How to rent from a private landlord or letting agent

Check your income and credit score

Most landlords and letting agents will check to see what they think you can afford.

They usually do this by looking at your income and credit score.

It can help to work out a budget and check your own credit score first.

What costs to expect

The main costs of renting include:

  • rent

  • utility bills

  • council tax

  • upfront costs, such as a deposit or rent in advance

MoneyHelper can help you work out the costs of renting and how to budget.

Check your options if you cannot afford a deposit or rent in advance.

Show what you can afford

Landlords often ask to see bank statements or proof of income.

Tools like the Citizens Advice budget checker can help show you how much you can pay.

The landlord or agent could also ask for:

  • a guarantor

  • rent in advance

  • other proof you can afford the rent

Ask them what proof they need if you think it will be hard to show you can afford the rent. For example, because you do not have a bank account in the UK.

Claim benefits to help with rent

Universal credit or housing benefit could help with rent if you have a low income.

How much you get depends on:

What to do about discrimination if you claim benefits

Some landlords and agents do not rent to people who claim benefits. This is sometimes called a 'No DSS' policy.

No DSS policies are unlawful. A landlord or agent should not refuse to rent to you just because you claim benefits.

Find out how to challenge DSS discrimination.

Prepare for credit checks

Credit checks show information about money you have borrowed and any problems paying it back.

It can take time to get a good credit score.

Credit scores from one country do not usually count in another. This can make things difficult for first time renters and people who have not rented in the UK before.

You can check your credit score for free online before you look for a property for rent. Money Saving Expert tells you how to check your credit score.

Do you need a credit check?

Landlords and agents do not have to check your credit score. But many use it to see if you can pay rent.

They can only do a credit check if you agree.

They cannot charge you for credit checks or other reference checks.

There's no minimum credit score for private renting. But landlords and agents might set their own.

What shows up in a credit check?

Landlords and agents can only do a 'soft search'. This means they only see information that is already public. This might include things like if you have gone bankrupt or a court said you owe money.

Credit checks will not show if you have missed rent payments in the past. But a landlord might find this out from your references, landlord websites or social media.

Make sure you're registered to vote

Credit checks search the electoral roll. If you are not registered to vote at your current address you might fail the check.

Contact your local electoral registration office if you need to change your details.

Problems with credit checks

Be honest with landlords and agents if you think you could fail a credit check.

For example, if you:

  • are not on the electoral register

  • have not rented in the UK before

  • know you have a bad credit score

  • have gone bankrupt, or a court said you owe money

Ask the landlord or agent if they could take rent in advance or a guarantor instead.

Show them you can afford the rent.

Find out about how to rent with a poor credit history.

If your landlord or agent says you have failed a credit check, ask why.

If you paid a holding deposit

You should get it back if you fail credit or reference checks as long as you are honest about your situation.

Last updated: 28 September 2023

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