Upfront costs of private renting

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 cannot 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 cannot 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: 

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

Tenancy deposits

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

You should get this 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.

From 1 June 2019 the maximum tenancy deposit is 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 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.

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

  • water

  • 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 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 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 can usually pay the bill in monthly instalments.

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

  • a discount – based on your situation, for example if you live alone or with someone disabled

  • council tax support – if your income is low enough

Council tax support 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: 21 July 2022

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