Why rent privately?

Private renting can be a quicker route to finding a home. It can also offer more flexibility on location, and the option of furnished or unfurnished accommodation.

Routes to private rented accommodation

Properties are normally advertised in the following places:

  • local newspapers, shops, and Post Offices
  • estate agents and lettings agencies
  • internet

Payments before you move in

Most private landlords ask you to pay at least a month’s rent in advance to cover your first rent payment.

Some landlords will ask for more. For example, 2 months' rent upfront.

You're often asked for a tenancy deposit too. This payment should be returned to you at the end of the tenancy unless the landlord has a reason to make deductions.

If you pay rent in advance and a deposit at the same time, make sure it's clear:

  • what each payment is for
  • how much rent is covered by the payment
  • ask for a receipt if you hand over cash
  • check your tenancy agreement to find out what date your rent is due.
  • most landlords will ask you to pay your rent at the start of every rental period
  • if you've paid more than a month's rent in advance, you won't usually have to make another rent payment until the period you've already paid for has passed

Make a DHP claim for rent in advance

You can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) from your local council. This will help with rent in advance for a new tenancy.

For more information on DHP’s please click here.

What is a tenancy deposit?

You usually pay a tenancy deposit before you move into a property.

This is sometimes called a security deposit and can be used by the landlord to cover costs such as:

  • rent arrears
  • damage to the property

With a joint tenancy, you usually must pay a single deposit for the whole tenancy between you.

The deposit is your money. It should be returned to you in full at the end of the tenancy unless your landlord has a reason to make deductions.

Your landlord must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP). This is if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007. More information about this can be found on the GOV.UK tenancy deposit protection page.

A tenancy deposit is different from a holding deposit which you pay to reserve a property.

How much you can be asked to pay

From 1 June 2019, the maximum tenancy deposit is equal to 5 weeks' rent.

How to calculate your maximum tenancy deposit:

Your monthly rent x 12 ÷ 52 x 5 = maximum tenancy deposit

This limit applies to deposits taken from all assured shorthold tenants, lodgers, and students in halls of residence if the yearly rent is less than £50,000.

If you're overcharged you can complain to:

  • trading standards at your council
  • letting agent redress scheme if the agent is a member

There was no limit on the amount that could be charged before 1 June 2019.

Money Smart

Money Smart is a free Council service to help you manage your money and make the most of your income.

Other considerations

Payment for registering on waiting lists

Some accommodation/estate agents demand payment for "registering" you on a list of people looking for private rented properties. This is a criminal offence.


Make a detailed list (an 'inventory') of all fixtures and fittings in the property and their condition before signing a tenancy agreement. Agree the inventory with your landlord. This can help to avoid dispute.

Tenancy agreement

This forms a legal agreement between tenant and landlord. Check it carefully and fully understand the agreement before you sign. The tenancy agreement should include the amount of rent and deposit, rent frequency and tenancy length.

Be safe

Ask the landlord for a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate. This will show all appliances have been tested within the last 12 months by a registered engineer and are safe. Check smoke detectors and fire alarms are working.

Keys and instructions

Check you have enough keys for the doors and window locks and ask how to operate the heating, washer, alarms, etc.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies

From 28 February 1997 most private tenancies became assured shorthold. Importantly, with assured shorthold, a landlord can end the tenancy simply by giving the tenant at least 2 months written notice. However, if the tenant does not leave the landlord must get a Court Order to evict them. The Court will not normally order a tenant to leave within the first 6 months of the tenancy.

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