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Broadband for renters and tenants

By Claire Nottage | Thursday, December 22nd 2022

With roughly a quarter of all UK properties now rented out, the demand for broadband in rented properties is huge. The process of finding a broadband deal is the same as it is for a private property but there are a few extra considerations to take into account before you sign up.

In this guide we look at some of the things you need to think about before you sign up for a broadband deal in a rented property, from who you live with to the legal requirements of your landlord or landlady.

Broadband in a shared house or flat

Popular with young people and students as it offers a cheap way of getting accommodation, sharing a house or flat can be fun, but it can get complicated when it comes to bills. The best option in this scenario is that the landlord supplies the broadband and includes the cost in the monthly rent bill. However, if this is not the case and you are required to arrange your own connection then there are a few important points to consider.

Permission to switch broadband from your landlord

Before you go ahead and start arranging a new broadband service, you need to check with your landlord or landlady as, even if they are happy for you to arrange your own broadband service, they may not want holes drilled in their walls or TV satellite dishes attached to their roof.

In addition, if your landlord is still mid-contract in the current service, it is not unreasonable that they would want you to wait until the contract term is up before switching providers, otherwise they will have to pay termination fees.

Long or short broadband contract

Choosing an 18-month contract is always going to be the cheapest option. However, it does mean you will be tied to that provider for the duration of the contract term, which can make things tricky if any of the housemates decide to move out. Whoever has their name on the bill will still be responsible for paying it and will have to rely on the others in the house to pay their fair share each month.

The alternative is to sign up to a rolling monthly contractwith a provider such as NOW Broadband. This works out more expensive than an 18-month broadband contract but does at least give you the option to cancel at any point if your situation changes.

What speed broadband you need

If you are sharing with a lot of other people, all of whom have at least two devices that require a broadband connection, you would be well-advised to look for a fast fibre service that will cope with the demands being placed on it. Although a slower, standard broadband service will be cheaper, when everyone is online at once it’s likely it won’t cope. Shop around for the best current fibre deals and make sure you get a package that will be sufficient for everyone.

If you decide you want access to a digital TV service as well, then the best bet could be to sign up to streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or NOW TV. The monthly cost is minimal and will cause the least hassle if a house member decides to leave.

If you need a VPN

If you are sharing a broadband connection with strangers, it is important to keep an eye on your online security. By using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your web traffic, and also by password-protecting all your devices, you can keep everything secure. A VPN costs just a few pounds a month and is easily installed on your computer.

Broadband in a private rental property

If you are renting a whole property rather than taking a room in a shared house, it does make things less complicated as there is no reliance on others paying their share of the bill. However, you will still need to consider the landlord’s requirements and how quickly you are likely to move again.

Check with the landlord before buying a new broadband deal

Just as with a shared property, you need to check with your landlord regarding whether you can have a new line fitted, holes put in the walls or a Sky dish put on the roof. For example, if you want to have Virgin Media, but there is currently just a BT phone line running into the property, you will need to have a Virgin cable put in, which will require a visit from an engineer – and a hole in the wall. This will also apply if you want to have full fibre installed.

An 18-month broadband contract offers the best value for money

One advantage of not having to split your broadband bill with others means that if you have to move you can just take your broadband with you without any protests. From this point of view, it makes sense to choose an 18-month contract – unless you know you are only going to be renting for a very short term. Bear in mind that you will need to check that the same service is available at your new property. If it’s not, and you have to leave your rented property before your broadband contract is up, you will have to pay early termination fees.

Consider using 4G/5G home broadband

If you want to keep things simple and avoid the need for a cabled service at all, you might want to consider using mobile broadband. 5G mobile broadband is now available with EE in select city areas across the country and offers speeds of up to 150Mbps, which will enable you to connect several devices and stream movies without a problem. If 5G is not yet available in your area, you can still get 4G, which offers around 30Mbps – a decent speed for most online activities.

Mobile broadband requires no connection fees and you can easily take it with you, so you need have no worries about having to end your contract early. Just check what the coverage is like at your new address or you may end up disappointed. Mobile home broadband is available on one-month, 12-month, 18-month and 24-month contracts, depending on the provider.

If you are using 4G or 5G mobile broadband in a shared house, there will still need to be a bill payer, and if you allow other housemates to connect to your 4G, you should expect them to share the monthly cost. Note that a 4G mobile connection may well struggle to support a large household with multiple devices.

You also need to consider data usage. Whereas cabled broadband connections are now almost all unlimited, most 4G and 5G wireless connections still come with limited data usage. Unlimited options are available, but come at a premium price, especially for 5G. However, in a shared house with several people online at once, an unlimited data deal is really the only viable option.

If your home broadband requirements are relatively small then you could even consider just tethering to your mobile phone’s data. Bear in mind that not all mobile deals allow tethering, so check with your provider first, and make sure you have a sufficiently large data limit; using 4G on your mobile is not ideal for streaming TV, for example, as it will rapidly consume your data.

Frequently asked questions

Is my landlord legally obliged to supply me with broadband?

No. There is no legal requirement for a landlord to supply broadband, television or even a functioning phone line, so check the details before you sign your tenancy agreement.

Can I take over the existing broadband service at the property?

No. This is because broadband contracts are with people, not properties. The previous tenants would be responsible for cancelling the broadband service before you move in.

Can I switch broadband providers in my rental property?

If your landlord currently arranges the broadband then you will have to ask whether he/she would consider switching to a different provider. If you already pay for broadband yourself then you are free to switch, subject to the landlord’s approval regarding any potential damage/changes to the property.

Do I have to pay to have a landline installed?

Your landlord is not legally required to provide a landline into a property, but the vast majority of landlords will. If there is no landline and you want to have one installed, you will have to get permission from your landlord first.

Which providers offer student broadband?

Both BT and Virgin Media offer student broadband on a shorter, 12-month contract, but there are no nine-month deals available.

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