If you live in rented accommodation, you don’t need your landlord’s permission to save money. There are many things you can do to slash bills. With the number of tenants rising, rents are fiercely expensive in many areas, so never has it been more crucial. Here are my top tips for renters:
Renters have a right to switch and save on energy (even prepaid)
If you pay the gas and electricity bill directly (not via the landlord), and it isn’t specifically banned in your tenancy agreement, you should compare and switch. Don’t stick with the previous tenants’ supplier, as it can be costly. Always do a meter reading as soon as you move in.
You don’t need your landlord’s permission. Even if your contract says you can’t switch, you may be able to challenge it. Communicate with the landlord, and get in touch with Citizens Advice for help.
To find your cheapest deal, use an Ofgem Confidence Code comparison site, where you simply plug your details in and it gives you the answer. Alternatively, join my cheap energy club at www.moneysavingexpert.com/energyclub, which does a comparison for you, gives cashback if you switch, then monitors your tariff afterwards to ensure you know when to move again. Even if you’re on a prepaid meter, you can still switch supplier and save. Yet if you want to convert from a prepaid to a normal meter, it’s best to get your landlord’s permission in writing, as it physically changes the property.
Beware joint bank accounts with flatmates
Shared bank accounts for bills can mean you’re credit-linked, even if you hardly know each other. When applying for products, their history can be taken into account. If it’s poor, it hits you. So keep them separate. If you used to have a joint account, but now don’t, apply for a notice of ‘disassociation’.
Landlords must ask before entering
Landlords may legitimately need to come in occasionally for repairs and inspections, and should arrange a time with you. If they enter without asking, you can ask them to stop. If it continues, it can be considered harassment. Contact Citizens Advice or a solicitor for help, or the police if you feel threatened. In Scotland, as your landlord must be registered, you can also contact your local authority.
Is your deposit protected?
According to Shelter, a fifth of private renters don’t know if their deposit’s been protected. By law, from 6 April 2007 in England and Wales most private landlords must use a Government-backed deposit protection scheme, giving you rights. (In Scotland, your landlord must use one of the three tenancy deposit schemes.)
Cheap contents insurance
If you rent, your landlord is responsible for buildings insurance, so you only need contents cover. As for what each covers, a quick way to picture this is to think of all the stuff that’d fall if you turned your home upside down.
If only you and/or your family live in the home then getting the cheapest cover is quite simple. Simple combine Confused.com and Comparethemarket.com to bag the maximum number of quotes in the minimum time. Then check aviva.co.uk and Directline.com, which they miss. If you live in a houseshare, getting cover from mainstream insurers can be tricky. A locked room helps - if you don’t have one, ask your landlord.
While comparison sites like Confused.com, gocompare.com and MoneySupermarket.com say they provide flat-share quotes, when I’ve tried the results were patchy and included some who wouldn’t actually cover you, so always double check. You may find a specialist such as Homeprotect.co.uk or a local broker via the British Insurance Brokers Association (biba.org.uk) easier.
Furnish for FREE - sofas, beds, TVs and more
If you’ve gone unfurnished or part-furnished, then online giveaway sites can help you for nowt. Hundreds of top-quality goodies are available for free from web communities like uk.freecycle.org and ilovefreegle.org. Some’s tat, but some’s treasure. Ensure you follow the sites’ etiquettes.
Don’t redecorate without the landlord’s permission
You generally need to return property in the state you got it, though minor wear and tear should be allowed.
Get the landlord’s permission in writing to put up shelves or repaint, unless you want to un-decorate before you leave.
Don’t get hammer-happy – nails destroy walls and deposits. Specially-designed picture strips will hold up pictures without damage.
Letting fees can be perverse and nasty, so check
Renters can be hit by huge and unfair fees. Some reported to me include £120 for permission to buy a dog or £60 for photocopying a contract.
Sadly, there’s little regulation over these charges, but at least make sure you know what they are so you avoid them. There are growing campaigns for stronger rights (letting agency fees are illegal in Scotland).
Does every renter need their own TV licence?
In shared homes, this usually depends on the tenancy agreement.
Joint tenants can usually share, but if you’ve your own tenancy, you need your own licence.
These are the biggies, but there are a lot more ways to save too. For my full 50 tips for renters see www.moneysavingexpert.com/renting
Energy providers EDF, Eon, Npower, and Scottish & Southern are giving away boilers (typically worth £2,300) for nowt, plus loft and cavity wall insulation.
You don’t have to be a customer to qualify. You need to have an inefficient/broken boiler and be on a low income/benefits or pension credit.
Check your driving licence now, or risk a £1,000 fine
If you’re stopped with any of the following incorrect on your driving licence, it can result in a £1,000 fine. Over 2.6 million have the incorrect address and 3% of married women have their former name – these are free to change. Few know your photo licence must be renewed and updated every 10 years (the 4b date on your licence). Renewing costs £20, but is cheaper than a fine.