Information » Housing » Finding rented accommodation » Renting
When you are looking for a property to rent, it's a good idea to write a checklist of the things you need to look for:
- Is the house or flat in good condition? Note any repairs and ask your landlord what he or she is going to do about them before you move in
- Is the property warm enough and how much will it cost to heat?
- Is the property safe? Has it ever been burgled?
- Are there smoke alarms fitted?
- What is the local area like?
- Are you allowed to redecorate? Put in your own furniture or put pictures up on the walls?
- Is the property furnished? Do you have to buy any extra furniture?
- Are there any extra charges?
- What bills are included in the rent, if any?
- If you are a student, it is worth asking if you can get half price rent over the summer if you will not be living there
Tenancy agreements and licences
- If you are under 18, you are not legally allowed to rent a property (hold a tenancy) by yourself. However, you can sign an agreement with your landlord for a licence which means you have the landlord's permission to stay at the property - but it is not a legal right
- Landlords, letting agents, housing associations and local authority housing departments usually require a guarantor before giving a licence to someone under 18. A guarantor is somebody who will pay your rent if you cannot pay it. If you are a student, your guarantor is usually your parent or guardian. If you are leaving care and moving into rented accommodation, social services could be the guarantor
- If you are 18 or over, you will need to sign a tenancy agreement to rent a property. This is a legally binding document between you and the landlord and both parties must not break the contract
- You will need this agreement in writing from your landlord. If it is not produced within 28 days of you asking, it is a criminal offence and your landlord could be fined. Get in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau if you are having difficulties
- The tenancy agreement should cover the following:
- landlord's name
- your name
- address of the property
- length of the tenancy (if it is a fixed-term tenancy)
- date of the start of the tenancy
- type of tenancy
- notice period
- amount of rent
- when rent will be increased (if it is not a fixed-term tenancy)
- what the tenancy covers - this will be attached to an inventory which states the furniture in your property
- amount of the deposit / bond and whether it is returnable
- whether the rent includes fuel bills and water rates
- your role as a tenant - e.g. to keep the property in good condition, to pay the fuel bills, TV licence, no pets and so on
- the role of the landlord - e.g. to keep the property safe and in a good state of repair
- Your tenancy agreement should also state any repairs the landlord has agreed to carry out. It is a good idea to meet your landlord before you sign anything. If there is damp or there are repairs that need to be made, ask the landlord what he or she is going to do to fix it
- Before you sign a contract, ensure the property is in good condition, it will be cheap to heat and light, it is worth the rent and you can afford it
- Find out from your landlord about your power supplies and whether you need to register your gas, electricity and water with a supplier. You may also need to take meter readings and contact the supplier with them. See the Bills section
- You should also check to see you are covered with the correct insurance for the property. For more information go to the Building and Contents Insurance section
- Gas appliances within the property must have valid approved certificates and must be regularly checked by a CORGI engineer. Ask you landlord to see the certificates and ensure all gas appliances are in working order. If there is something wrong with any of the gas appliances, this could lead to a carbon monoxide leak which can be fatal
- Your landlord must provide a safety check certificate within 28 days of the gas check and must be produced before you move in to the property
- Signs of neglect in a property can indicate a bad landlord, so make sure you check everything is ok with the property before you sign. If you know of previous tenants, ask them about their experiences
- If you have any concerns about your tenancy agreement, contact your local Citizens Advice Centre or Housing Advice Centre
- When you sign for a property to rent you will need to pay a deposit or bond. This is usually equal to one month's rent and is used to cover any repairs or non-payment of rent at the end of your tenancy. Ensure you get a receipt for your deposit which should be refunded to you when you leave
- You may also need to pay your first month's rent in advance
- Get your landlord's contact details to have in case of an emergency or if something goes wrong in the property, but check the conditions of calling first. Some landlords will charge you for out-of-office-hours calls that are not emergency
As a tenant, you have certain rights according to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Housing Act 1988. These state that your landlord must:
- Allow tenants to live without being harassed or inconvenienced by the landlord.
- Provide a property fit for human habitation (i.e. clean and safe).
- Maintain the common areas, building structure and outside of the property.
- Ensure repairs are carried out properly.
- Design and build property to certain standards.
In turn, you are expected to:
- Pay rent on time
- Pay council tax, water rates and other property bills
- Look after the property and keep it clean and tidy
- Allow the landlord to enter and view the property, providing you have been given at least 24 hours notice of the visit
There are three types of lease for private tenancies:
- Assured short hold tenancy, which means the landlord is certain of retaining possession of the property at the end of the lease
- Assured tenancy, where the tenancy is assured for a fixed period and can only be terminated by a court order or surrender by the tenant
- Regulated (protected) tenancies, which offer the most protection against rent increases or eviction
Under the Housing Act 1985, council or housing association tenants benefit from 'Secure Tenancy'. They have greater protection from rent increases or eviction than private tenants and can transfer the tenancy to a spouse or dependants should they die.