means it is now illegal for landlords and estate agents to charge renters extra fees.

The Tenant Fees Act applies to new tenancies and renewals of tenancies, meaning that landlords and letting agents aren’t able to charge for a range of admin fees that they previously had, and tenancy deposits are now capped to five weeks.

For properties in England, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 means that in addition to rent, lettings agents can only charge tenants (or anyone acting on the tenant’s behalf) the following permitted payments:

  • Holding deposits (a maximum of 1 week’s rent)
  • Deposits (a maximum deposit of 5 weeks’ rent for annual rent below £50,000, or 6 weeks’ rent for annual rental of £50,000 and above)
  • Payments to change a tenancy agreement eg. change of sharer (capped at £50 or, if lower, any reasonable costs)
  • Payments associated with early termination of a tenancy (capped at the landlord’s loss or the agent’s reasonably incurred costs)
  • Utilities, communication services (eg. telephone, broadband), TV licence and council tax
  • Interest payments for the late payment of rent (up to 3% above Bank of England’s annual percentage rate)Reasonable costs for replacement of lost keys or other security devices
  • Contractual damages in the event of the tenant’s default of a tenancy agreement
  • Any other permitted payments under the Tenant Fees Act 2019

The Act also states that agents and landlords don’t have to pay back any fees they have charged a tenant before 1st June 2019.

So, if an agent or landlord requires a tenant to pay a fee linked to a contract that started before the ban came into force, such as check-out or renewal fees, they can continue charging those fees until 31st May 2020.

Any fees that are applicable during the tenancy, whether payable at the start, during or end of the tenancy, must be clearly displayed by the lettings agent.

For more information, go to our section on tenancy deposits.

IMPORTANT: Check if the charges are per property or per person and whether any of them are refundable if for any reason the tenancy does not go ahead.

Utilities

For most long-term tenancies you would expect to be responsible for the payment of all the utilities, including gas, electricity, water, and council tax along with the cost of media and TV licences. If you are eligible for a discount on your council tax (for example because you live alone or are a student) you would need to apply to the council directly to have this discount applied as the landlord or agent cannot do this for you.

The tenancy agreement should allow you to change utility suppliers with consent from the landlord which would not be unreasonably withheld.

If you are taking on a fixed term contract/price plan, say for electricity or broadband, you should always check that the account can be closed if you leave the property, or taken with you to a new property. There may be penalties from the supplier if you were to leave the tenancy early.

Credit Card Payments

Many agents and some landlords will take payment of the initial money (and sometimes ongoing payments) by credit card.  Unlike supermarket purchases, the cost of paying by credit card is not included within the rent and so an additional premium may be due to cover the cost of the transaction.

Cash flow

Generally, if rents are paid monthly they will fall due on the same day of the month that the tenancy started.  The payment dates don’t always coincide with salary payment dates and so if your rent falls due shortly before your salary is paid, it may be worth asking the landlord to move the payment date.  You will probably need to make an additional payment covering the rent between the old and the new payment date, but in the long term, it can often make your finances easier.  If this is something that you would want to do it is worth agreeing on it in advance as part of the contract as once the tenancy agreements have been signed and the tenancy started, the landlord is not under any obligation to agree to changes to the rent payments.

Sharing

If you are going to share your property with a flat mate or house mate, make sure that they are named on the tenancy agreement.  If they are not on the agreement, they are not legally liable for the costs and so in the case of a problem you could end up being liable for everything.

If you are thinking of renting a room out to a lodger or someone not of the tenancy agreement, you will need to get consent from the landlord to do this.  Any rent paid to you by your lodger may be subject to income tax too as for the purposes of the lodger you become their landlord.

The long term

Staying long term in the same property can provide good savings. If you take a longer-term tenancy you can lock in the rent payment for years rather than months and if the landlord does want to include some rent increase at a later date, you can agree this in advance so that you can plan for the future.

Longer term tenancies also save on the costs of moving, potentially overlapping rents in your old and new property, additional fees and the time commitment you need to make to the move.