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Finding a private rented home

This content applies to England

This page looks at the factors to consider when finding and securing private rented accommodation.


The main advantage of private rented accommodation is the amount of choice that can be available regarding location and type of property. In some areas there is a large stock of private rented accommodation to choose from, but in others (especially in rural areas) the availability and choice of housing available may be much more limited. Private rented accommodation may be the only feasible option for people who are not able to access council or housing association rented accommodation, and for whom buying a property is too expensive.


Private rented accommodation is often more expensive than other forms of rented housing, as the vast majority of new private rented lettings are  subject to very limited rent control. Landlords are able to charge whatever rents they consider reasonable and which people are willing to pay. This can mean that in areas of housing shortage, or particularly popular areas, rents can be very high.

In addition to the cost of rent, there is usually an up-front initial cost to be met in the form of a deposit and rent in advance.

If a lettings agency is used, it may make charges for the service it provides.

Housing benefit will not always cover the amount of rent that landlords charge, which can mean that tenants are left with a shortfall to make up, and risk accruing rent arrears. Most tenants with private landlords will be paid housing benefit using the local housing allowance (LHA) scheme (for more information see the Local Housing allowance section). The LHA rates for the different sizes of property, in different areas, can be found using the LHA Direct calculator. This will show the maximum amount that will be paid to a claimant until the LHA scheme.

Most single people aged under the age of 35 have their housing benefit restricted to cover the rent payable on the equivalent of a single room in a shared house.

If housing benefit does not cover the full amount of rent due, it may in some circumstances be possible to apply for a discretionary housing payment if the restriction is likely to cause exceptional hardship, or if there are exceptional circumstances. A discretionary housing payment may also be awarded to an existing housing benefit claimant to meet rent in advance or a deposit.

Security of tenure

Private renting can be much more flexible than other forms of housing, with periodic and fixed term, short and long lets available. If necessary, tenants may be able to find and move into a property in the private sector very quickly. However, in general, private tenants have less security of tenure and fewer rights than most tenants of social landlords.


Private rented accommodation varies widely in terms of quality. Very high standard accommodation can be found, but many flats and houses at the cheaper end of the market are in a poor state of repair. The standard of the accommodation and the facilities provided will generally be reflected in the levels of rent charged.

Landlord accreditation schemes

Landlord accreditation is a form of self-regulation under which landlords who meet certain standards can apply to be accredited by a recognised scheme. Schemes are usually administered by local authorities, landlords associations or universities.

Accreditation can apply to the landlord, the properties themselves, or both. Many schemes are free for landlords to join, while some charge a small annual fee for the membership. Accredited landlords can access a range of benefits from these schemes, such as easier access to rent guarantees, deposit bonds, grants for repairs, reduced licensing fees for Houses in Multiple Occupation, tenant referencing, advice and support.

The minimum standards that accreditation schemes set mean that tenants should expect certain standards of management and have greater confidence that their landlord will be trustworthy and responsive. A landlord's non-compliance with the standards of the scheme can lead to their accredited status being revoked.

Unipol and operate an accreditation scheme for private landlords who let properties to students. Accreditation Network UK offers comprehensive information about accreditation for local authorities, landlords and tenants.

Selective licensing

Local authorities have the power to introduce selective licensing for all privately rented housing (not only houses in multiple occupation) in the whole or part of its area, where an authority believes that it would reduce or eliminate specific housing problems.

Finding a vacancy

It can take time and, in some cases, can be hard to find suitable affordable private rented accommodation, although this depends greatly upon the housing market in the local area. Some landlords will not accept people who are claiming benefits.

When looking for private rented accommodation, it is important to get regular information about vacancies and follow it up the same day or as soon as possible. Sources of information about available private accommodation include newspapers, websites, and accommodation agencies.

If a local authority finds that an applicant is homeless (or threatened with homelessness) and is eligible for assistance, it has a duty to provide advice and assistance in looking for a home.[1] Some local authorities discharge this duty by providing homeless applicants with lists of hostels, bed and breakfast hotels and landlords looking for tenants. See Information and advice on homelessness for more information.

As lettings can be made quickly, clients should aim to visit and decide whether a property is suitable without delay. They should have money and references ready in case they decide to take it.

Paying a holding deposit

A holding deposit is an amount of money paid to a landlord or letting agent to secure accommodation prior to signing a tenancy agreement.


Many landlords/agents require prospective tenants to provide one or more references from previous landlords, bank managers or employers.

Rent in advance and deposit

Rent in advance and a deposit are usually required by a prospective tenant.

In some areas of the UK, deposit guarantee schemes (sometimes known as 'deposit bond schemes') have been set up to help people who do not have a lump sum of money to move into private rented accommodation. Schemes either pay the deposit for people or, more commonly, guarantee that the deposit will be paid if the property has been damaged during occupation. Some schemes have an arrangement with the local Housing Benefit office to ensure that housing benefit assessments for people using the scheme are 'fast tracked'.


Some landlords require a guarantee from a third party (a 'guarantor') that they will meet the obligations under a tenancy as a condition for letting a property to a tenant. This is most likely to be the case where the tenant is a young person or a person with a poor credit rating. See Guarantors for more information.

The tenancy agreement

Although in theory the terms of a tenancy agreement may be negotiated between the landlord and the prospective tenant, in practice the tenant may not have much scope to negotiate favourable terms due to her/his need for accommodation.

If practicable, before a tenant signs up to a tenancy they should read the agreement carefully to check the details.

See Guidance on unfair contract terms for more information.

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