Considering its importance to modern life, internet access is all too often overlooked when hunting for a new house or flat to rent.
But with more people than ever renting their homes rather than buying, broadband is something that many of us should be considering. Not only is there the question of whether the available broadband speeds are suitable, you also need to think about contract length, cancellation fees and unexpected costs.
Time spent researching this now can help avoid problems later on and potentially save you money.
Home rentals and long broadband contracts
Many broadband contracts (and most of the best deals) have a term of 12-24 months, which can be longer than the contract on a rented home. To avoid getting stuck paying for a broadband service that you no longer receive, or being hit with a cancellation fee, a bit of forward planning is necessary.
Enquire about your broadband provider's procedure for switching when moving home so you know if it will be easy to carry the service over to another property. If you’re living with flatmates though, bear in mind that circumstances can change – that ultra-cheap 24 month contract may not look like such a good idea when you have to move on.
If you do end up having to cancel a contract early, make sure to speak to the provider so you know exactly what it will cost. If there’s a fair amount of time remaining the cancellation fees can be expensive.
You may also wish to consider a broadband service on a short term contract. These can be rolling monthly, three or six month contracts, and there are student broadband deals designed to fit around term times. This can avoid the hassle of a longer term deal, but keep in mind that you will probably end up paying more per month relative to a longer contract.
Does your home have a phone line?
Yet some properties may not have active lines. You may have to pay to get the phone line reinstated, and waiting for an engineer could delay installation for weeks.
Most letting agents will list the features of a home when they advertise it so if a phone line isn’t mentioned make sure to ask them before moving forward with the contract. If there’s no phone it isn’t the end of the world, just check the availability of other options in the area, or the cost of an installation. Note that while some broadband providers offer free activation this will not apply to more significant work such as line installation.
Does your landlord already have a broadband contract?
Some properties (especially student-centric ones) come with broadband, which can look like a great deal on paper. But make sure to find out what this includes as often the extra features can be found cheaper elsewhere. And if your landlord’s chosen broadband service is too slow or has a tiny download limit you may have to dig into your own pocket.
Once again, make sure to investigate fully and ascertain whether any bundled broadband will suit your needs and 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 ensure you don’t run into a problem down the line.
Watch out for broadband black spots
Despite the reliance that so many of us have on broadband it isn't yet fully available across the entire country, particularly in more remote areas. Certain postcodes won’t be eligible for the faster lines, or certain phone lines won’t have been enabled for fibre services yet.
To check coverage in your area you can use the postcode search function on the Broadband Genie comparison tables - this will filter ISPs to display only those available at your exchange.
What are your alternatives?
Of course, if you face a long wait for your broadband installation or can’t get the service you want in the flat you are after, it isn’t the end of the world.
Mobile broadband at home is becoming more popular thanks to the rollout of fast 4G networks, and can be utilized either through a mobile phone (if it has tethering enabled), USB or Wi-Fi dongle or mobile broadband router. However, outside of the major cities you may well find that mobile broadband doesn’t suit your needs. Even after 4G coverage becomes widespread (Ofcom has a deadline of 2017 for 98% indoor coverage) don’t surprised if the service isn’t up to scratch as performance can be affected by many factors.
And if you are using a mobile contract make sure that your data plan will provide a sufficient amount of data allowance. Web browsing and email use very little data but video streaming and downloads can quickly consume a large amount of bandwidth. Check our mobile broadband data usage guide for more details.
Alternatively, there’s always public Wi-Fi hotspots, which can be enough to get by on if your internet usage is fairly low. Universities will provide free internet on campus, or libraries and cafes can be great places to go if you only surf online occasionally. Don’t rely on being able to get by on these though - if you need a connection at short notice it could mean a long trek to the nearest hotspot.