Property Voices: Why first-time renting is so intimidating

Elisha Mans

Elisha Mans - Credit: Archant

Harpenden student and first-time tenant Elisha Mans was overwhelmed with advice when she took to the Bristol rental market – not all of it useful.

As a student joining the rental market for the first time, I was briefed on all the dos and don'ts by anyone who has ever had a roof over their head.

Everyone gives you different views: "Switch energy supplier" or "it's too difficult to get information, use the current provider"; "There will be a lot of competition so jump in as soon as you can" or "hold back and don't rush into the rental process".

Whilst my experience is not in St Albans or Harpenden, but Bristol, I imagine that many first-time tenants here are struggling. Making sense of the many properties on Rightmove, and the landlords' fees, and contracts that come alongside them is scary.

Perhaps this is a property issue to take up with the education system; should we be taught how to become successful, scam-avoiding tenants in school? Or perhaps it is a societal issue which puts too much focus on rights and guidance for landlords and property-owners, and ignores the fact that a fifth of the UK is living in privately rented accommodation. Regardless, there must be an awareness of how intimidating it feels to be a first-time tenant.

There is simultaneously too much, and not-enough guidance on how to rent.

That is not to say, to be fair, that there isn't support out there. St Albans district council, for example, has tenancy advice given by the private housing sector on their website which does go a small way towards demystifying the tenancy process, highlighting what to do about boiler problems, condensation and light bulb changes.

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Yet even that seems insufficient when so many young people have to start from nothing to rent a property. We find ourselves googling whether it's possible to switch water supplier (it's not) and if it is worth paying for the full Virgin Media bundle (a contentious issue).

For a new tenant, not only is the sum of money intimidating, but you find yourself in a web of energy suppliers, broadband providers, and binding contracts with predominantly biased advice.

Our city councils could do more to alleviate this stress on young people by providing direct information, especially in locations like St Albans where property prices go a long way to ensure that we will need to rent for a good amount of time before we buy.

All I can say is good luck to all the other students and young people looking to rent for the first time. Whilst it is by no means impossible, there are many loopholes to jump in order to secure that first rental.