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Private rented homes

Where to find a private rented property

Most privately rented housing is owned by landlords who generally advertise vacancies in the local paper.

Letting and estate agents also keep lists of privately rented accommodation. It is always worthwhile looking at window advertisements in shops in the area where you want to live.

We may be able to give you a list of landlords offering private accommodation to rent.

If you look for accommodation through a letting agent, they may charge you a fee for drawing up the Tenancy Agreement. They may also want references and could do a credit check which you may be charged for. However, they cannot charge you for simply registering on a waiting list for accommodation.

Under 18

It is unlikely that you will be able to get a tenancy to a private property if you are under 18 years of age. You will most likely get what is known as a licence which gives you permission to occupy somewhere and is only a personal right, not a legal one. Which means that you would have very little protection from the law against eviction.

Furnished or unfurnished

Private rented property can be furnished or unfurnished. If a property is unfurnished, all the furniture will have to be provided by you.

A furnished property will include most if not all of the items you need in a home. In the case of shared houses and houses of multiple occupation you will have to share toilets, bathrooms and kitchens with other people.

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 be legally obliged to pay their share of the rent.

Deposits

Most private landlords ask for a deposit before they will grant a tenancy. This is to act as a kind of insurance in case you don't pay your rent or damage their property.

You should always check with the landlord before going to see a property how much deposit is required and on what terms.

If you have a low income, you may be able to get help from a deposit guarantee scheme.

You can get help you with your application form from the Citizens Advice Bureau. You may also need references from previous addresses and from your employer if you are working.

Tenancy agreements

When you rent from a private landlord, you will sign what is called an assured shorthold tenancy agreement. This type of tenancy lasts for a minimum of six months but can be longer. You will need to agree the length of time with the landlord.

During this agreed period you will not be allowed to move out of the property without paying extra to do so, but the landlord can't make you move out either, not without 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 month's 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.

Legally your landlord must serve you a Notice of Intention to Seek Possession before he/she 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.

Signing up

You should ask your landlord for a written copy of your tenancy agreement. If you have had to pay a deposit, get a receipt for the money you have paid. It is worth agreeing with your landlord the extent of any existing damage to the property before you move in. This should prevent any problems getting your deposit back when you move out.

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 a dispute over the condition of an item or even whether it is in the property.

If you have any questions regarding a tenancy agreement or think that you are being asked to leave a rented property illegally you can get assistance from your local Council Housing Department or Citizens Advice.

Your tenancy checklist

Type of tenancy   Council Housing Association  Private rented
Secure tenancy   Y  N  N
Assured tenancy  N  Y  Y
Assured shorthold tenancy  N  N  Y
 Right to buy  Y  N  N
 Right to repair  Y  Y  Y

Remember to:

  • read the tenancy agreement carefully, make sure you know what you are renting and if you have to share any parts with anyone else. If you are not sure 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, get a claim form from the Council 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 you have to pay. These can be extra to your rent and you may not get any Housing Benefit help with them
  • make sure your landlord has had any gas appliances, including fires and boilers, safety checked within the past twelve months. Ask to see the certificate which should be from a CORGI registered gas company or plumber

Squatting

The law refers to 'squatting' as 'trespassing' which means that court proceedings to get you out of the property can be taken against you at any time and without warning.

The property owner can get legal authority to evict you and repossess the property by issuing proceedings against persons named or unnamed. If you do not leave the property within 24 hours of the landlord getting an interim Possession Order, you will have committed a criminal offence.