Renting a property
How to rent: the checklist for renting in England
Updated 9 July 2018
© Crown copyright 2018
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Who is this guide for?
This guide is for people who are about to rent a house or flat on an assured shorthold tenancy. Most of it will equally apply if you are in a shared property but in certain cases your rights and responsibilities will vary.
1. Assured shorthold tenancies
When you enter an assured shorthold tenancy – the most common type – you are entering into a contractual arrangement.
This gives you some important rights but also some responsibilities.
You shouldn’t feel forced into a decision and it is important to understand the terms and conditions of any contract you are entering into.
2. Before you start
Renting from a landlord or a letting agent?
What can you afford? Think about how much rent you can afford to pay: 35% of your take-home pay is the most that many people can afford, but this depends on what your other outgoings are (for example, whether you have children).
If you are entitled to Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you may get help with all or part of your rent. If you are renting from a private landlord you will receive up to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate to cover or help with the cost of rent. Check with this online calculator to see if you can afford to live in the area you want. You should also look at this advice about managing rent payments on Universal Credit.
Do you have the right to rent property in the UK? Landlords must check that all people aged over 18 living in their property as their only or main home have the right to rent. They will need to make copies of your documents and return your original documents to you.
Ways to rent a property
Direct from the landlord
Through a letting agent
Landlords and property agents cannot unlawfully discriminate against a tenant or prospective tenant on the basis of their disability, sex, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
Watch out for scams! Be clear who you are handing money over to, and why.
3. Looking for your new home
Things to check
Deposit protection. If the landlord asks for a deposit, check that it will be protected in a government approved scheme. Some schemes hold the money, and some insure it. You may be able to access a bond or guarantee scheme that will help you put the deposit together. Contact your local authority for advice. Alternative products such as deposit replacement insurance also exist, but you need to fully understand the cover they provide before signing up. For example you will still be responsible for paying for any damage to the property at the end of the tenancy.
Length of tenancy. There is usually a fixed period of 6 or 12 months. If you want more security, you can ask for a longer fixed period.
Bills. Check who is responsible for bills such as electricity, gas, water and council tax. You or the landlord? Usually the tenant pays for these. Advice on paying bills is available here.
Fixtures and fittings. Check you are happy with them, as it is unlikely that you will be able to get them changed once you have moved in.
Check who your landlord is
They could be subletting – renting you a property that they are renting from someone else. If they are subletting, check that the property owner has consented. Find out who you should speak to if any repairs need doing.
Ask whether the property is mortgaged.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs )
4. When you’ve found a place
Check the paperwork
Tenancy Agreement. Make sure you have a written tenancy agreement and read it carefully to understand your rights and responsibilities. The landlord or agent usually provides one but you can request to use a different version. The government has published a model tenancy agreement that can be used. If you have any concerns about the agreement, seek advice before you sign.
Inventory. Agree an inventory (or check‑in report) with your landlord and, as an extra safeguard, make sure that you take photos. This will make things easier if there is a dispute about the deposit at the end of the tenancy. If you are happy with the inventory, sign it and keep a copy.
Contact details. Make sure that you have the correct contact details for the landlord or agent, including a telephone number you can use in case of an emergency. You are legally entitled to know the name and address of your landlord.
Code of practice. Check whether whoever is managing the property is following a code of practice.
The landlord must provide you with:
Deposit paperwork. If you have provided a deposit, the landlord must protect it in a government approved scheme within 30 days and provide you prescribed information about it. Make sure you get the official information from your landlord, and that you understand how to get your money back at the end of the tenancy. Keep this information safe as you will need it later.
The Energy Performance Certificate. This will affect your energy bills and the landlord must provide one (except for Houses in Multiple Occupation). From April 2018 private rented priorities will need to achieve a minimum EPC band ‘E’ rating before they can be let (subject to exemptions).
If your tenancy started or was renewed after 1 October 2015 your landlord cannot evict you with a Section 21 notice (no fault eviction) if they have not provided you with these documents. You can still be evicted with a Section 8 notice if you break the terms of your tenancy.
The landlord should also provide you with:
A record of any electrical inspections. All appliances must be safe and checks every 5 years are recommended.
Evidence that smoke alarms and any carbon monoxide alarms are in working order at the start of the tenancy. Tenants should then regularly check they are working.
5. Living in your rented home
The tenant must…
Pay the rent on time. If you don’t, you could lose your home because you have broken your tenancy agreement. If you have problems, GOV.UK has links to further advice. Check out these practical steps for paying your rent on time.
Pay any other bills that you are responsible for on time, such as council tax, gas, electricity and water bills. If you pay the gas or electricity bills, you can choose your own energy supplier.
Look after the property. Get your landlord’s permission before attempting repairs or decorating. It’s worth getting contents insurance to cover your possessions too, because the landlord’s insurance won’t cover your things.
Be considerate to the neighbours. You could be evicted for anti-social behaviour if you aren’t.
And also you, the tenant, should…
Make sure you know how to operate the boiler and other appliances and know where the stopcock, fuse box and any meters are located.
Regularly test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors – at least once a month.
The landlord must…
Maintain the structure and exterior of the property.
Fit smoke alarms on every floor and carbon monoxide alarms in rooms with appliances using solid fuels – such as coal and wood – and make sure they are working at the start of your tenancy. If they are not there, ask your landlord to install them.
Maintain any appliances and furniture they have supplied.
And also the landlord should…
- Insure the building to cover the costs of any damage from flood or fire.
6. At the end of the fixed period
If you want to stay
Do you want to sign up to a new fixed term?
There may be costs for this, particularly if you rent through an agent. If not, you will be on a ‘rolling periodic tenancy’. This means you carry on as before but with no fixed term – your tenancy agreement should say how much notice you must give the landlord if you want to leave the property – one month’s notice is typical. Shelter publishes advice on how you can end your tenancy.
Your landlord might want to increase your rent
If you or the landlord want to end the tenancy
There are things that both landlords and tenants must do at the end of the tenancy:
It is a legal requirement for landlords to give you proper notice if they want you to leave. Normally, the landlord must allow any fixed period of the tenancy to have expired, and they must have given at least 2 months’ notice.
Return of deposit
Try to be present when the property is inspected to check whether any of the tenancy deposit should be deducted to cover damage or cleaning costs (a ‘check-out inventory’). If you do not agree with proposed deductions contact the relevant deposit protection scheme.
Remove all your possessions, clean the house, take meter readings, return all the keys and give a forwarding address. Dispose of any unwanted furniture via a local collection service. The landlord is usually entitled to dispose of possessions left in the property after, typically, 14 days. The landlord must let you know, or try to let you know, that they intend to dispose of possessions you leave behind.
7. If things go wrong
If you have a complaint about a letting agent’s service and they don’t resolve your complaint, you can complain to an independent redress scheme. Letting agents must be a member of a government approved redress scheme.
If you are having financial problems, or are falling into rent arrears, speak to your landlord as they may be helpful, and are likely to be more sympathetic if you talk to them about any difficulties early on. Should you need further help contact your local housing authority, Citizens Advice or Shelter as soon as possible. Check out these practical steps for managing your rent payments.
If you have a serious complaint about the property and your local authority has sent a notice to the landlord telling them to make repairs, your landlord cannot evict you with a Section 21 notice (no fault eviction) for 6 months after the council’s notice. You can still be evicted with a Section 8 notice if you break the terms of your tenancy.
Local authorities have powers to apply for banning orders which prevent landlords or property agents letting out property if they are convicted of certain offences, including failure to comply with a formal notice issued by the local authority requiring safety improvements and making illegal evictions. If a landlord or property agent receives a banning order, they will be added to the database of rogue landlords and property agents. Landlords or agents may also be added to the database if they are convicted of a banning order offence or receive 2 or more civil penalties within a 12 month period.
If you are being forced out illegally, contact the police and your local authority. If your landlord wants you to leave the property, they must notify you in writing, with the right amount of notice – you can only be legally removed from the property with a court order.
8. Further sources of information
Tenancy deposit protection schemes
Letting agent redress schemes
Every letting agent must belong to a governmentapproved redress scheme.
Help and advice
- Citizens Advice – free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities.
- Shelter – housing and homelessness charity who offer advice and support.
- Crisis – advice and support for people who are homeless or facing homelessness.
- Your Local Housing Authority – to make a complaint about your landlord or agent, or about the condition of your property.
- Money Advice Service – free and impartial money advice.
- The Law Society – to find a lawyer.
- Gas Safe Register – for help and advice on gas safety issues.
- Electrical Safety First – for help and advice on electrical safety issues.
- Marks Out Of Tenancy – information for current and prospective tenants.