For all of the positive things about renting – flexibility, not having to fork out when the boiler breaks etc. – one of the major downsides is the lack of security. During times of enormous upheaval, like we are currently experiencing with the covid pandemic, the one thing that offers us a sense of stability is our homes – especially now, when we are being asked to remain in them unless absolutely necessary.
Shortly before the pandemic reached the UK, we were served notice that our landlords were selling up – a shock, as we had recently been sent a twelve-month renewal contract. Even without the extortionate agency feels that have now been abolished, moving costs money. Suddenly we were looking at paying for movers, cleaning, white goods and a whole host of other incidental costs, which was a setback in our plans for a more financially secure future.
The government have promised that nobody will be evicted during the covid-19 crisis, but unfortunately many people may find themselves forced to move on once the housing market kick-starts again. It’s a worrying time for us all, but there are some things that you can do, as a renter, to save money and feel more financially secure – now and in the future.
Make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible
Of course, people who own their homes have more control over the energy efficiency of the space, with options like solar panels, better insulation and a newer boiler open to them, but there are things that you can do as a tenant, too. As well as switching your energy supplier to the cheapest option, hanging curtains and using soft furnishings will help to retain warmth and keep your heating bills down. If you’re responsible for white goods, try to go for appliances with a good energy rating, and always report maintenance issues like holes, dripping taps or faulty electrics right away.
Don’t fall into the comparison trap
With most of us are spending more time at home at the moment, it’s easy to start focusing on all of the things you aren’t happy with, and to compare your rented home with all of the beautifully renovated houses you see on Instagram. When I was on maternity leave with my second son, and spending more time indoors, I would buy homewares to try and compensate for the fact that my surroundings weren’t Insta-perfect. It cost me a lot of money, contributed to our financial difficulties and didn’t make me any happier. Far more meaningful are the personal touches you can add – photographs, things you’ve made and gifts you’ve been given should all have pride of place.
Develop a rapport with your landlord
The relationship between landlords and tenants can be fraught, and I have certainly experienced this myself before, but it’s in everyone’s interests for this to be a positive relationship where possible. Having a rapport with your landlord will mean that you are less likely to find yourself looking for somewhere new to live at short notice, and you may be able to negotiate a longer, more secure contract or avoid rent increases. This is particularly important at the moment, where job losses and reduced income might affect your ability to pay your full rent – the best resolution for this is to come to an agreement with your landlord about what is feasible and fair.
Our new landlord allowed us to move into the new house two weeks earlier than planned due to the virus outbreak, with no extra rent payable, just a promise that we would pick up the utilities. We’ve met him (from a distance of two metres, when he came to dig out some rogue bamboo) and are hoping it’s going to be a much better fit this time.
As tenants, there are a lot of things that are out of our control, but the key to keeping our finances in check is to focus on the things that we can take charge of, and to stay positive.
Below are a few support lines for help with fiances while renting (during COVID):
Scope – a disability equality charity
Clare Seal (also known as @myfrugalyear on Instagram) is the the Author of the newly released book Real Life Money: An Honest Guide to Taking Control of Your Finances
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