Setting up your first home
What do I need to know?
Setting up your first home is a big step. Make sure you think everything through carefully before moving in and paying any money over.
- Who will you rent from?
- Will you live alone or share with others?
- How will you pay for the rent and bills?
If you rent a place, your tenancy agreement will probably set out terms and conditions that you will need to stick to. If you don’t keep to them you might risk being evicted. Always ask if you don’t understand something in your agreement.
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Council housing is usually the cheapest way to rent. You will be responsible for paying council tax and the bills, but you will not need to pay a deposit. However, there are very few places available and the council will usually have a long waiting list. If you decide to apply to the council, you will need to get an application form from their housing department.
Renting privately is usually more expensive than council places but there are usually lots of places to choose from. Again, you will be responsible for paying the bills and council tax. You will also need to pay a deposit and rent in advance.
Housing associations are usually cheaper than renting privately but more expensive than council housing. You will be responsible for paying the bills and council tax, but you will not have to pay a deposit. Like council housing, there are few places available and most properties go to people on the council’s waiting list. Sometimes a housing association may accept a direct application. If you want to apply to a housing association, go to their offices and find out if you can make an application directly.
- Go to a viewing
When you have found a place that you like, go and look at it properly before signing a tenancy agreement. If you can, take someone you trust with you.
Print off and use our Viewing a Property checklist to help you think about what you should ask and look out for.
- Work out how much it will cost
We have put together a list of things you might need to pay for.
Make sure you ask the landlord or agent to tell you about all the costs involved in renting the place, such as rent, bills, council tax and any deposit.
- Decide if you can afford it
Once you have worked out how much the place is going to cost, use this free Money Advice Service budget planner to work out if you can afford it.
See if there is any help you can get to pay the bills or help you set up home.
- Make sure the place is safe
Ask to check the gas certificate and any smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Check there are no repairs needed on the property.
Check out the local area – would you feel safe coming home at night?
- Check the landlord is registered
- Stay safe
Avoid visiting properties or meeting landlords alone. Check out our Top Tips for Staying Safe.
When you have moved into your new place make sure that you:
- Take meter readings and contact utility suppliers
- Contact the council tax department
- Apply for benefits
- Tell everyone your new address
- Stick to the terms of your tenancy
- Pay your rent and bills
Keep track of your money so that you can budget each month. That way you will be able to manage your rent and other expenses better. If you have a smartphone it might be a good idea to download a budgeting app.
Most private landlords ask new tenants to pay a deposit. This is usually equivalent to one month’s rent.
If you cant afford to pay a deposit there may be a bond scheme or rent guarantee scheme in your area that can help you. You can find out more about deposits here.
- Rent in advance
If you are renting from a private landlord you may be asked to pay one month’s rent in advance at the start of your tenancy. Many landlords will ask for the rent in advance to be paid before you move in.
If you cannot afford to pay rent in advance and are on certain benefits, you may be able to claim for a budgeting loan.
You can find out more about paying rent in advance and what help you may be entitled to here.
- Holding deposit
A holding deposit is a payment to a landlord or letting agent to reserve a property. You should only pay a holding deposit if you are serious about taking on a tenancy.
From the 28 February 2020, there are special rules that a landlord or letting agent has to follow when asking for a holding deposit.
- Furniture and household items
Furniture projects and charities can provide free or low cost second hand furniture and electrical and household items for people on low incomes or benefits. In some circumstances, you might be able to apply to the Discretionary Assistance Fund for a grant.
You can read more about help with furnishing your home and find a furniture project or charity in your area here.
- Council tax
Not everyone has to pay full council tax. Look on this page to see if you are entitled to any exemptions.
- Electric / Gas bills
- Water bill