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Renting privately

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What to check before you move in

If you rent your home or are a leaseholder, you have a legal agreement with the landlord or freeholder. This gives you rights and responsibilities.

Before moving into a new place, check the agreement carefully and ask questions if there's anything you're not sure of. This can help avoid problems later.

Remember too that your rights will depend on the type of tenancy you have. You can check this using Shelter's tenancy checker.

Here are some things to check out.

Is there a tenancy agreement?

Make sure you know the terms and conditions before you accept the accommodation. A tenancy which is agreed by word of mouth is legally binding but tenants have far more security if they have a written tenancy agreement. The agreement should set out both the landlord and tenants' rights and responsibilities.

What is the agreed rent?

Check that the amount written on your tenancy agreement or rent book is what you agreed. Is there anything in the agreement about increasing the rent?

Who pays the utility bills?

Fuel bills and water rates are normally your responsibility if you live in self contained accommodation. Have the meters read at the start and the end of the tenancy. If the landlord is responsible for the bills you may need to pay the landlord a set amount each week.

Will you have to pay Council Tax?

In self contained accommodation the tenant will be liable for Council Tax.  If you are on low income you may be entitled to help through Council Tax Benefit. If you live in a shared house the landlord will be liable to pay the Council tax and may try to recover it through the rent.

What type of tenancy will you have?

Since 1997 private sector landlords have had to offer assured short-hold tenancies. This allows the tenant to remain at the property for at least 6 months as long as you do not break any any terms within your tenancy agreement.

If you share your accommodation with your landlord you may be a licensee rather than a tenant. Licensees have less rights than tenants. Some licensees are protected under the terms of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. You are entitled to a 28 day written Notice to Quit if:

  • your landlord lives in the same building but does not share your living accommodation (bedroom, living room, bathroom, kitchen etc.) 
  • you are a student living in halls of residence
  • you live in a hostel where a landlord does not have the right to enter your room or move you to another room

However if your landlord (or a member of his/her family) shares accommodation with you or you pay no rent the landlord needs only to give 'reasonable notice' to evict you.

Homes in Multiple Occupation

If you share a property with a number of other tenants your landlord may be subject to Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations. If so your landlord must be able to show you that he /she has complied with the regulations and has an HMO licence. Please ask to see it before you move in. See our HMO pages for more information about this.

Deposits

Deposits are usually requested by landlords to cover any damage that might be done to the property or its contents. Since April 2007 all landlords have to place new deposits within a government authorised scheme to stop them withholding repayment on spurious reasons. See our deposit protection pages for more information about this.

If you are unable to afford a deposit in advance you might qualify for help from  the council's Deposit Bond Scheme.

Is there an inventory?

If your tenancy is furnished you should arrange to agree with the landlord a list of the furniture to be provided i.e an inventory . This should help avoid disputes.

Insurance

It is the tenant's responsibility to insure their own possessions.