Finding a home: private rented homes

Last Updated: 3 April 2024

Most private rented properties advertise in the local paper.

Letting and estate agents keep lists of privately rented accommodation.

There may also be adverts in shops in the area where you want to live.

Under 18

It is extremely unlikely you will be able to get a private tenancy if you are under 18 unless this is provided and supported by Children’s Services. You may get what is known as a licence.

A licence is permission to occupy somewhere. It is a personal right, not a legal one. This means you have little protection from eviction.

Abbreviations used on newspaper ads

MRA: Months rent in advance
PCM: Per calendar month
PW: Per week
SC: Self contained, i.e. you are the only person with access to the accommodation
CH: Central heating
GCH: Gas central heating
DG: Double glazing
EXC: Excluding
FF: Fully furnished
DSS: People receiving social security benefits

Furnished or unfurnished

If a property is unfurnished you will have to provide your own furniture. This could include carpets and curtains.

A furnished property will include most, if not all, of the items you need.

In a shared house and houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) you will have to share toilets, bathrooms and kitchens with other people.

Find out who you are sharing with to see if you want to live with them.

Be careful with shared bills. If someone else wants to run the heating all night you could be liable for the share of a massive bill and if someone leaves you will have to pay their share of the rent.


Most private landlords ask for a deposit and/or rent in advance before you begin a tenancy.

Check before going to see a property how much deposit is required and on what terms.

Citizen’s Advice tenancy deposit guidelines outline the rules and provides help with your application form. You may also need references from previous addresses and from your employer.

Always check what you need with the landlord before going to see the property.

Tenancy agreements

When you rent from a private landlord, you will sign an assured short-hold tenancy agreement.

This type of tenancy lasts for a minimum of six months but can be longer.

During this agreed period you would not usually be allowed to move out of the property without paying extra to do so. The landlord can’t make you move out unless they have a court order.

If the landlord wants you to move out at the end of the agreed period, they must give you two months’ notice.

If the landlord is happy for you to stay, you won’t usually have to sign anything else, your tenancy will simply continue.

To end the tenancy you must give your landlord one month’s notice or your landlord must give you two months’ notice. Your landlord cannot simply give you a note telling you to leave at the end of the week or the end of the month, even if it has 'Notice to Quit' on the top.

Your landlord must serve you a section 21 Notice before they can go to court. If you get one of these get help to see what your options are, because the landlord may have a good reason.

Help with paying the rent

If you are on a low income you may qualify for housing benefit.

More information can be found in the Revenues and Benefits.

Signing up

You should get a written copy of your tenancy agreement and receipt for your deposit.

You should agree with your landlord the extent of any existing damage to the property before you move in. This will avoid problems later getting your deposit back.

You should also make sure that you have a full list of all the items in the property. This is called an inventory. The landlord should sign this and it will avoid problems later if there is an argument over the state of an item or even whether it is in the property.

If you have any questions contact:

Tenancy checklist
Tenancy type Housing Association Private Rented
Assured Tenancy Yes Yes
Assured Short-hold Tenancy Yes (in some cases) Yes
Right to Buy Yes (in some cases) No
Right to Repair Yes No

Before you rent a property

  • read the tenancy agreement carefully, to make sure you know what you are renting and if you have to share any parts with anyone else
  • if you are unsure of anything ask before you sign
  • find out who is responsible for bills such as council tax and water supply, if you have to pay council tax, ask us for a claim form to see if you can get any help with the cost
  • make sure you know when the rent is due, how much and who you have to pay it to
  • always get a receipt every time you make a payment
  • find out if there are any service charges as these can be extra to your rent and you may not get any housing benefit to help with them
  • make sure your landlord has had any gas appliances, including fires and boilers, safety checked within the past 12 months you can ask to see the certificate which should be from a CORGI registered gas company or plumber
  • a summary of rights and responsibilities and what to expect prior to renting a property is available from GOV.UK: Your landlord's safety responsibilities

Changing or decorating your rented home

You must get permission from the landlord or letting agent before you decorate or make any changes to the property.


Squatting is a criminal offence. You have no security at all when you are squatting.

Court proceedings to get you out of the property can be taken against you at any time and without warning.

Keeping your home

The landlord and tenant have the same rights and responsibilities as when renting a housing association property.

Moving out

Getting your deposit back

If you paid a deposit before you moved into the property you need to remember to ask for it back.

Normally the landlord will inspect the property for any damage and check the items on the inventory are still there.

They may deduct money if he/she feels there has been damage to the property or items are missing. You will not normally get the deposit back until you have left the property. If you have problems please contact an advice agency.

Keeping up to date with rent

You may be able to get help to pay your rent if you are eligible for housing benefit.

If you stop paying the rent or your housing benefit is stopped and you get into debt your landlord can evict you.

Usually the courts will grant the landlord’s eviction order, so you should make sure your rent is up to date.

If you are having trouble paying the rent you can get help from us or Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

For further advice contact the Housing Options team using the details below, the same telephone number applies for out of hours calls.