24 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 students. In fact, our National Student Money Survey found that it accounts for over 50% of a student's monthly spend.
As there are sadly no voucher codes or deals when it comes to housing, rent can be a particularly tricky area to save money on. But, don't lose the faith – we've used our money-saving expertise to come up with a whole host of tips for renters looking to find an affordable property.
How to save money on rent
These are the best ways to cut the cost of renting a property:
Live with multiple housemates
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.
And living with more people won't just save you money on rent. Some bills, including your broadband internet and streaming subscriptions, will cost the same no matter how many of you live there – 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.
But, while living with mates can be amazing, it's worth noting that it can have its pitfalls. Check out the reasons why you should (and shouldn't) live with friends.
Make a note of flaws when looking at houses
When you're viewing the property, keep an eye out for anything that might be 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.
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, you could ask for a reduced tenancy length. Landlords are usually keen to have 12-month contracts (particularly in student areas, as they'll want to align the lettings to uni term times), 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.
Ask for a break clause in your tenancy agreement
When the UK was dragged into the first coronavirus-enforced lockdown in March 2020, students up and down the country made their way back to their family homes.
Realising that they were unlikely to return before their tenancy expired, many asked their landlord for a rent discount or to cancel their contract early. However, in most cases, students had no legal backing for this claim – they just had to hope that their landlord would be sympathetic to their situation.
That's because the majority of student tenancy agreements don't have break clauses in them. A break clause allows you (or the landlord) to end the contract before it officially ends – often after six months, with a notice period of a month or two.
Without a break clause, you'll usually have no legal way to end the tenancy agreement early. And while we're all praying that several-month lockdowns won't be something to contend with in future years, there are other reasons you may want to leave your tenancy early (like dropping out of uni).
There's no guarantee that your landlord will agree to give you a break clause as, ultimately, it could leave them without a tenant at short notice. But as ever: if you don't ask, you don't get.
Offer to fix minor faults in a rental property
We suggested earlier how you could use imperfections in the property to ask for a discount. But if there are some scuff marks on the wall, or a curtain rail is coming loose, you could also ask your landlord to let you sort it out 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 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.
Rent an unfurnished or part-furnished property
It might seem like a given that a furnished property will save you money as you won't have to splash out on beds, sofas, wardrobes and the like.
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 fill 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. But, having said that, some people do give away whole swathes of furniture on these sites when they move house, so 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 renting a furnished place.Even if your house is fully furnished, you might want to add some of your own touches. Here's how to decorate your uni room on a budget.
Always haggle on rent
If you're dealing with a landlord directly, there's every chance that they won't particularly want to haggle. But, if you learn how to haggle and stick at it, 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.
Don't get swayed by having rent and bills included
Ever thought it seemed too good to be true to have bills included with rent? Unfortunately, you were right.
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 it immediately dampens your dreams of 24/7 central heating.
And, perhaps more importantly, paying your bills separately is usually cheaper. Rent payments aren't flexible, so whether it's 30°C in August, -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.
Ask how much the rent would be without bills included and do some quick maths to see what the cheaper option is.
Chances are, you'll be much better off asking to pay your bills separately, and scouting out a good deal using our student bills comparisons. Once you've done that, check out our tips to help you save on your energy bills. You'll be absolutely rolling in it.
Pay less rent for a smaller room
Living with people who have a bit more cash to play around with? You could 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, so there's really no need to pay for extra space that you won't be using.
If you can fit a bed, wardrobe, desk and maybe a small TV in too, and still have enough space to navigate your way around the room, you're all set.
Look at properties further away from your university
Student houses that are closer to unis are usually more expensive. But, if you're a 'glass half full' kind of person, you can just as easily flip that around – houses that are further away 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 (the perfect remedy for the sedentary student lifestyle).
Or, if you're a keen cyclist, why not just ride into uni each day?
After all, what use is being within walking distance of uni if that's literally the only place you can afford to go?
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.
Or, if all else fails, you could try living on a houseboat as these two students did.
Look at a few properties before choosing one to rent
It might sound a bit tedious, but taking your time to view a few properties can really help you save 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 a certain 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.
And bear in mind that estate agents and landlords are pretty good at taking deceptive pictures, so rooms might not actually be as big as they look online.
Don't rush into signing the tenancy agreement
Sellers love nothing more than a desperate buyer, and landlords/estate agents are no exception.
The sooner you start looking for a property, the more power you have. If you know you've got a few weeks until you absolutely need to sign a contract, you can afford to haggle 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 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 take you to view 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 the monthly cost of rent, but it will help you save as much money as possible on the process as a whole (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 landlord's 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 – it has a limited lifespan, so it's bound to stop working at some point. Landlords might not agree to replace these kinds of things, but you're certainly 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 being 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.
Use Student SpareRoom
If your uni doesn't have a list of approved landlords, try having a look for properties and rooms on Student SpareRoom – the student section of SpareRoom.co.uk.
They have loads of student flats and houses available for rent in cities across the country. The rental costs are generally pretty good on there, and it's free to use the service.
To get early access to new ads, you can upgrade to Early Bird (from 99p a day or £10.99 for a week, with 10% student discount available too). But, you'll likely find that you can get a good place on there without forking out for an upgraded account.
Take meter readings when you move in
While this won't technically save you money on rent, make sure that in any new rental property you take readings of the gas, electric and, if applicable, water meters.
Submit these readings to your supplier as, otherwise, your first bill will be based on an estimate. If they think the number was lower at the start of your tenancy than it actually was, this could leave you paying for the previous tenant's usage.
Of course, 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, and they discover how much you've actually been using, your next bill will likely 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 at least you're 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 you're dealing with a big expense like rent.
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.
Check if your landlord needs a licence
This one's only for students living in London – but if you are, you could be in for a refund to the tune of several thousand pounds.
Depending on the house you're staying in, your landlord may need a licence to testify that the property is suitable for living in. Working this all out yourself would take a while but, fortunately, there's an online tool that can check for you – all you need to do is enter your postcode and follow the instructions.
If it turns out that your landlord doesn't have the right licence, you could be due a refund of up to 12 months' rent. According to our National Student Accommodation Survey, the average cost of rent in London is £152 – so, if you were to get a full 12-month refund at that rate, you'd be looking at close to £8,000. In other words, it's definitely worth checking.
Get council tax exemption
Full-time (note: not part-time) students are exempt from paying council tax, so if everyone in your house meets this description, 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 will likely 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 legal 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 into the mains, you don't need to pay.
Register your new address for all services
We're sure you've been told 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 a home-sharing scheme is worth considering if you don't mind giving up 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 cooking meals, mowing the lawn or helping to 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 looking into.
It's not uncommon for landlords to try to take advantage of unwitting students, so make sure you know your rights as a tenant.