How to rent from a private landlord or letting agent

Protect yourself when handing over money

Many people face pressure to pay money quickly or take a property without seeing it.

Keep records and get everything in writing from the start of your search.

Always view properties in person if you can.

Bring a notepad to viewings so that you can write everything down.

This is especially important if you hand over money. Get the letting agent or landlord to sign the amounts you write down.

Avoid competitive rent bidding

Some agents encourage you and other prospective tenants to say how much you are willing to pay in rent. Then they give the tenancy to the person who will pay most.

This leads to higher rents for everyone and many renters being left with fewer options.

It is not illegal but agents who do this are best avoided.

Do not offer more rent than you can afford.

Holding deposits

A holding deposit is a payment to reserve a property. It cannot be more than 1 week's rent for the property you want to reserve.

Do not pay a holding deposit without viewing the property. Only pay it if you are serious about taking on the tenancy.

How to calculate a holding deposit

Monthly rent x 12 ÷ 52 = maximum holding deposit

Ask for a refund if you're charged more for a holding deposit.

You should get your holding deposit back in full if the landlord decides not to go ahead.

Read our guide to holding deposits on what to do if you do not get your deposit back.

Tenancy deposits

A tenancy deposit is also called a security deposit.

It cannot usually be more than 5 weeks' rent.

Calculate a maximum tenancy deposit

Monthly rent x 12 ÷ 52 x 5 = maximum tenancy deposit

The tenancy deposit is your money. Landlords and agents who take a deposit for an assured shorthold tenancy must protect it in a scheme within 30 days.

Your deposit should be returned in full at the end of the tenancy unless the landlord has a reason to make deductions.

Find out more about paying a tenancy deposit.

Rent in advance

Most private landlords ask for at least 1 month's rent in advance.

There is no legal limit on how much rent in advance can be taken by a landlord.

If you pay rent in advance at the same time as a deposit make sure it's clear:

  • what each payment is for

  • how much rent is covered by the payment

  • when you need to make your next rent payment

Get receipts for anything you pay.

Find out more about paying rent in advance.

Other tenancy related fees

Most other tenancy related fees are banned. For example, credit and referencing checks.

Virtual viewings

Always try and view the property in person before you sign anything or pay any money.

Be aware that virtual viewings by video do not always represent the property accurately.

Keep a copy of the video in case you need it as proof that you were misled

Last updated: 26 September 2022

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