Extending your search for somewhere to rent by as little as half a mile can either dramatically increase, or reduce, the amount you might have to pay in rent.

Andrew Hodgson, lettings director of Keys Residential in New Malden, recommends prospective tenants speak to their local letting agent to find out how much they should be paying for the type of property they are looking for.

He offers the following advice for those looking for a place to rent in the Kingston area.

Do your research. Try to research your desired area extensively to avoid any surprises when looking for a property within your price range. Speak to your local letting agent to get an indication of how much you should pay for the type of property you are looking for as some property websites can often give an over-inflated impression of rental figures. Monthly rental prices can vary greatly from area to area.

Use a regulated agent. The rental industry remains unregulated and is therefore not subject to any government legislation, meaning that practically anyone can set up as a letting agent or a landlord and start handling thousands of pounds of other people’s money. Make sure you seek out an agent affiliated to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). All ARLA agents must adhere to a strict code of conduct, as well as offering client money protection and redress schemes, which protect consumers if things go wrong.

Ensure your deposit is registered. A rental deposit can often represent a significant initial outlay for tenants and is typically the equivalent of six weeks' rent. It is a legal requirement that the landlord or letting agent protects the deposit through a tenancy deposit scheme which guards against possible misappropriation of monies. Tenants can find out more at direct.gov.uk.

Inventories protect tenants as well as landlords. A well prepared, detailed inventory assists in getting fair decisions at the end of your tenancy. Make sure that you thoroughly check the inventory provided and that you are happy it accurately covers anything you may have concerns about. If there are photographs, make sure they are good quality and reflect accurately any items captured.