Private rented housing

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This page provides information and advice about private rented housing and accommodation.

With social housing in such short supply, the majority of households are able to resolve their housing situation within the private rented sector.

On this page:

Where to find private rented accommodation

If you are already renting from a private landlord and you feel your home is no longer suitable for your needs, or you are ready to live independently, you could consider looking for alternative private rented accommodation. You can do this through:

  • your current landlord or letting agent
  • other letting agents
  • local newspapers
  • lettings websites such as RightMove
  • shop windows/notice boards
  • local social media platforms

Please be aware of scams, especially through social media sites.

Renting from landlords and letting agents

When speaking to a landlord or letting agent keep in mind that their priorities will be the rent being paid and the property being looked after. You will be promoting yourself as a tenant, as much as they will be promoting the home to you. Therefore:

  • you should present yourself as clean and tidy at viewings or any office visits – first impressions are important
  • you will need to reassure the landlord or letting agent that you are not a financial risk, for example, by showing evidence of regular rent payments over a sustained period of time (even rent paid to family or friends)

Most landlords and letting agents will check to see what they think you can afford. This may include a credit check.

Renting from a landlord

When renting directly from a landlord, you handle everything with them on your own. This can make it easier to agree a tenancy and raise or explain any issues, instead of a letting agent discussing this on your behalf. However, private landlords are not regulated unless they offer a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO). A HMO is a house with tenants who share communal areas. You can check with the local council if the property is licensed.

Renting from a letting agent

Before renting a property through a letting agent, you should:

Letting agents should not refuse you access to accommodation because you are claiming benefits. If you feel this is happening, please contact us at to report it. We can take action against a letting agent if it can be proved they are discriminating.

Using a guarantor

You may have to provide a guarantor before you are offered a tenancy if any of these apply:

  • you are a student
  • you are unemployed
  • you are renting for the first time
  • you have a poor credit history
  • you have a low income
  • you have moved from overseas

The guarantor agrees to pay your rent if you fail to do so, and will need to sign an agreement accepting their responsibilities. It is likely that the guarantor will need to earn over a certain amount of money to qualify to be one.

Types of private tenancies

There are two main types of tenancy agreements in the private rented sector; one for those who are residing in accommodation with the owner of the property, and a more common one for those living at a property without the owner.

The following provides information on the types of tenancy, notice periods and how and when they can be brought to an end.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)

This tenancy is the most common in the private rented sector and is for properties that do not have a resident landlord. This may be issued when you rent an entire property, or a room with shared communal areas. The AST must be for a term of 6 months or longer.

You should always receive a tenancy in writing. Both you, as a new tenant, and the landlord will need to sign this. The tenancy agreement should include:

  • the date the agreement started
  • the amount of rent due and the date it is due
  • a rent review clause
  • the length of the agreement
  • the name and address of the landlord

If the fixed term of the AST has ended and a further tenancy for a fixed period has not been issued, you will become a periodic tenant.

Ending your AST agreement

If you want to end your tenancy agreement, you will likely have to provide a written notice, in line with the rent payments:

  • if you pay rent monthly, you would need to provide 1 months notice
  • if you pay weekly, you would need to provide 4 weeks notice

This is, unless there is a notice clause in your tenancy agreement that requires a minimum of 2 months notice. You may be able to negotiate the length of notice with your landlord.

Landlord notices

If you have received a notice, you can access further advice on our homelessness pages. There are two ways for the landlord to end an AST:

Section 21 notice

This can be issued regardless of any breach of tenancy agreement, and as long as it has been served in the correct legal way. In this case, possession is granted to the landlord. This notice:

  • must be issued on a Form 6A
  • must be at least 2 months in length
  • cannot be issued to expire before the end of any initial fixed term period

For the section 21 notice to be valid, the landlord must have carried out the following actions:

  • protected your deposit and provided you with written evidence of the scheme they have used within 30 days of receiving it
  • issued you with a Right to Rent leaflet at the beginning of your tenancy agreement
  • issued you with a copy of the latest gas safety record (if the property has gas), electrical safety check, and energy performance certificate (EPC)

Section 8 notice

This can be issued when there has been a breach of the tenancy agreement, such as:

  • rent arrears
  • persistent late rent payments
  • antisocial behaviour

For the landlord to issue a section 8 notice they must:

  • list the grounds that the notice has been served on (there are a prescribed set of grounds for possession)
  • be able to prove that the grounds apply in court

Depending on the ground for possession stated in the notice, the landlord must give you either 2 weeks or 2 months notice. They will not be able to apply to the court for possession until this period has passed.

Licence agreement

A licence is a personal permission for someone to occupy accommodation. This does not give the licensee a legal interest in any land or property. A licence can be for a fixed term of periodic and applies when:

  • there is no intention of to enter into a legal relationship
  • there is no right to exclusive occupation
  • the arrangement is for tied accommodation (accommodation that comes with work)

You are likely to receive a licence, sometimes without a written agreement, for the following situations:

  • living with friends with their agreement
  • living with parents with their agreement
  • living in a room of the property owners (lodging)
  • living in a hostel
  • living in a hotel
  • when required to live in accommodation under an employment contract, for the better performance of the employee’s duties

Ending a licence agreement

To end a licence agreement, the landlord should provide at least 28 days notice. That is unless there are concerns that involve a risk to you or your landlord if you were to remain in the property.

If you have been asked to leave, you can access further advice on our homelessness pages.

Costs of renting privately

It is important for you to know the costs of living in private rented housing to make sure you plan your finances accordingly and are able to pay your rent.

Upfront costs

It will be easier to manage your own private rented property if you have planned and saved for it. Renting accommodation can be expensive, but you may find cheaper options in other areas.

To secure a private rented property you should expect to pay:

Holding deposit: up to 1 weeks rent

This reserves a property and should only be paid if you are serious about accepting the property. There are situations where this money will not be refunded to you. If you sign the tenancy agreement, this deposit should be returned to you within 7 days, or you could decide to put this money towards the full deposit or rent in advance.

Tenancy deposit: up to 5 weeks rent

The landlord will retain this deposit for the duration of your tenancy agreement. They must protect this deposit in a recognised deposit protection scheme and provide you with written information on which scheme they have used. If they fail to protect your deposit, they will be unable to issue you with a Section 21 notice unless they return your deposit or give you new written information about the protection scheme they have used.

If you leave the property in good condition you should receive the deposit back in full. The landlord or letting agent will discuss this with you.

Rent in advance: normally 1 months rent

There is no limit to the amount of rent in advance a landlord could ask for. However, it is normal for this to be 1 month. You may be asked for more rent in advance if you are claiming benefits or do not pass a credit check.

Furniture, essential items, and removal fees

You may already have furniture and essential items, however, these may not fit into your new home. Unless you are renting a fully furnished property or room, you should also add this to the list of expected expenses.

The amount you need to save will depend on the cost of the rent. Here are examples of the upfront costs and how these are calculated:

  • if you find a property for £1,000 per calendar month, you will need £230.72 for the holding deposit (£1,000 x 12 / 52), plus £1,153.85 for the tenancy deposit (£1,000 x 12 / 52 x 5), and a further £1,000 for the rent in advance. Without furniture and essential items this is a total of £2,384.57
  • if you find a room in a shared house for £450 per calendar month you will need £103.85 for the holding deposit (£450 x 12 / 52), plus £519.23 for the tenancy deposit (£450 x 12 / 52 x 5), and a further £450 for the rent in advance. Without furniture and essential items this is a total of £1,073.08

For tenancies that commenced after 1 June 2019, the landlord and letting agent cannot charge for things like:

  • references
  • administration
  • check out inspections
  • credit and immigration checks
  • renewing your tenancy when your fixed term ends

If the landlord has charged you, and you have paid for a fee that has been banned, a Section 21 notice cannot be served until they refund your money.

Ongoing costs

Once you have moved in, you will be responsible for ongoing monthly costs of running your home. Unless specified as part of your rent, you might need to pay for the following items in addition to your monthly rent:

  • water bills – usually monthly
  • service charge – mainly when living in flats and can be paid monthly or annually
  • council tax – can be paid monthly or annually
  • gas and electric bills – payments can vary from regular direct debits or a pre-payment meter

You may also have financial commitments like outstanding loans and subscriptions that you will need to budget for from your income.

There are resources online that you can access to help you budget for your new home.

Securing your finances

There are different ways to save or secure funds for the upfront and ongoing costs of moving to private rented accommodation. Some of these are:

  • save for as much of the upfront costs as you can before moving
  • if you are already renting a property, you may be able to transfer the deposit from one landlord to the next
  • you may be able to borrow money from family or friends to help pay the upfront costs before the release of any current deposit, or with an agreement to pay them back at an affordable amount each month
  • avoid taking out a loan for the upfront costs, unless you are able to comfortably repay the agreed amount on top of your rent
  • if you are taking out a loan, consider a community bank, such as Boom Bank , who are a not for profit organisation
  • you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment (DHP) for the upfront costs if you are claiming housing benefit or universal credit
  • you may be able to apply for a budgeting loan if you are receiving a low income benefit, or a budgeting advance if you are receiving universal credit from DWP for the rent in advance (the amount borrowed will be deducted from your ongoing benefits and may impact your ability to afford to rent a property)
  • for ongoing rent costs, you can claim universal credit or housing benefit to help with the rent if you have a low income
Last updated on 28/05/2024