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Looking for a place to rent

When looking for a place to stay in the private rented sector, you’ll find all types of properties from flats, houses, shared accommodation, bedsits and rooms rented out in the landlord's house.

Try and find out how much the average rent in that area is for the kind of property you’re interested in. Add in other housing costs like council tax and utilities to give you your budget.

Find out if you are eligible to claim Local Housing Allowance (housing benefit). You also might be able to get help with your deposit.

Ask your current landlord or employer for a written reference in case a landlord asks for one.

What to check before viewing a property

You should be able to find out how much the rent and deposit is from the property advert. Here are the things to ask:

  • Ask how often the rent due, normally it's weekly or monthly. Some landlords might accept or ask for a guarantor, which means someone who will guarantee to pay your rent if you can’t.
  • Ask, what, if any bills are included.

Remember, the landlord or their letting agent is not allowed to charge a fee to:

  • grant, renew or continue your tenancy
  • check your references
  • get a credit check carried out (you can get your credit score yourself for a small fee or for free).

Check the accessibility of the property – you may already know it’s a ground floor flat but do ask if there are features you need, like handrails or a walk-in shower. It might save you time viewing.

Ask if the property is insured. The landlord needs to have building and contents insurance for their own property. You will need to arrange your own insurance for your belongings.

Check the landlord is registered with the council. It doesn’t matter if the people advertising the accommodation are a letting agent – it will be the landlord who needs to be registered. Not all landlords need to be registered but most do. Sometimes the letting agent may be the landlord as well.

When a property is advertised, the landlord has to include their registration number in all adverts.

If the property will be used as an HMO (house in multiple occupation) by yourselves, you should check it’s got an HMO license. This will apply if three or more unrelated adults are living together.

They also need to tell you in the advert what the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating is – this lets you know how energy efficient the property is, so it can help you estimate your fuel bills better.

What to check for when viewing a property

When walking to the property, have a look at the surrounding area. 

  • How close you are to shops, sports centres, cinemas and pubs. 
  • Check what the local doctor and dentists are like. 
  • If you have children, check if there are suitable nurseries or schools in the area.

When viewing the property look or ask about the following.

  • Check for damp in the property. Spots on the walls or around the window, uneven paint colour and tiles or wallpaper coming off can be signs of damp.
  • Do all windows and doors open and close properly?
  • If there are gas appliances, does the landlord have a current Gas Safety Record?
  • Is there a EN50291 standard carbon monoxide alarm?
  • Has a Legionella risk assessment been carried out on the property
  • Make sure the hot and cold water taps runs. Turn on the shower and flush the loo to be sure they work.
  • Ask how the property is heated, what the average bills are and where the meter is.
  • Do all the lights work?
  • Are there working smoke alarms, a fire blanket in the kitchen and are there any fire extinguishers?
  • Is there a working washing machine, fridge or cooker?
  • Is the wiring safe and are there any loose wires or plug sockets?
  • Have both electrical installation and appliances been checked by an electrician in the last 12 months? Your landlord has a duty to ensure the installation (wiring for example) plus all electrical appliances are in safe and working order.
  • Does the furniture comply with safety regulations?
  • Will all the furniture be there when you move in? What condition is it in?
  • Are kitchen utensils, cutlery and crockery included?
  • Are the locks on the doors and windows secure? If the property is in a block of flats, is there a working entry phone system?
  • Do you feel the landlord would be approachable if there was a problem? You might want to check if the landlord is a member of a landlord accreditation scheme. You could also speak to the current tenants about the property and landlord.

If things need repairing, check the Getting repairs done guide.

Tell someone where you’re going and let them know you’re back safely. Take someone with you – for your safety and it’s always good to get a second opinion.

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