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Upfront costs of private renting

Most fees for private tenants are banned.

The landlord or agent cannot ask you to pay for things like credit checks or references.

Fees you might have to pay

Before you sign a tenancy agreement, you usually have to pay:

  • a tenancy deposit

  • rent in advance

You might have to pay a holding deposit to reserve a property first.

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 cannot afford these costs.

Tenancy deposits

Many landlords ask for a tenancy deposit before you move in. 

Your landlord can ask for up to 5 weeks' rent as a deposit.

Tenancy deposit is your money. You should get it back when the tenancy ends as long as you do not owe rent and leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in.

Most private landlords have to protect tenants' deposits in a government scheme.

Deposit replacement insurance

Your landlord or agent might suggest deposit replacement insurance instead of a tenancy deposit. This is sometimes called a zero deposit option.

You pay less money up front but it could cost more in the long run.

This is because you pay a non refundable fee for the insurance policy. The landlord claims on this policy if they want to charge you for things like cleaning, damage or rent arrears.

The insurance company pays the landlord and chases you for the money. They could take you to court if you do not pay.

You cannot be forced to pay for deposit replacement insurance but your landlord or agent can offer it as an option if you do not have a deposit.

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: 

There's no legal limit on how much rent in advance you can be charged.

Holding deposits

Some landlords and agents ask for a holding deposit to reserve a property while they do a credit check or chase up references.

A holding deposit cannot be more than 1 week’s rent.

You should usually get this money back if the landlord decides not to rent to you.

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:

  • utility bills for gas, electricity and water

  • the internet

  • TV licence

Checking 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 tells you:

  • how energy efficient the property is

  • estimated costs of electricity, heating and hot water 

The energy efficiency rating should be E or higher.

Check GOV.UK to see if the home you want to rent has an EPC.

Contacting gas, electricity and water suppliers

Take meter readings on the day you move in and contact the suppliers.

You have a contract with the gas and electricity suppliers from the date your tenancy starts even if they do not have your name.

You can sometimes get a cheaper tariff if you claim benefits or are on a low income. Ask your supplier directly if they have a 'social 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 get a council tax bill for the whole year and can usually pay in monthly instalments.

There are 2 ways you could reduce your council tax bill:

  • a discount

  • council tax support

A discount is based on your situation, for example if you live alone or with someone disabled.

You can get council tax support from the council if your income is low. It is also called council tax reduction.

Find out if you can pay less council tax.

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: 11 April 2024

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