Martin Lewis' MoneySavingExpert explains how renters can slash their bills by hundreds of pounds

WITH rents rising across the UK, lots of people are finding themselves struggling to make ends meet.

Fortunately, Martin Lewis' MoneySavingExpert (MSE) has rounded up loads of tricks, deals and smart ideas to help renters cut costs and boost finances in this week's Money Tips email.

Here's our pick of the top nine need-to-knows for anyone renting in the UK.

Check where your deposit is saved

MSE says: "If your deposit's not protected, you could get it back… plus THREE TIMES the value."

In most cases, landlords in the UK have to save your deposit money in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDP).

The rules apply as long as you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007.

This is the most common type of tenancy, but you can double check what kind you have using Shelter's tenancy checker.

This means in England or Wales your deposit needs to be registered with one of the following:

  • The Deposit Protection Service
  • MyDeposits – including deposits that were held by Capita
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme

If you check, and you find out your deposit is not protected, the court can order your landlord to repay it to you or into a desposit protection scheme.

The court can even force your landlord to pay you a penalty of up to three times the total deposit amount.

Switch and save on all your bills

MSE says: "Unless you pay an 'everything included' rent, don't sit on your laurels, do some saving. Though for courtesy it's worth letting the landlord know."

Switching to save money is nothing new, but lots of renters believe they don't have a choice over who provides some services such as energy.

But if you're paying the bill yourself then you can choose your own supplier and should make sure you're getting the best deal possible.

The first thing to check is your energy provider, the Money Advice Service says switching energy supplier could save you up to £300 a year.

Next you should look at switching home phone and broadband providers which could save you £96 annually, according to Which?

You might also want to think about a water meter.

Martin Lewis' water-meter rule of thumb for those in England and Wales says that if there are more bedrooms in your home than people, or the same number, check if a free meter will save you money.

You can use a water meter calculator to see whether you'll save.

How to save on your energy bills

SWITCHING energy providers can sound like a hassle – but fortunately it’s pretty straight forward to change supplier – and save lots of cash.

Shop around – If you're on an SVT deal you are likely throwing away around £300 a year. Use a comparion site such as, uSwitch or to see what deals are available to you.

The cheapest deals are usually found online and are fixed deals – meaning you'll pay a fixed amount usually for 12 months.

Switch – When you've found one, all you have to do is contact the new supplier.

It helps to have the following information – which you can find on your bill –  to hand to give the new supplier.

  • Your postcode
  • Name of your existing supplier
  • Name of your existing deal and how much you pay
  • An up-to-date meter reading

It will then notify your current supplier and begin the switch.

It should take no longer than three weeks to complete the switch and your supply won't be interrupted in that time.

Check for council tax reductions

MSE says: "Live alone or with under-18s, or are you a student or on a low income? You may be due a council tax discount worth £100s."

You can get 25% off your council tax bill if you live alone, or if you are the only adult.

If no-one in your home counts as an adult (including you) then you get a 50% reduction.

People who don't count as adults for council tax purposes include those on some apprenticeship schemes, live-in carers and even diplomats – we've put the whole list in the box below.

You will not have to pay any Council Tax if everyone in your home, including you, is a full-time student.

Anyone on a low income, who claims benefits, or who gets pension credit may also be eligible for a discount of up to 100%.

Different councils have different rules so you'll need to check yours to see if you can apply.

Who doesn’t count as an adult when it comes to council tax

HERE’S all the people the government does not count as adults for Council Tax:

  • Children under 18
  • People on some apprentice schemes
  • 18 and 19-year-olds in full-time education
  • Full-time college and university students
  • Young people under 25 who get funding from the Skills Funding Agency or Young People’s Learning Agency
  • Student nurses
  • Foreign language assistants registered with the British Council
  • People with a severe mental impairment
  • Live-in carers who look after someone who is not their partner, spouse, or child under 18
  • Diplomats

Letting fees are banned so don't pay them

MSE says: "Some landlords and letting agents charge £100s for credit checks, photocopying etc, but since 2019 many such fees have been banned across Britain."

Some fees are eligible such as rent, deposits and late payments, but many are now illegal. See the box below for the full list of charges that are allowed.

If you've been asked to pay something you shouldn't have – your first step should be to contact your landlord or agent asking for them to return the fee.

If that doesn't work you can escalate your claim to a redress scheme, the local authority or as a last resort, the First-Tier Tribunal.

What fees is my landlord or agent allowed to charge

HERE’S the full list of things you can still be charged for:

  • Rent
  • A refundable tenancy deposit capped at 5 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or 6 weeks’ rent where annual rent is £50,000 or more
  • A refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week’s rent
  • Payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
  • Payments capped at £50 (or reasonably incurred costs, if higher) for the variation, assignment or novation of a tenancy
  • Payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and Council Tax if included in the tenancy
  • A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement

Using rent to boost your credit score

If you always pay your rent on time, you can voluntarily choose to record these payments on your credit score.

That means that paying regularly will boost your credit rating – leading to better deals on loans, credit agreements and even mortgages.

However, if you miss a payment or pay late it will harm your score, so you shouldn't opt in unless you're certain you can pay on time.

Both Experian and Equifax allow renters to register for rent to be counted towards credit ratings.

If you're in a house share, you should also be wary of setting up joint accounts with flatmates to pay bills.

When you set up a joint account you link your finances to the other person, which means your credit score can go down if they go into debt.

Rent for a fraction of the cost as a property guardian

MSE says: "For those who can be flexible in exchange for cheap rent, you can baby-sit empty properties to deter squatters."

This means you can save as much as 60% on typical local rents.

MSE found a room in an old bank in Bournemouth from £250 per month, and one in London's West Hampstead for £350 per month.

Four websites you can use to find property guardian opportunities are: Ad Hoc, Dex Property Management, Live-in Guardians and Lowe Guardians.

Check the terms and conditions carefully as you'll have fewer rights than a tenant normally does.

Check licensing – you could be owed money

If you rent in London, the property may need a licence for you to live in it.

Different boroughs have different rules, but the Mayor of London has launched a property checker so you can find out the rules where you live.

If your landlord doesn't have the right license in place, you might be able to apply for a rent repayment order of up to 12 months' rent.

Get a savings boost with a Lifetime Isa

If you're saving up to buy your first home, you might want to think about a Lifetime Isa.

Under the scheme you can save up to £4,000 each year and the government will top you up an extra £1,000.

Be warned, you have to use the money either for retirement or to go towards your first home, otherwise you have to pay back the government bonus and a penalty percentage too.

To be eligible you need to open the Lisa between the ages of 18 and 39, and if you choose to buy a home with the money there are maximum limits on the the value of the home you buy.

If you don't think a Lisa is right for you, there are other schemes available. We've outlined them all in the box below.

What help is out there for first-time buyers?

GETTING on the property ladder can feel like a daunting task but there are schemes out there to help first-time buyers have their own home.

Help to Buy Isa – It's a tax-free savings account where for every £200 you save, the Government will add an extra £50. But there's a maximum limit of £3,000 which is paid to your solicitor when you move. These accounts have now closed to new applicants but those who already hold one have until November 2029 to use it.

Help to Buy equity loan – The Government will lend you up to 20% of the home's value – or 40% in London – after you've put down a 5% deposit. The loan is on top of a normal mortgage but it can only be used to buy a new build property.

Lifetime Isa – This is another Government scheme that gives anyone aged 18 to 39 the chance to save tax-free and get a bonus of up to £32,000 towards their first home. You can save up to £4,000 a year and the Government will add 25% on top.

Shared ownership – Co-owning with a housing association means you can buy a part of the property and pay rent on the remaining amount. You can buy anything from 25% to 75% of the property but you're restricted to specific ones.

Mortgage guarantee scheme – The scheme opens to new 95% mortgages from April 19 2021. Applicants can buy their first home with a 5% deposit, it's eligible for homes up to £600,000.

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