Broadband for rented homes and shared houses

Choosing a suitable broadband deal is relatively straightforward if your home consists of you and family members or a partner, but the challenge can be considerably harder for landlords or occupants of shared homes. Happily, there are still plenty of broadband choices on the market to suit tenants, or residents in a house in multiple occupation (HMOs).

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People in a shared house using broadband

Who pays for the internet in a rented property?

This is the first thing to confirm before investigating broadband deals. If it’s your responsibility to pay for broadband, a landlord is likely to allow any choice of provider as long as the installation won’t involve structural changes like a new phone line being fitted. 

If your landlord is paying the bills, even poor broadband speeds may provide insufficient grounds to request a change of provider. If having the freedom to change internet service provider (ISP) is important, make sure this is included in a tenancy agreement before signing it. You may have a good relationship with your landlord and be able to switch to a new provider with their blessing, but having the freedom to do so agreed in writing is key to ensuring your choice is respected.

Broadband for renters – providers your landlord may refuse

While any reasonable landlord should be perfectly happy to let you change ISP, especially between Openreach-based providers, one or two suppliers may cause issues:

Sky Broadband

If you are going for a broadband-only package, you can change to Sky quite easily. However, triple-play deals for phone, TV and broadband could involve having a satellite dish installed, and this may raise objections from the landlord. The local council may also intervene if the property is listed, or in a conservation area.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media uses its own cable network to deliver ultrafast fibre broadband for renters and people in shared dwellings. The installation may require another socket in the wall and cables being pulled in from the street, so your landlord may not approve this change depending on their stance on property alterations. Even so, Virgin Media provides the vast majority of Sky TV channels without requiring a satellite dish, so it might represent a fair compromise. 

Hyperoptic

Residents within Hyperoptic’s service area face the same issues as outlined above, and a landlord may direct you towards a rival provider that doesn’t need to conduct a property-altering installation. 

Landlord broadband

Some landlords are happy to cover all the bills in a rental property for simplicity. It may be preferable to give tenants the opportunity to find the best broadband deal, but the following landlord broadband issues may still be worthy of consideration…

Is there specialist landlord broadband?

The simple answer is no, though there are some companies specifically aimed at landlords. In general, ISPs don’t offer deals specifically relating to internet in a rented property – they are simply providing a connection to one address, as normal.

Setting up broadband for renters

The options for rented homes are comparable to those available on privately owned properties. Whether you’re a landlord or tenant, certain choices need to be weighed up:

Fixed-price broadband

A fixed-price broadband deal for a new customer tends to provide a discounted rate for a period between 12 and 24 months. You can find some broadband options with no upfront costs this way, as setup fees and installation may be waived. If you or your tenants are set to stay put for at least 12 months, this represents the best value for money. However, for shared houses and short-term tenants, the more costly and complex choices below may be better. 

Rolling contract broadband

Landlords catering primarily for short-stay tenants may be advised to consider no contract broadband. These deals are generally more expensive than fixed-price contracts, but they also renew every month for easier cancellation. Set-up costs often apply, though, and monthly costs are almost always higher.

Account activation fees have to be paid every time a new rolling contract commences for a new tenant. This may ultimately prove costlier than simply running a fixed-price contract on an empty home for a month or two. From a tenant’s perspective, this is a great choice if you don’t plan to stay in place for 12 months – providing you give the ISP the statutory 30 days’ notice to cancel. 

No broadband at all

There is no obligation on either landlords or tenants to set up internet in a rented property. Landlords can opt out of providing broadband altogether, though this may damage a property’s desirability. If a landlord you rent from is refusing to allow installation when asked, mobile broadband may be an option…

Mobile broadband

This uses a SIM card to provide an internet connection across a 4G or 5G mobile network. It can be accessed either with a USB dongle plugged into a specific machine, or a MiFi hub which creates a small Wi-Fi network wireless devices can connect to. Mobile broadband requires nothing more than a SIM and a compatible device, and it can be used wherever good indoor coverage is available from your preferred mobile network.

Cancelling broadband 

Ending your fixed broadband contract early can be a pricey undertaking. A cancellation fee will be imposed, typically multiplied by the number of months remaining on the contract. Rolling contracts are much easier to cancel, but for landlords hoping to secure a new tenancy within two months, a fixed contract that covers occasional void periods may still be more affordable than paying account activation costs over and over again.

Broadband for shared houses

Shared houses pose particular challenges because several independent parties have to agree on broadband, but only one of them will be officially named as the account holder. This opens up various pitfalls, such as if one tenant moves out mid-contract and subsequently refuses to pay their share of the broadband bill. As a landlord, it might be simpler to hold the account in your name and include broadband bills in the rent.

How to set up broadband in a shared house

  • Decide if you want standalone broadband, or a bundled plan that includes TV or other services

  • Set a budget everyone can agree to

  • Find the best deal using a broadband comparison tool

  • Nominate an account holder – ideally someone with a good credit score, as they’re more likely to be accepted for your preferred plan

  • Sign up with your chosen provider

  • Decide how each tenant will reimburse the account holder for their share. It’s important to note the legal obligation for paying the bill falls squarely on the named account holder, which often makes this a role no tenant wants to take on. 

In terms of fixed-term broadband contracts, the account holder should be someone with no intention of moving for the duration of the contract. This is obviously less important for rolling contracts. 

Broadband alternatives for shared houses

If trying to split broadband costs several different ways is logistically challenging, mobile broadband for individual occupants might represent a preferable option. Using a dongle, a smartphone or a MiFi router, each person can obtain a reliable broadband connection for their own personal use.

Last updated: 14 December 2020