With living costs on the rise - and, for young people at least, the dream of owning a home becoming increasingly unattainable - it's little wonder that renting in the private sector is seen as a laborious and often stressful undertaking, particularly for those taking their first steps out of their parents' nest. The good news there are ways to cut out (some of) the hassle.
The cost of renting itself is high enough (particularly in London, where the average for a flat is now well over a grand), but the sad truth is you're probably also going to have to shell out on letting agency fees. It's practically impossible to avoid them completely - but that doesn't mean you should be at the mercy of unscrupulous private renters.
Letting agencies can charge a fee for processing the agreement as there are tangible costs involved in doing the legwork and drawing up contracts and so forth, but by law they can't charge you simply for signing up or the privelege or looking through catalogue of properties on the market - so don't pay it.
If in doubt, refer to the Citizens' Advice Bureau.
Choosing a location
Rents are ridiculously high in the UK at the moment, but so are living costs, and when it comes to choosing location you need to take a step back and look at the big picture. How far are you from public transport? Can you walk to work even?
That's why it's important to view a property before committing to any contract - not just to check out the interior but also so you can get a sense of the area and whether there's scope for you to drive down pesky travel costs.
Reading the small print
It's an obvious point - but then again: a lot of tenants get their fingers burnt by not reading their contract properly.
First, make sure you understand what you're paying for in the beginning. Often tenants end up parting with a big deposit thinking it includes the first months rent, and then getting a nasty letter when they miss a scheduled payment.
Equally as prevalent is tenants assuming that the monthly rent includes the cost of utility bills. Remember that, as someone who is benefitting from the provision of utility services, you are legally obliged to pay - and energy providers are often able to trace the address for credit activity to identify the bill-payer.
Finally, make sure your deposit is secured with the DPS, and if it isn't, don't be afraid to have a word with your letting agent or even the landlord directly.
Rent is high, living costs are high, so what can you actually get on the cheap? Furniture, for one. If you've gone for an unfurnished flat and you need to kit it out for six months or a year, then don't be afraid to swing by a tip or go looking on Craigs List for unwanted items. That'll also save you a shed load on moving fees when it comes time to leave.
Where to look for available properties?
One of the well known websites - zoopla.co.uk - gives you a huge range of properties available which you can filter out by postcode, min and max price, bedrooms and type of the property. Even house(flat) shares are available if you can't afford to pay for a whole property by yourself.
Rightmove.co.uk give you the option to search by tube and rail stations, map area or you can draw an area yourself where you want to find a property.
You may want to read about: Garden Offices.