Guide to renting privately
Looking for rented accommodation
If you are looking for rented accommodation, the government has produced a how to rent checklist for tenants in private rented housing. This also helps you understand your rights and responsibilities.
A private rented property could be any type of residential property such as a house or a flat. The property is owned by an individual or private company who then allows someone to live in it for a monthly rent payment.
The advantages are:
- properties are usually available immediately
- you have greater choice over where you live
- there are options for furnished, unfurnished or part furnished properties
- it is easy to end the tenancy if you decide to move
The quickest way to find a private rented property is to search online or ask family and friends. You can also check online sites, local estate agents and newsagents.
When you have found somewhere to live and before moving in you will need to know:
- if you need to give rent in advance, a deposit, a reference, or a rent guarantor
- the type and length of tenancy being offered
- how much the rent is and if any bills are included
- if the property is furnished or unfurnished
- if the landlord has any rules, for example if smoking and pets are allowed
Lettings agents are no longer able to charge fees for letting a property to you.
The government’s how to rent a safe home guide gives information on the main hazards to check for in a rental property. It also explains your landlord’s duties and what you can do if you have concerns or need to make a complaint.
Landlords have a duty to:
- maintain the condition of their property
- have an Energy Performance Certificate
- make sure there are no category 1 hazards in the property
- check gas appliances every year and have a valid gas safety certificate
- safety test electrical appliances before you move in, and annually onwards
- get the wiring in the property checked every five years by a qualified person
- make sure any furniture, or furnishings comply with fire safety regulations
- register houses in multiple occupation with us
A category 1 hazard poses a serious threat to the health or safety of people living in a property. For example, exposed wiring or overloaded electrical sockets, a dangerous or broken boiler, bedrooms that are very cold.
If you are renting already and have concerns about any of the above, contact us using the details on this page.
When you pay a deposit to a landlord, they must protect it using a government authorised tenancy deposit scheme.
The scheme will make sure that your deposit is kept safe so that you get all or part of your deposit back at the end of the tenancy if you have met the terms of the tenancy agreement.
Financial help with paying your rent
If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to help with paying your rent. There is more information on getting help with housing costs on our financial support for residents page.
You may be able to apply for a budgeting loan for help with the cost of moving in and some basic furnishings if you have been on certain benefits for 6 months.
Alternatively you may be eligible for assistance from the Great Western Credit Union.
Our welfare grant scheme can also help with some essential items.
You must keep a copy of:
- your tenancy agreement with your landlord’s full contact details
- any inventory or property condition report
- any relevant safety certificates
When you move in you will need to inform the service providers for water, gas, electricity, TV licence and council tax.
You should give your new address to your GP, bank, building society, mobile phone provider, DWP or HMRC if you are in receipt of benefits.
Paying your rent
It is your responsibility to pay your rent. Make sure you know how and when your landlord is expecting to receive rental payment.
If you claim housing benefit you must report any changes in your household’s circumstances or income to the housing benefit department.
If you pay your rent by standing order you must have enough funds in your bank account on the day payment is due.
If you pay your rent by cash make sure you have a signed rent book or receipts from your landlord.
If part of the property or an appliance needs repairing you should report this to your landlord so that they can arrange for this to be investigated and fixed.
The government has an online checker to find out:
- how to get something fixed by your landlord or letting agent
- what to do if your landlord or letting agent are not responding to your requests
Damp and mould
Damp and mould can appear in any home which isn’t kept warm enough or well-ventilated.
It is important you do not allow condensation to build up in your home as this the most common cause of damp and mould problems. Check our damp and mould information leaflet for tips on how to prevent it.
If your home has persistent issues with damp or mould you should report this to your landlord or property manager as professional treatment or structural works may be required.
There is further information and advice for tenants on damp and mould from Shelter England.
In September 2023 the government published new guidance for landlords on the risks to people’s health from damp and mouldy homes.
You can find out more about our plan for addressing damp and mould in private rented properties.
Problems during your tenancy
Find out if we can help you with problems in your property or a neighbouring property.
Problems in my property
You can use this letter template to send to your landlord or property agent to tell them about repair needs.
If you do not receive a response to your letter and no repair work is done you can visit a One Stop Shop for advice or contact us by using the details on this page.
Tenants of social landlords also have the option to complain to the Housing Ombudsman.
What happens next
We will contact you to find out more about the problem and how it is affecting you.
In most cases an inspection is needed to find out what is causing the problem. We will use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess the property for any hazards.
Full access to the property is required. Landlords, managing agents and tenants are given at least 24-hours’ notice and the landlord can choose to attend the appointment, send a representative or not attend at all.
We will contact tenants following an investigation to discuss our findings and potential actions including formal enforcement.
If enforcement action is taken this can include fines up to £30,000.
See our privacy notice for how we use your data.
Problems from another property
If tenants in a neighbouring property are causing concerns you can contact the relevant service:
- noise and nuisance
- antisocial behaviour
- issues with UWE students should be reported to UWE police Community@uwe.ac.uk
The government has launched an online, legal support pilot to help tenants resolve housing disrepair problems in private rented accommodation.
It also provides an online checker offering tailored information and guidance about how to get repairs done in your rented home.
Ending the tenancy
Most private tenants are likely to have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). This is the most usual type of rental agreement used in residential property letting in England and Wales.
Under an AST your landlord can evict you without a reason but they must follow the correct procedure to do this – the gov.uk website has an overview of the what the procedures are.
You need to give your landlord one month’s written notice if you wish to end the tenancy.