When you've found a place you want to rent, be ready to act quickly to get it.
Be ready to pay upfront costs
You may have to put down a holding deposit. This is to reserve the property while the landlord carries out your tenancy check. A holding deposit could be about a week's rent and is often paid back through a deduction from your rent payments.
You are asked for a tenancy deposit when the letting agent or landlord has confirmed that you can rent the property. This is usually equal to four or six weeks' rent. Your deposit should be protected in a tenancy deposit protection scheme.
You'll probably be asked to pay the first month's rent in advance. If you have a bad credit history the letting agent or landlord could ask for several months' rent in advance.
If you rent through a letting agent, you may also have to pay letting agency fees.
If you need help covering the upfront costs associated with renting, you could apply for:
Be prepared for a credit check
Most landlords run a credit check to see if you've had problems paying bills in the past. It's not a legal requirement and the landlord needs written permission from you.
Check your own credit record for free through Experian.
Be honest with a letting agent about a bad credit rating before you pay any fees. If you fail a credit check you risk losing fees you have paid. If you have a bad credit history, you may have to provide a larger deposit or suggest someone who could act as your guarantor.
Provide proof of identity
Landlords or letting agents want to see photo ID, such as a driving licence or passport. If you don't have photo ID, a signed bank card is enough for some landlords, or you could provide a gas or electricity bill from your current home.
Be careful who you trust. Fraudsters have been known to pose as landlords so make sure you ask for proof, such as photo ID. Don't give anyone a copy of your personal documents without knowing who they are.
Find out more about rental fraud from Action Fraud.
Prove you have the right to rent
If you move in on or after February 1st 2016, you should be asked to prove you have the right to stay in the UK and the right to rent.
Find out more about right to rent immigration checks.
You may be asked to provide contact details of your landlords for the past three years and the addresses and dates of everywhere you've lived in this time.
If you haven't rented before, you may be asked for the contact details of your parents or a guardian.
Confirm your circumstances
Landlords may want proof you are employed. They may ask to see a letter from your employer or other evidence such as pay slips or an employment contract. If you're self-employed, you may be asked to prove your income. The landlord or letting agent may ask for your bank details and recent bank statements.
If you claim benefits, provide proof by showing your award letters.
Provide details of a guarantor
A guarantor is a person who agrees to pay the rent for you if you do not. You may need a guarantor if it is your first time renting, you are a student or can't prove you have a regular source of income.
Think about who you could ask to be your guarantor. They usually need to be a UK resident and own a property. Your guarantor should check what they are agreeing to cover, as it may be more than just your rent. For example, if you're in a shared flat or house, your guarantor may risk being held liable for your housemates' unpaid rent.
Video: If your landlord gives you a bad reference
Last updated 09 Oct 2014 | © Shelter
Still need help?
If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help