Renting a home
It’s important to get the right advice if you’re thinking about renting a home. This can help you avoid legal problems at the start.
Use the quick search option "Houses, property and neighbours" to find your nearest solicitor.
If your landlord has given you a written agreement to sign, ask your solicitor to check it first. If there are no issues, you’ll only need to meet your solicitor once.
Your solicitor will:
- check that it’s legal
- explain the agreement to you
- help you understand your rights and duties
- warn you of any pitfalls
Your solicitor will send you a letter to summarise their advice.
From 1 June 2019, the only payments that your landlord or letting agent can ask you for are:
- the rent
- a refundable deposit
- a refundable holding deposit (capped at one week’s rent)
- payments to change the tenancy (capped at £50)
- payments to end the tenancy (if you want to end it early)
- utility bills, TV licence and council tax
- a default fee for late rent or a lost key/security device
Your landlord or agent cannot ask you to pay for anything else.
A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord. It can be written or verbal.
Your landlord does not have to give you a written agreement, but you should ask for one – even if they’re a friend or family member.
Your landlord must give you a copy of the government’s how to rent checklist before you agree to rent their property.
Length and type of tenancy
You should talk to your solicitor about:
- the type of tenancy and what this means
- the start and end dates
- what to do if you want to end the tenancy
Assured shorthold tenancies are the most common type of tenancy agreement.
These can last for a fixed term (for example, one year) or a shorter period that gets rolled over (for example, month to month) until you or your landlord want it to end.
Your landlord may try to restrict what you can do in their property. For example, the tenancy agreement might stop you from:
- playing loud music
- keeping pets
Ask your solicitor if the landlord's restrictions are reasonable and what will happen if you ignore them. If there are any unreasonable terms, your solicitor can tell you what to do next.
Your solicitor can help you to understand:
- when to pay rent
- what will happen if you pay rent late
- when your landlord can increase rent
You should ask your solicitor if you can get help with paying rent if you:
- have a low income
- receive welfare benefits
It's a good idea to get a cohabitation agreement if you’re thinking of renting a home with someone you’re not married to. This is a legal document that sets out arrangements for your home while you’re living together and if you split up, become ill or die.
Your landlord may ask you to pay a deposit. This is your money and your landlord must put it in a deposit protection scheme. The scheme will look after your deposit during your tenancy.
Your landlord must choose a government-approved scheme, such as:
Your landlord must tell you how your deposit is protected within 30 days of receiving it. If they do not protect your deposit, you can make a claim in court.
At the end of your tenancy, your landlord can ask the deposit protection scheme to deduct any money they need to pay for:
- damage you’ve caused (beyond reasonable wear and tear)
- bills you’ve not paid
Your landlord must be able to prove their claim. If you think your landlord is claiming money unfairly, you should make a complaint to the deposit protection scheme.
Once you have agreed to the tenancy, your landlord must give you:
- a copy of the government’s how to rent checklist
- proof that your deposit is protected
- the gas safety and energy performance certificates
If your landlord does not give you these documents, they cannot use a section 21 notice to evict you.
During the tenancy, you must:
- pay your rent on time
- pay your bills on time
- look after your new home
- not sub-let without your landlord’s consent
Access and repairs
Your landlord must give you at least 24 hours' notice before visiting your home, unless there’s an emergency.
It’s your landlord’s responsibility to carry out most repairs, but you must let them know about any problems as soon as possible.
If you have a problem with your tenancy, you should talk to your landlord first. They must make sure your home is safe from serious hazards and fit for you to live in.
If you’re having problems paying your rent, speak to your landlord. They’re more likely to listen and try to help if you talk to them early on.
You may need to talk to your solicitor if your problem does not get solved.
You must give your landlord notice in writing if you want to end your tenancy before the agreed end date.
You’ll usually need to give them at least one month’s notice, although this varies depending on your tenancy agreement.
You may have to pay your landlord a fee if you want to end your tenancy early. Check your tenancy agreement and ask your solicitor for advice.
If your landlord wants you to end the tenancy early, they must give you notice in writing asking you to leave.
The amount of notice they must give you will vary depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have.
Speak to your solicitor if your landlord gives you notice to leave their property.
Your landlord can only evict you if they follow the correct steps. Your solicitor can help you if your landlord’s trying to evict you unlawfully.
Help with legal costs
You may be entitled to free legal help and advice to help with rented housing problems if you:
- have a low income
- claim state benefits
If you need to go to court, you may be able to get help paying some or all of your legal costs.