Why rent privately?
There are a number of reasons why you may wish to consider private renting.
- The number of houses to rent from the Council or Housing Associations is limited and not everyone is eligible for social housing.
- There is often a range of properties available in different areas.
- Accommodation is often immediately available and you can usually move in quite quickly.
- Many properties are already furnished so you don’t have the added cost of buying furniture, gas and electrical appliances.
- It is possible to start and end a tenancy reasonably quickly which allows you to move should you need to.
Finding a property to rent
If you are looking to rent privately there are a number of ways you can find out what is available:
- look online
- look in local papers
- look on local notice boards (supermarkets/shops)
- visit letting agencies and estate agents
- through personal contacts or word of mouth
Things to consider
The cost, availability and type of private rented accommodation will vary in depending on what area you are looking to live in. You will need to consider where best meets you needs bearing in what you can afford, what properties are available and whether you need to be in a certain area for links to transport, family, schools etc.
Private rented accommodation tends to be more expensive than other rented housing and landlords will charge whatever they think the market will support. If you are out of work or on low income then the Local Housing Allowance rate will determine what level of Housing Benefit you will receive. If you need additional help to pay for your housing costs then you can apply for discretionary housing payments. Shelter provide some helpful advice for those on housing benefit looking to rent privately. A link to the advice can be found below.
Single people under 35 can only claim the Local Housing Allowance rate equivalent to renting a room in a shared house.
Security of tenure
Private renting is generally easier to find and move into but it is also easier for the landlord to get you out. Lettings are usually restricted to periods of 6 or 12 months that have to be renewed.
Many landlords use an agency to advertise and sometimes manage their properties. It is illegal for accommodation agencies to charge for simply registering you or giving you a list of properties; however, they can charge you a fee for finding a property and for other services such as drawing up a tenancy agreement.
Most agencies require references from a previous landlord and/or employer.
Rent a room
If you are unable to afford your own place to live - have you considered house-sharing or renting a spare room from a house owner? There are websites available that advertise rooms to rent. Some of these are listed below, but there are many more just search 'rent a room' on any search engine on the internet.
What to check before you move in
- How much rent will you pay - how does it need to be paid and what does it include
- Do you need to pay a deposit and are there any other costs which need to be paid before you move in?
- What is in the tenancy or licence agreement?
- What are your rights and responsibilities as a tenant?
- What are the Landlord’s rights and duties?
Information on rights and responsibilities can be found via the links below.
What help and support is available?
The Housing Advice Team can offer support and advice for those looking to secure private rented accomodation or those leaving a private tenancy. Please see the leaflet below for more information.
The Environmental Protection Team ensure that private rented accomodation meets leagal standards - advice for private tenants
- Renting from a private sector landlord - 2015 (PDF Document, 0.43 Mb)
No. You can only insure your own contents on your landlord insurance policy. Your tenants must take out their own insurance should they wish to protect their contents.
The reason for this goes back to one of the principal rules of insurance, which is that the entity that is being insured must be owned or directly effect the person who is taking out the insurance contract.
If this rule is not strictly adhered to, the insurance contract can develop a moral hazard and end up more like speculation/gambling.
Most mortgagees insist as a term of the mortgage that you inform them of your intention to let the property.
It is quite likely that they will agree to this if your lender is one that accepts 'buy-to-let' mortgages, it may well be on different terms and at a different interest rate than your current deal and they may charge an arrangement fee.
It is recommended that you take advice from your mortgage provider or your independent financial advisor.
Only court appointed bailiffs may carry out a legal eviction. Due process must be followed (Section 21 notice/ Court Application/ Possession Order/ Bailiffs Warrant).
Failure to comply with this process may result in an unlimited fine or upto 2 years in prison.
The landlord may also be liable to pay substantial compensation if the process is not followed.
It is vital that landlords know what to do when they need to evict a tenant so that they are on the right side of the law. Failure to follow procedure properly could land you with a hefty fine, or even worse, time in prison.
The advice contained in these pages will give you the information you need to help you successfully, and legally, evict a tenant and regain possession of your premises. Please note that this advice applies only to tenants living in England & Wales and who have an assured or an assured shorthold tenancy agreement.
What do I need to do?
There are many different grounds you can use to evict a tenant from your property, but the two most commonly used grounds are rent arrears and the accelerated possession procedure.
What is the accelerated procedure?
The accelerated possession procedure can be used by a landlord at the end of the fixed term of the tenancy (which may be ended early if a break clause has been used) or at any time during a periodic tenancy, provided that the tenants have occupied the property for at least six months since the start of the first tenancy agreement.
The procedure involves serving a notice under section 21 of the Housing Act (a section 21 notice), which will stipulate a certain amount of time within which the tenants must vacate the property. If the tenants fail to move out after you have served this notice, you will have to apply to the court for an order to evict the tenants.
What is the difference between a fixed term and a periodic tenancy?
A fixed term tenancy is created for a specified length of time, for example, 12 months. If the tenants remain in the property after the fixed term has ended, but do not enter into a new fixed term agreement, then their tenancy will automatically become periodic.
A periodic tenancy rolls on a specific period, such as month to month or quarter to quarter. This arrangement may have been specified at the start of the tenancy or may have naturally arisen by the expiry of a fixed term tenancy.
What is the procedure for rent arrears?
If your tenants are in arrears of rent, but you are able to use the accelerated possession procedure, then we generally recommend that you use this procedure, rather than using the ground of rent arrears. This way, you are able to get the tenants out as quick as possible and get new tenants in who will start paying rent.
However, please note that when you use the accelerated possession procedure, the court will not order the tenants to pay any rent arrears to you. You must instead apply to the county court for a court order requiring them to pay the outstanding rent to you.
Read more about using the Section 8 accelerated possession procedure on the desktop lawyer website.
Do not attempt to evict the tenant yourself. Doing so is a criminal offence and you could be fined and/or sent to prison and ordered to pay for rehousing your tenant. You must apply through the courts for them to do this on your behalf.
The necessay legal forms and advice on completing them are available from Her Majasty's court service website.
The inventory is vital and probably your greatest piece of protection. Should you need to make a claim from the bond it is vital that the property is inspected before the tenancy begins & that both the landlord (or their agent) and the tenant have signed it.
It is this document that will form the benchmark should a dispute arise.
Ideally a similar exit survey should be conducted and if possible should also be signed by the tenant. This will leave only the costs of the remedial action to be decided & agreed.
This will depend upon the kind of repair. As a rule of thumb, 28 days is often considered reasonable for repairs that are not urgent, and for urgent repairs it's often one to two days.
The vast majority of property these days are let on what is known as 'Assured Shorthold Tenancies'.
Though there are other types of tenancy or license we will concentrate on shortholds.
Normally a shorthold tenancy will run for six or 12 months. This gives you a fixed period for which you will have the right to occupy the property. Equally you will have the duty to pay the rent for that property.
At the end of the fixed period there are choices:
- You can leave the property and claim back your deposit
- The landlord may offer you another fixed term period
- The landlord may allow the tenancy to roll over.
If the landlord chooses to allow the tenancy to 'roll over' it can only be brought to an end by either party giving sufficient notice. Normally this would be two months for the landlord or one month for the tenant.
By law, a landlord has to provide a rent book to somebody who pays rent weekly, unless the rent includes a substantial payment for meals. The rent book must contain:
- The name and address of the landlord and the landlord's agent if there is one
- The amount of rent to be paid
- Description of the property the rent is for.
The inventory can be very useful in the event of a dispute. Even in unfurnished accommodation it is worth insisting on an inventory as this will clearly state the condition of the property including decoration, floor coverings and curtains.
State of repair and cleanliness are the two most likely reasons why landlords withhold all or part of the deposit. An inventory signed and agreed by landlord and tenant gives you hard evidence of what you accepted at the beginning of the tenancy.
On receipt of the inventory, don't just accept it. Examine the property carefully and note any faults, dirt or marks. Only sign it when the items you have noticed have been added.
The general rule is that you should never stop paying the rent to try and force your landlord to do repairs. If you do, your landlord may go to court to make you leave your home because you are behind with the rent.
When a repair is needed you should tell the landlord as soon as possible. It's always a good idea to put your request in writing and to keep a copy of the letter. You should give the landlord a 'reasonable' period of time within which to carry out the repair.
Where the landlord does not inform the tenant of the whereabouts of the deposit, the tenant can apply to the local courts. The courts can then order the landlord to either repay the deposit or get it protected.
If the courts wishes are not carried out within 14 days the landlord will be ordered to repay three times the amount of the deposit to the tenant within 10 days.
Futhermore where the deposit has not been protected the landlord can not evict the tenant using a Section 21. Therefore, by not securing the deposit you will not be able to get your house back and face a large fine.
Assuming you are happy for your present tenant to remain you have two choices. You can either offer another fixed term contract and both parties, assuming they agree, will be bound by those terms for that period.
Alternatively you can let the present tenancy roll on (Periodic tenancy)
By issuing a new shorthold the landlord gains the security of another fixed term but may incure additional administrative costs & will not be able to regain possession of the property until the end of the fixed period. In addition some agents may charge the tenant an additional fee. This can annoy tenants who may be less willing to renew next time.
By creating a periodic tenancy (allowing the tenancy to roll on) reduces costs and can make it easier for landlords to gain possession should they wish to.
You have a legal right to be given the name and address by the landlord's agent or the person you pay rent to. If you put this request in writing to your landlord's representative, they have an obligation to provide you with this information within 21 days, or they risk prosecution.
Alternatively, you can find out the name and address of your landlord for a small fee, through the Land Registry.
If you let out a room in the house in which you live yourself your tenant is treated as a lodger and has very few rights in law. You will not have to go through court proceedings to evict and you can adjust the rent as you please
The building itself is insured against most risks - such as flood and fire for the cost or repair or rebuilding. Even risks such as terrorism or subsidence can normally be purchased as optional extras for added security from most insurers.
When you declare the value of your property you are actually estimating the cost of rebuilding it should it be totally destroyed (this is what insurance companies call a total loss).
Most insurance companies work out a rate to charge the landlord based on the location of the property and then apply it to the amount specified to rebuild the building (which is called the Buildings Sum Insured).
It is therefore cheaper to insure a building that is worth less than an expensive building which is as expected.
It is equally important to make sure that you do not underestimate the cost of rebuilding your property. If you have paid a lower premium by underestimating the Buildings Sum Insured, then the insurer will normally only pay your claims up to the proportion of the building that you have insured.
For example: If your house is worth £100,000 but you only declare a Buildings Sum Insured of £60,000. should you have a claim of £10,000 then the insurer will only pay you £6,000, as they will deem that you under-insured. It is important not to be caught out by this by being tempted by lower premiums for lower Buildings Sum Insured.
- The Contract (Assured Shorthold Tenancy)
- Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- Gas Safety Certificate.
You will be required by law to have all gas equipment checked and certificated by a registered Gas Safe engineer. All equipment must be certified as safe every 12 months. The consequences of failing to comply can be very serious with hefty fines or even imprisonment should there be an accident.
Energy Performance Certificate
Each new let will now require an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). The certificate lasts 10 years, but landlords may consider having it reviewed should insulation improvement works be carried out or improvements to the heating system. A copy of the certificate must be passed to the tenant.
If you let property you must ensure that the electrical system and all appliances supplied are safe - failure to comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 and the The Consumer Protection Act 1987 is a criminal offence and may result in:
- A fine of £5,000 per item not complying
- Six month's imprisonment
- Possible manslaughter charges in the event of deaths
- The tenant may also sue you for civil damages
- Your property insurance may be invalidated
- These regulations are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive.
There is no statutory requirement to have annual safety checks on electrical equipment as there is with gas, but it is advisable for landlords to have periodic checks done by a qualified electrician.
The vast majority of people who rent their home are on assured shorthold tenancies (AST), but other agreements do exist which afford different levels of rights.
For tenants who are not on an AST, if they are a council or housing association tenant then they may be on a secured or assured tenancy which holds increased rights against eviction and for passing on tenancies.
In contrast, if a tenant lives in accommodation that is occupied by their landlord, rented from the Crown, a student residence, or a hostel or bed and breakfast then they may have only basic rights.
People whose accommodation is provided by their job or is part of agricultural premises are covered by different rules.
If your rent is more than £25,000 a year, you will have a standard tenancy contract, not an assured shorthold tenancy contract. This is a throwback to when ASTs were first introduced and £25,000 annual rent was a very high amount.
Your landlord can only enter the property having given 'reasonable notice'. This normally means 24 hours and only then if you agree!
If your landlord enters your home without giving notice this may be regarded as harassment. You can contact the Street Action Team for further advice.
Your landlord has a responsibility to make sure the property or accommodation you are renting is maintained to a certain standard.
Unless the tenancy has a fixed term of more than seven years, the landlord is responsible for repairs to:
- The structure and exterior of the property
- Baths, sinks, basins and other sanitary installations
- Heating and hot water installations
Responsibility for other repairs depend on what agreement (if any) you have arranged with your landlord. The landlord is not responsible for repairing damage a tenant has caused. The rent the landlord charges can include a sum to cover the cost of repairs - but the landlord cannot pass this cost on to the tenant in the form of a separate service charge.
Safety of gas and electrical appliances
Landlords are required by the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to ensure that all gas appliances are maintained in good order and that an annual safety check is carried out by a tradesman who is registered with Gas safe
The landlord must keep a record of the safety checks and issue it to the tenant within 28 days of each annual check. The landlord is not responsible for maintaining any gas appliances the tenant is entitled to take with them at the end of the letting.
Landlords should also ensure that the electrical system and any electrical appliances that they supply (such as cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines and immersion heaters) are safe to use.
Last updated: Fri 23 February, 2018 @ 13:26