Find out about your initial costs if you're looking for a private rented home.
Before you sign a tenancy agreement
You usually have to pay:
- rent in advance
- a tenancy deposit
Most fees for private tenants are banned. You can't be asked to pay for things like credit checks or references when agreeing a new tenancy.
Some landlords and agents ask for a holding deposit to reserve a property while they do a credit check or chase up references. You should usually get this money back if the landlord decides not to rent to you.
Check who's responsible for utility bills and council tax. You may have to budget for these costs soon after moving in.
Find out if you can get help with a deposit or rent in advance if you can't afford these costs.
Rent in advance
Most landlords ask for at least 1 month's rent in advance before you sign the agreement and move in.
You could be asked for more if, for example, you:
- have a poor credit rating or low income
- can't provide a guarantor or references
- arrived in the UK recently
There's no legal limit on how much rent in advance you can be charged.
Many landlords ask for a tenancy deposit before you move in.
You should get this back when the tenancy ends as long as you don't owe rent and leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in.
From 1 June 2019, the maximum tenancy deposit is equal to 5 weeks' rent.
Deposit replacement insurance
Some landlords may suggest deposit replacement insurance as an alternative to paying a tenancy deposit. This is sometimes called a zero deposit option.
You have to pay less money up front than you would with a normal tenancy deposit. However, it can cost more in the long run.
This is because you pay a non refundable fee for an insurance policy. The landlord can claim on the policy if they decide to charge you for things like cleaning, damage or rent arrears.
The insurance company can then chase you for the money and could take you to court if you don't pay.
You can't be forced to pay for deposit replacement insurance but your landlord or agent can offer it as an option if you don't have a deposit.
Utilities and household bills
You will probably have to budget for the following costs unless your contract states that they're included in your rent:
- gas and electricity
- TV licence
- phone and broadband
Estimating utility costs before you move in
A landlord must give you an energy performance certificate (EPC) for the property before your tenancy starts. EPCs are valid for 10 years.
An EPC provides an:
- energy efficiency rating for the property
- estimate of the costs of lighting, heating and hot water
The energy efficiency rating should be Band E or higher.
Check the EPC register by postcode to see if there's already an EPC for the home you want to rent.
Switching suppliers if you choose to
Take meter readings on the day you move in and contact the suppliers.
You will have a contract with the gas and electricity suppliers from the date your tenancy starts even if they don't have your name.
You can shop around for a better deal if you're unhappy with the tariff.
Citizens Advice has information about dealing with energy suppliers when you move.
Council tax if you rent the whole property
Ask who has to pay the council tax and how much it is before you sign your contract.
Most tenants have to pay council tax direct to the council. You can usually pay the bill in monthly instalments.
There are 2 ways you might be able to reduce your council tax bill:
- council tax support
- a discount
Council tax support
This is sometimes called council tax reduction. The scheme is run by your local council. Rules vary but you can usually get a reduction on your bill if you're on a low income.
You can get a 25% discount on your bill if either of the following apply:
- you're the only adult living in your home
- everyone else who lives there is a full time student but you're not
You might also qualify for a reduced council tax bill if a disabled person lives with you and your property is adapted for wheelchair use or has extra rooms to meet the needs of that person.
Council tax in shared accommodation
Your landlord is usually responsible for the council tax bill if everyone living there has their own individual agreement for their room or bedsit.
If you have a joint tenancy for the whole property, then you'll usually be jointly liable for the council tax bill with the other tenants.
The property is exempt if everyone who lives there is a full time student
Last updated 28 November 2019 | © Shelter
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