Advice on the most successful ways of finding a home in the private sector.
We are not acting as an agent for the landlords of the properties advertised and are not responsible for the information about the properties provided on the various advertising platforms mentioned
- never pay any money without seeing the property first.
- try to take someone with you when visiting properties.
When looking for a home in the private rented sector you might want to check out our top tips for tenants guide to renting a safe secure and warm home.
The quickest way to find a property is online, on property search websites. You can search for the exact area you want and arrange viewings.
Community centres, libraries, local newsagents or larger stores often have local notice boards that advertise a number of things including properties and rooms to rent. These are usually placed directly from the landlord rather than an agents
Magazines and newspapers such as the local paper or evening standard sometimes have properties or rooms to rent in the small ads section.
They also sometimes have landlords and letting agents advertised in their business advertising section.
It is advisable to use a landlord that is a member of a landlord accreditation scheme. Members of accreditation schemes sign up to a code of conduct to keep their properties safe and in a satisfactory state of repair.
Using a letting agent to find and rent a home
Register with a letting agent
Letting agents advertise homes for rent on property websites and in their office.
You normally need to register with a letting agent if you want to rent a property through them. You can register with as many as you like.
The letting agent is not allowed to charge you for registering or giving you information on properties. It is a criminal offence to do this.
Some also collect rent and arrange for repairs of the property on behalf of the landlord.
If you claim benefits
Check the agent has landlords who will give you a tenancy if you need to claim housing benefit or universal credit to help pay your rent. Tell the agent if you will need to claim benefits, or else you could lose money you have paid in fees and charges.
Check the agent meets professional standards
It is advisable to choose an agent who has agreed to a voluntary code of conduct. If an agent has it will be a member of one of the following organisations:
- National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS)
- Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
- UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)
- National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)
There will usually be charges to pay before the tenancy can start. Make sure you have set money aside for:
- letting agent fees (for example, to cover the cost of drawing up the contract)
- holding deposit to secure the property while checks are done
- tenancy deposit that should be protected with a deposit protection scheme
The letting agent must display a list of all fees you will have to pay in their office and on their website.
You should not pay a letting agent the deposit or rent in advance until you have signed a tenancy agreement to move into a property.
Prepare for letting agent checks
Before you can start your tenancy, a letting agent will run checks to ensure you have the right to rent in the UK and are likely to be a good tenant. Checks normally include:
- right to rent immigration checks
- a credit check
- checks on your income
- references from your employer or previous landlords
You might be asked for a guarantor if you fail a credit check or are unable to give references. This is someone who agrees to pay the rent for you if you don't or can't pay during the tenancy.
For more information on credit checks and how they are completed you can go to the Shelter website
Ask questions before you sign the contract
Before you agree to take on a tenancy from a letting agent, make sure you know:
- how much the rent is?
- when and how often it has to be paid?
- what fees and charges you have to pay before you move in, on renewal and at the end of the tenancy?
- if your fees will be refunded if you or the landlord decides not to go ahead with the tenancy or renewal of the tenancy in the future?
- what length of tenancy agreement is on offer - 6 months, 12 months or longer?
- if you or your landlord can end the tenancy early using a break clause?
- who do you contact to get repairs done when you are living there
- what type of tenancy is it? Most private tenants are offered an assured shorthold tenancy.
Before taking up your tenancy
Ask the letting agent to confirm in writing that any outstanding repairs will be done before you move in, and make sure they are done before you move in. It may be harder to get the work done after you have moved in.
Agree an inventory with the agent at the start of your tenancy, it can help to resolve tenancy deposit disputes later.
It may be advisable to take your own photographs of the condition of the property and furniture
Letting agents might carry out inspections of your home during your tenancy to check the condition of the property. Check your tenancy agreement or ask, to see if and when inspections can happen. If they do:
- you must allow inspections
- the letting agent should give you at least 24 hours' notice in writing and the visit must be at a reasonable time
- if you can't make the time, suggest an alternative
- be aware it is illegal for them to enter your home without your permission
- you should not be charged for inspections.
If you have an existing private rented tenancy and are experiencing problems you may be able to find helpful advice in the private renting section section of our website.