22 ways to save money on renting
Living away from home is one of the best parts of uni, but it comes at a price – literally! Ease the burden by checking out our top tips to save money on rent.
Rent represents by far the biggest expenditure for a student. In fact, our National Student Money Survey found that it accounts for almost 50% of a student's monthly spend.
Worse still, there are no voucher codes or deals when it comes to housing, making it a lot harder to save money on renting. But don't lose the faith – we've used our money saving expertise to come up with a whole host of ways to get an affordable rental property!
How to save money on rent
Avoid estate agents (and their fees)
Despite the government announcing back in 2016 that they were going to ban letting fees, there's very little indication of when they'll actually go. That's not to say it won't happen, but it's probably not worth banking on if you're starting to think about next year's digs.
In the meantime, you'll be delighted to find out that you can avoid letting fees by dodging estate agents. Privately let properties are still totally legit, and there even websites that help formalise the whole process, like OpenRent.
Properties let through OpenRent never have any admin fees. Yep, you read that correctly – you won't be paying £200 for an estate agent to print the contract off.
These kinds of companies cut out the middle man and leave you and the landlord to deal with each other directly, all the while providing a safe and secure service that ensures that you don't miss out on the added layer of protection offered by an estate agent.
Aside from saving money on agency fees, there's also a good chance that you could reduce your monthly rent too. After all, if the landlord isn't having to pay the estate agent to manage the property, you could use this to negotiate the rent (assuming this hasn't already lead to it being lower anyway!).
Live with more people
When you're living with other people, your rent doesn't just cover your use of a room – it accounts for the fact that you'll be using the bathroom and kitchen, as well as any other shared living spaces.
So, it only makes sense that when you live with more people (and more people are sharing those facilities), your share of the rent goes down. As a result, three bed properties are usually cheaper per person than two beds.
But living with more people won't just save you money on rent. Some bills, including your internet and streaming subscriptions, will be a flat fee – so the more people using it, the cheaper it'll be per person.
Have a think about how many people you'd be comfortable living with, and whether or not you want to live with a load of friends. If you think you could cope in a four, five or even six person household, it could save you some serious cash!
And hey, if you're feeling really adventurous, why not think about a move to Britain's biggest student house?
Reduce your rent during the summer
If you and your flatmates are intending to go back home during the summer, it's worth seeing if you can do something to reduce your rent during this time.
Some (but sadly not all) landlords will agree to let you pay half rent during the summer months, which is certainly nothing to turn your nose up at. They're unlikely to propose this themselves, so you'll have to be the one who brings it up – but hey, if you don't ask, you don't get.
Alternatively, if you reckon you've got the gift of the gab, you could even try asking for a shorter tenancy.
Landlords are usually pretty keen to get tenants on a 12 month contract (particularly in student-heavy areas, as this means that they can align their letting cycle to when students move in), but it can actually benefit them to let you end your tenancy in May or June.
When a property is vacant it becomes a lot more susceptible to break-ins. So from a landlord's perspective, it's probably better to let you end your tenancy so they can at least, for example, fill the property with guests from Airbnb. Try putting this argument to them, and who knows – they might just come round to your way of thinking!
Make a note of any flaws
When you're viewing the property, keep an eye out for anything that's wrong with it. Serious issues (electrical issues, structural damage, damp etc.) are big red flags telling you to live elsewhere, but more minor faults can actually be used to your advantage.
Say there are some stains on the carpet, or a dent in one of the doors. Realistically you could probably live with those flaws and come to forget that they're even there, but there are plenty of houses out there that won't have any such issues.
Let the landlord or estate agent know that you've noticed these issues, and when it comes to sealing the deal, explain that this is why you've submitted an offer below the asking price. As long as you're not asking for a huge reduction, or complaining about specks of dust, they should consider your offer.
Offer to fix any minor faults
If there are some scuff marks on the wall, or a curtain rail is coming loose, try asking your landlord to let you sort it yourself in exchange for a reduction in rent.
A small pot of paint or some screws should easily cost you less than a tenner, and as long as you manage to knock at least £1 a month off the rent (and we really hope you'd negotiate a lot more than that…), you'll be saving money in no time!
Just make sure that you'll actually be able to fix whatever the problem is, especially without making it worse. Otherwise this money-saving exercise could become very expensive, very quickly.
Always haggle on rent
It's often said that we Brits don't like haggling, and while this does seem to be true, there's no reason not to break the mould and capitalise on this.
If you're dealing with a landlord directly, there's every chance that they won't enjoy haggling. So, if you put your awkwardness to one side and learn how to haggle, they could be so keen to get it over and done with that you'll be able to ‘win' the haggle, as it were.
In fact, even if you're dealing with someone who does enjoy haggling, there's no harm in learning how to do it and seeing if it saves you money on your rent anyway!
Consider an unfurnished/part-furnished property
It might seem like a given that a furnished property will save you money in the long term – lord knows that beds, sofas, wardrobes and the like don't come cheap.
But if you're smart about it, you could furnish the majority of your house for almost nothing at all. And as unfurnished or part-furnished properties are almost always cheaper than a furnished equivalent, this could equal some serious savings.
Depending on how often you plan to go home, and whether or not you have access to a decent-sized car (or, better yet, a van), you could take your own bed and wardrobe with you. If this isn't feasible, worry not – you can still get your furnishings for almost nothing.
Websites like Freecycle, Freegle and Gumtree are great for finding free furniture, and we're not exaggerating when we say that you could furnish your whole house just with findings from these treasure troves.
As you'd expect, the quality of the freebies can be hit and miss, and you're unlikely to be able to get everything you need at once – you may have to look for a few weeks before your house feels like a home. But it's not uncommon for people to move house and give away whole swathes of furniture on these sites, so if you happen to be searching at the right time, you could really hit the jackpot!
The take-home message? If the property is missing any essential furnishings (beds, wardrobes, sofas), don't be put off! Just account for the cost of transporting your free furniture, and see if it works out cheaper than going for a furnished place.
Don't be suckered in by bills being included
Credit: Penn State – Flickr
Having energy bills included in the cost of your rent sounds like an absolute godsend, right? You can use as much gas, electric and water as you like, without having to worry about the cost at the end.
Well, first of all, landlords who offer to include bills in the rent will usually add the condition of ‘fair usage'. Your tenancy agreement should specify just what this amount is, but this immediately dampens your dreams of 24/7 central heating.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, paying your bills separately is usually cheaper. Rent payments aren't flexible, so whether it's 30°C in May, -2°C in February, or you're all away for Christmas and everything in the house is turned off, you'll be paying the same amount.
Chances are you'll be much better off asking to pay your bills separately, and scouting out a great deal using our student bills comparison tool. Once you've done that, check out our tips to help you save on your energy bills. You'll be absolutely rolling in it.
Look at properties further away from your uni
Houses that are closer to uni are usually more expensive. That's just a fact, unfortunately. However, if you're a ‘glass half full' kinda person, you can just as easily flip that round – houses that are further away from uni are usually cheaper!
If the transport links around your uni are up to scratch (and not too pricey), look for properties a little further out. And even if the transport links near a particular property aren't great, see if the nearest bus stop or train station is within walking distance (perfect for the sedentary student lifestyle).
Or, if you're a keen cyclist, why not just ride into uni each day?
This might seem in direct contradiction the lazy student code of conduct, and we're fully with you on that one, but what use is being within walking distance of uni if that's literally the only place you can afford to go to?
Research the cost of transport first, though, as you don't want to end up saving £50 a month on rent, only to be shelling out £60 a month just to get to uni!
Pay less for a smaller room
Living with people who have a bit more cash to play around with? Why not let them take the bigger room, and ask them to pay a little more rent (and you a little less) for the privilege?
As long as your house has some kind of communal living area, you shouldn't need to spend too much time in your room, and so there's really no need to pay for a load of space that you won't be using.
If you can fit a bed, wardrobe, desk and maybe a TV in too, and still have enough space to navigate your way around the room, you're all set!
Take your time to assess the market
It might sound a bit tedious, but taking your time to view a few properties can really help you save some money on rent.
A house might seem like great value for money, but how can you really know if you haven't seen any others? Different areas will have different pricing scales, so while a room in one part of town might cost £100 a week, an equivalent in a house 10 minutes away might only cost £80.
It's all about knowing what x amount of money will get you in a certain area, and the only way you'll find this out is by viewing properties for yourself. Estate agents and landlords are pretty good at taking deceptive pictures, so don't be fooled into thinking that a room that looks big is actually anything like that size!
In fact, just take your time anyway and don't seem desperate
Sellers love nothing more than a desperate buyer, and landlords/estate agents are no exception to this rule.
The sooner you start looking for a property, the more power you have. If you know you've got a few weeks yet until you absolutely need to sign a contract, you can afford to haggle a bit, or be a bit pickier about what you're after.
However, if you're fast approaching your deadline, you have less bargaining power. Landlords will know you're desperate and will therefore be unlikely to budge on the price.
Similarly, if estate agents sense that you need a place ASAP, there's a chance that they'll give you viewings at some of their more overpriced/shoddy-looking listings that they've had trouble flogging to less desperate customers.
Start looking early, and even if you are running out of time, just play it cool
Get your full deposit back
This one won't necessarily help you save on rent, as such, but it will help you save as much money as possible on the rental process (and hopefully soften the blow when it comes to stumping up for your next deposit!).
Getting your full deposit back isn't actually all that hard – you just need to try your best to leave the property as it was when you first moved in. To make sure that there aren't any disagreements with the landlord over what's changed during your tenancy, be super thorough with the inventory when you move in.
After that, just try to take care of the place while you're there. At the end of the day, you are staying in someone else's house, so treat it as though you're a guest (except you've got free reign on the fridge and can take your shoes off).
For the lowdown on how to avoid losing your money, check out our guide to getting your full deposit back.
Be polite and flexible with your landlord
A little courtesy will get you a long way in this game.
Being polite and friendly when you deal with the landlord will do your haggling prospects a whole world of good, and may even make them more inclined to overlook minor blemishes when they carry out the post-tenancy house inspection.
Even if you don't manage to do a deal before moving in, if there's a chance that you might choose to stay in the property for another year, a good relationship with your landlord could help you save some money on rent when it comes to renewing the tenancy.
It'll also do you no harm to be flexible about when you move in. Within reason, there's no set date that you need to move into a uni home, so if the landlord wants tenants to move in within a specific time frame, do your best to play ball and maybe even ask to knock a few quid off the rent in exchange for you meeting their exact requirements.
Ask your landlord to replace a few things
Although larger appliances like fridges and washing machines are undoubtedly the landlords responsibility to replace (unless you wreck them, of course), the protocol for smaller things can seem a little less clear.
If a lightbulb blows, or a shower curtain needs replacing, you might feel silly asking the landlord to deal with it. However, while the cost won't be huge, students already struggle to make ends meet, and a penny saved is a penny earned.
The lightbulb almost certainly hasn't blown because of you (you've probably used it for less than 50% of its life), and that's just its own way of succumbing to the ravages of time – just like a washing machine will eventually go bust.
Your landlord might not agree to replacing these kinds of things themselves, but you're certainly well within your rights to ask (after checking your tenancy agreement, of course)!
Use your university's list of approved landlords
Most (if not all) universities' accommodation services will have a list of landlords that they've checked and approved as suitable to be letting to students.
While you won't directly be getting a discount, you should be able to rest easy in the knowledge that your landlord isn't the type to rip you off on rent, or swindle you out of a few hundred quid when it comes to returning your deposit.
Take meter readings when you move in
Ok, so this won't technically save you money on rent, but it's all part of the process of finding and renting a property!
When you move in, make sure that one of the first things you do is take readings of the gas, electric and, if applicable, water meters. Submit this reading to your supplier, otherwise your first bill will be based on an estimate, which could leave you paying for the previous tenant's usage if they think the number was lower at the start of your tenancy than it actually was.
If they've estimated that the meter read a higher number than it actually did when you moved in, this will give you a cheaper bill. However, this isn't a good thing either!
Over the course of your tenancy, the energy company will almost certainly send someone over to read your meter. When they do, they'll discover that it's higher than they'd estimated and your next bill will be more expensive than you'd anticipated.
In other words, even if the estimated reading seems to be in your favour, you'll have to pay up sooner or later – so why not make it sooner, when you're at least expecting it?
Thoroughly read through your tenancy agreement
Reading your tenancy agreement might sound like an utterly tedious thing to do (and to be honest, it kind of is), but if you neglect to do it, you could quite literally pay the price.
We'd hope that your tenancy agreement is squeaky clean, with nothing in there that's trying to fleece you. But you can never be too sure, especially when the amounts of money are as big as this.
Set aside some time to give your tenancy agreement a really good read-through, and use our guide to find out what to look for.
Remember that you're exempt from council tax
Credit: Jason Rogers – Flickr
Trust us – it's a nasty shock when you graduate and suddenly have to start paying council tax. It ain't cheap, so embrace your exemption while you still can!
Full-time (note: not part-time) students are exempt from paying council tax, so if everyone in your house meets this criteria, your council tax bill will be exactly £0.
If some of you living in the property are full-time students, but others aren't, those who aren't will have to pay their council tax (with an individual discount of 25%).
Remember though – you'll need to apply to the council with proof of your eligibility, and if you don't (and don't pay), it could get a bit sticky! Check out our guide to student council tax exemption and you won't go far wrong.
Don't pay for a TV licence
Don't worry, we're not encouraging you to break the law! Despite changes to the law in 2016 that were intended to ban people from watching iPlayer without a licence, there are still ways around it.
As long as your parents have a valid TV licence, their house is your registered primary address, and you're watching iPlayer or live TV on a device that can function without being plugged in to the mains, you don't need to pay!
And if you've already started paying for a licence, don't despair – you can get a refund! For the full details, check out our guide to the TV licence loophole.
Switch your address on everything
Your parents have always said that it pays to be organised, but in this case it really does.
Some energy and service providers will allow you to simply change your address when you move, rather than cancelling and registering a new account. This should hopefully save you some admin costs, and give you a smug sense of satisfaction from having your life in order.
But don't just stop at bills – updating your details with your bank and local council could save you some money too. If your bank contacts you by mail to tell you that you're in your unplanned overdraft, or a victim of fraud, you'll want to get that letter ASAP and sort it out.
Likewise, if the council doesn't know that you've moved, they won't be able to help you get your council tax discount at your new property, and you could get fined for not paying.
Try a home-sharing scheme
This is definitely a more left-field option, but it's definitely worth considering if you don't mind giving a bit of your time for some seriously reduced rent.
Home-sharing schemes, like Share and Care, offer cheap (and sometimes free) accommodation to ‘sharers' who are up for providing companionship and practical assistance to homeowners who require it (often the elderly, or somebody with a disability or long-term illness).
You won't need to do any of the jobs of a professional carer, but you could find yourself mowing the lawn, cooking meals or helping clean the house, as well as spending time socialising with the homeowner. In return, you get to live in the house at a heavily reduced rate.
Not everyone is suited to this style of living, and there may not be any vacant house-shares in your area, but if it sounds like something you'd be interested in, it's definitely worth doing some research into.
These are all great tips for saving money on rent, but some students are going one step further by dodging conventional living altogether. Check out this student who lives on an £800 yacht, this extreme money-saver who lived in a tent while at uni, and this student who lived in a van to graduate debt-free!
It’s not uncommon for landlords to try to take advantage of unwitting students, so make sure you know your rights as a tenant!