Find out about the fees, checks and questions to ask before signing a contract.
Register with a letting agent
You usually have 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 must not charge you for registering or giving you information on properties. It is a criminal offence to do this.
Letting agents advertise homes for rent on property websites and in their office.
A letting agent may also collect rent and arrange for repairs of the property.
If you claim benefits
Agents should let you register, view properties and apply for a tenancy.
No DSS policies and adverts are unlawful discrimination but you can still be asked to pass an affordability check.
Our advice for private renters claiming benefits covers how to:
- show you can afford the rent
- find landlords who accept tenants on benefits
- challenge DSS discrimination with our template letter
Ask about up front costs and fees
You usually have some upfront costs to pay, such as:
- rent in advance
- a tenancy deposit that must be protected with a scheme
Most fees for tenants are banned. You can't be asked to pay for things like credit checks or references when agreeing a new tenancy.
Some agents take a holding deposit to reserve a property while checks are done. You should usually get this money back of the landlord decides not to rent to you.
Prepare for checks by the agent
Checks can include:
- referencing checks
- affordability and credit checks
- right to rent immigration checks
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 cover the rent for you if you don't pay it.
Make sure the agent meets professional standards
All agents must belong to one of the following redress schemes:
Redress schemes can resolve disputes between agents and their customers.
The agent must display the name of the scheme they belong to at their offices and on their website.
Find out more about letting agent redress schemes.
Other organisations that regulate agents
There is no regulator for letting agents. You could check if the agent belongs to a voluntary accreditation scheme or association:
- National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS)
- Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
- UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)
- National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)
Ask questions before you sign a 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 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
You have a legal right to know who your landlord is, even if you deal directly with a letting agent.
Most private tenants sign up to an assured shorthold tenancy.
Get repairs done before you move in
Ask the letting agent to confirm in writing that repairs will be done before you move in. It may be harder to get the work done after you have moved in.
Check if you have to contact the letting agent or the landlord to sort out repairs after you move in.
Agree an inventory at the start of your tenancy. This can help to resolve any disputes about the return of your deposit when the tenancy ends.
Last updated 11 November 2020 | © Shelter
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