Despite its importance to modern life, internet access is something that’s easily overlooked when hunting for a house or flat to rent. But it's such an important topic and can affect our day-to-day lives.
Not only is there the question of whether the available broadband speeds are suitable, but you also need to think about contract length, cancellation fees, and unexpected costs.
Time spent researching now can help avoid problems later on, and potentially save you money.
Broadband in rented homes: the key points
Home rentals and long broadband contracts
Many broadband contracts, and most of the best deals, have a term of 18 or 24 months, which can be longer than the lease on a rented home. To avoid getting stuck paying for a broadband service that you no longer need, or risk being hit with a cancellation fee, you need to make a plan.
If you think you’re likely to carry on using the same broadband provider, you should look into its procedure for moving the broadband when moving home. That way, you'll know if it’s easier to carry the service over to another property and how much it will cost to do this. You can also read more in our guide on how to switch broadband.
If you’re living with flatmates, bear in mind that circumstances can change. That ultra-cheap 24-month contract may not be such a great deal when you have to pay an early termination fee.
If you do end up having to cancel a contract early, make sure to speak to the provider to understand exactly what it’ll cost you. If there’s a fair amount of time remaining, the cancellation fees can be expensive.
You might also want to consider a broadband service on a short-term contract. These can be rolling monthly, three or six-month contracts, or special student broadband deals designed to fit around term times.
Short contracts may seem like a good solution, but bear in mind the monthly cost of these is usually much higher.
Here are some of the best short-term broadband deals currently available:
You’ll usually need to pass a credit check to sign up for a broadband deal. If that’s a problem, you’ll find a few providers offering broadband without a credit check.
Does your home have a phone or fibre line?
Unless you get wireless broadband, you’ll need some kind of line running into the property to supply internet access. This could be a BT telephone line, Virgin Media cable, or fibre optic wire.
Check with the letting agent that the home you're planning to move in to already had a phone or a fibre line installed. It's not a huge issue if there's no infrastructure in place, but you’ll need to look at the cost of installation or the availability of other options in the area.
If work is required to install a line, check with your landlord that they’re okay with one being installed first.
Some properties might have a deactivated telephone or broadband line. You may have to pay to get it reinstated, and waiting for an engineer could delay installation for weeks. For more information, you can read our guide to broadband installation times.
Some broadband providers offer free set-up, but this won’t always cover a line installation or activation of a dormant line.
If you don't think you need a phone line, and you're happy to use your mobile phone for calls, there are providers offering broadband without a phone line. However, most of these still require a line of some sort to bring the broadband into your home.
Does your landlord already have a broadband contract?
Some properties come with broadband, which can look like a great deal on paper. But make sure to find out what exactly this includes. If your landlord’s chosen broadband service is too slow or has a tiny download limit, it could end up being a false economy.
Make sure to investigate thoroughly to see whether the bundled broadband will suit your needs. If it won’t, ask about what you can do if you want to install your own. Like any utility, everything should be simple, but it’s worth taking the time to ensure you don’t run into a problem down the line.
There may also be security concerns. If you don’t have control over the Wi-Fi router, thinking about taking extra precautions, such as using a VPN service, to reduce the risk of your online activity being monitored.
Watch out for broadband black spots
You could be limited by your choices depending on your new home's location. Certain phone lines won’t have been enabled for fibre services yet. This is especially an issue for more rural areas.
For a quick overview of the broadband options available, you can type your address or postcode into our deals checker. This is clever enough to only show the deals that you can sign up to at an exact location.
Broadband Genie deals checker
What are your alternatives?
If you face a long wait for broadband installation or can’t get the service you want, it's not the end of the world.
Mobile broadband at home is becoming more popular now that 4G and 5G are widely available and very fast.
You can use a mobile phone as an internet hotspot through tethering. For those of you looking for a more permanent mobile broadband connection, most mobile providers offer an internet connection through either a Wi-Fi dongle or mobile broadband router. However, outside of the major cities, you may find that mobile broadband doesn’t suit your needs.
Even after 5G coverage becomes widespread, don’t be surprised if the service isn’t up to scratch. Performance can be affected by many factors, such as weather conditions and local network traffic.
If you’re using a mobile contract, you need to make sure that your data allowance will cover everything you need it for. If you're worried about this, dedicated mobile home broadband deals with unlimited data are available. These can be an excellent solution, especially as you can sign up for flexible, monthly options.
For example, Three's 4G Hub Home Limited Broadband gives you unlimited data, an average of 14Mb download speed for around £20 per month. But you can cancel this at any time.
Alternatively, there's always public Wi-Fi hotspots. These can be enough to get by if your internet usage is fairly low. Universities will provide free internet on campus, and libraries and cafés can be great places to go if you only surf online occasionally. But this is only really a short-term or emergency solution.
Comparing broadband deals for rented homes
Once you’ve decided what kind of broadband is right for your home, we have everything you need to compare internet deals and find the best package. Use our handy comparison tables to quickly filter deals by monthly price, set-up cost, contract length, providers, and more.
Frequently asked questions about broadband in rented homes
Can I switch broadband providers in my rental property?
Whether you can switch broadband providers in your rental property will depend on your property, the type of phone or internet line you have, and your landlord. If you’re in a block of flats where you’re all on one broadband contract, this could be a little more difficult. But if there’s only one property, you already have a line, and you’re willing to pay for the broadband, your landlord may be okay with this or may not even need to be consulted.
Do your research, and always check with the landlord or agent if engineering work is required.
If the building is already connected to the BT Openreach network, it may be simpler for you to switch providers as the framework is already in place, and you won't need to carry out any more installation work.
Can I take over the existing broadband service at the property?
If you’re a landlord who owns a property where the previous occupant has time left on their broadband contract, or you’re an occupant hoping to take over the contract from the landlord, you might be wondering this.
Unfortunately, the contract cannot be passed over.
If you want a broadband contract for your property, you’ll need to get the contract holder to cancel the contract and buy a new package.
Is my landlord legally obliged to supply me with broadband?
No, your landlord is not legally required to supply you with broadband.
If broadband isn’t included as part of your rent, you’ll need to buy your own broadband package. But you’ll still need to speak to your landlord to ensure that you’re allowed to arrange any necessary installation and engineer visits.
Which providers offer student broadband?
The big providers including BT, Virgin Media and Sky have all been known to offer student broadband deals in the past. But these offers are becoming rarer.
If you want further details on student broadband, then you can check out our guide to student internet.
What if there’s no broadband access at the property?
If it’s not possible to get a traditional broadband connection on your property, then you’ll either need to go without the internet or find a different way to connect.
The most common wireless broadband methods are either mobile or satellite broadband. There are also some wireless broadband ISPs, though they’re generally found in rural locations.
For more information on wireless broadband and how to get it, check out our wireless broadband guide.
What to do if you’re unhappy with the broadband provided?
If you’re not happy with the broadband being provided, then speak to your landlord. They may be willing to let you set up a new connection if you pay for it and arrange it yourself.
But if your landlord doesn’t agree, then you’ll have to stick with the broadband package that has been provided for you. There are things you can try if your broadband is struggling. You can use your phone as a mobile hotspot during the times you really need faster broadband, but you won’t be able to set up something more permanent.
Whether we own a property or are renting, broadband access is equally important. Landlords don’t have to provide broadband access, but when they do, this can definitely save you some time. However, if you aren’t happy with your options, you can use our deals checker to see what other packages are available in your area.
If the infrastructure is in place, it can be pretty easy to change your provider, as long as your landlord gives you permission. Whether you need an engineer’s visit or not, we have a guide on how to switch broadband.
Ideally, unless you know you’re going to be living there for a long time, you should look into short-term contracts when renting. If you’re a student, there are specific student broadband deals that you can look into.
Why do we need your address?
We need your address to show you the broadband deals available at your home. This information is gathered in partnership with thinkbroadband.