Ways to manage your rent payments and housing costs

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Preparing to rent

Moving home needs preparation so that you have enough money to get off to a good start. This section will help you make your own plan, whether you are going to rent privately, or from a housing association or council.

Money to pay to new landlord

If you are renting privately this could include letting fees, deposit and advance rent running into hundreds of pounds.

Your local council may run a rent deposit, bond or guarantee scheme or other incentives to help with this – contact the local housing advice team to find out. These links provide opening hours and phone number for each councils housing advice team:

Cambridge: https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/housing-options

East Cambs: https://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/housing/homelessness

Fenland: http://www.fenland.gov.uk/housingadvice

Huntingdonshire: http://www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/housing/advice-for-tenants/housing-advice

South Cambs: https://www.scambs.gov.uk/housing/housing-advice/

Peterborough: https://www.peterborough.gov.uk/residents/housing/housing-advice/

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk:  https://www.west-norfolk.gov.uk/info/20001/housing

In social housing you will still need advance rent – usually a minimum of one week – depending on the size of accommodation and the area you live in. This is payable when you sign the tenancy agreement. Allow from £100-200 for this.

Avoid costly borrowing to pay these upfront fees – it will make managing your other bills that much harder. You can set yourself a savings target, e.g. I need to save £5 a week for 5 months to save £100 for my advance rent.

You may also be able to get help via a budgeting loan (if you are in receipt of relevant benefits for at least 6 months) or from a local charity to help with this advance rent payment – ask your local council or advice agency such as Citizens Advice


Money to furnish new home

Private rentals may be furnished or unfurnished. Virtually all social housing rentals are unfurnished – with no white goods, no carpeting and possibly no light bulbs.

Think about what you will need as a minimum as soon as you move in for

  • Sleeping (bed, mattress, sheets, blanket/ duvet)
  • Eating (cooker or microwave, fridge, toaster, kettle, cutlery, crockery, pans)
  • Hygiene (towels, cleaning equipment)
  • Seating (table, chairs)
  • Flooring (remember there are no floor coverings in most social housing)

It is also a good idea to get yourself a small portable heater as there is often a short delay before you can get the heating on (see under Moving in)

Check out where to get free and recycled stuff for your new home. There may also be assistance from your Housing Association or local charities with white goods and basic furnishings but you cannot rely on this.

Budget before you think about borrowing for your household goods – credit from shops, payday lenders and catalogues is very expensive and you can end up paying back two or three times the actual cost – plus if you choose hire purchase or ‘rent to buy’ you are likely to be buying products that are not competitively priced.

A Credit Union is a way of borrowing money that is cheaper and safer than many of the high street and online alternatives.

Plus don’t forget to allow for moving costs to transport your stuff to your new home – there may be grant help from your Council or Housing Association to help with this – ask in advance so that you know what you need to budget for.


Money to pay rent

Making sure that you can pay rent on time is essential – if you don’t pay your rent on time you may lose your property.

For people who pay their rent from earnings the main problems occur when there are sudden changes, e.g. if you lose a job or you are on a zero hours contract so your earnings go up and down. This should  be helped as Universal Credit is introduced but it is really important to have some money in reserve so that if something goes wrong you can cover your rent and not get into arrears.

For people who receive housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit, the amount of benefit is determined by government rules relating to your age and the number of people  you live with (if no special  circumstances apply). To find out what size of property you are entitled you can use this bedroom calculator

Once you know the size of property you are entitled to you can then find out about typical rents in your area on this DirectGov website

To find out more about applying for housing benefit, see the Shelter webpage here


Money to manage your home

Thinking in advance about how much it will cost to run your home is vital. The main bills you are likely to pay regularly are:

  • Rent and service charges
  • Council tax
  • Water rates
  • Heating
  • Transport
  • Food
  • TV license / phone / internet
  • Insurance if you have a car or home contents insurance

It can be hard to work out in advance what some of these bills will be – try a starter budget and the tips below to help yourself

  • Do a ‘test drive’ – if when you move you know you will have to live on less because of the higher bills, see if you can live on that amount now, before you need to. It is easier to think “I’ll manage on £5 less a week” than to live the reality, so try it out first and then save the money towards something you really want
  • Ask around – if you have friends or family who are already renting ask them how they manage – what things cost and what they would avoid if they could start again
  • Get help – There are plenty of places to get advice and help so try not to worry alone – if you are not sure where to go try our directory or get in touch to see if we are able to help