Check the costs of starting to rent from a private landlord

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

When you’ve found a property to rent, you'll have to make some payments before you move in.

You’II usually have to pay:

  • a tenancy deposit - no more than 6 weeks’ rent

  • 1 to 2 months' rent in advance

If you want to reserve a property you’re interested in renting, a letting agent might ask for a holding deposit. This can be up to 1 week’s rent.

Don’t pay any money if you haven’t seen the property

There might be a problem with the property that you don’t know about. There’s also a risk the offer is a scam.

Get a receipt from your landlord or letting agent when you pay any money. You'll need this in case there are any problems.

You should also get your landlord or letting agent’s name and contact details before you pay any money. They have to give you their details, even if someone else looks after the property for them. 

If your landlord or letting agent won’t give you their details, talk to an adviser.

Check if there are hidden costs

When you view a property, ask the landlord or letting agent about everything you’ll have to pay if you rent the property. This helps you avoid unexpected costs. It’s best to ask for details of any extra costs in writing.

Other than your rent, your landlord or letting agent can only charge you for:

  • a tenancy deposit and a holding deposit

  • utility bills, council tax, or tv licence

  • replacing your key

  • paying your rent 14 days late or more

  • changing your tenancy - they can only charge you if you asked for the change

  • ending your tenancy early

If you’re charged fees for anything else, talk to an adviser.

Using a guarantor

A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay your rent if you can’t, for example a parent. If you have a guarantor, a landlord or letting agent is more likely to rent to you - for example if you have a low income or poor credit history. 

Having a guarantor can help you negotiate the details of renting the property - for example a landlord might be willing to rent to you without a deposit if you have a guarantor.

Check how to use a guarantor.

Negotiating with your landlord or letting agent 

It’s worth trying to negotiate with your landlord or letting agent to see if you can save some money.  

You might be able to negotiate to get cheaper rent or the length of your tenancy and other terms changed - for example you can ask if the rent can include any bills.

If you negotiate there’s a risk that the landlord or letting agent might offer the property to someone else.

You should have a plan and think about your chances of getting what you want. For example, if you’re offered a 6-month tenancy and you need longer you can negotiate to try and get a longer tenancy.

If your negotiation is successful, make sure you get what you agree in writing - you might need proof of what you agreed if there are problems.

Paying a tenancy deposit 

Your landlord or letting agent might ask for a tenancy deposit in case there’s a problem during your tenancy.

You’II usually get the money back when you move out. Your landlord or letting agent can only keep money from your deposit if there’s a problem, for example if you damage something or don’t pay your rent. Check if your landlord can keep money from your deposit.

Your tenancy deposit usually can’t be more than 5 weeks’ rent. If your yearly rent is more than £50,000 it can’t be more than 6 weeks’ rent.

If you’re charged too much, talk to an adviser for help.

Your landlord or letting agent usually has to put your deposit in a 'tenancy deposit scheme' to keep it safe. Check if your landlord has to protect your deposit.

If you’re asked to pay extra instead of a deposit

Your landlord or letting agent might say you can pay more money as an alternative, either as a single payment or an extra amount each time you pay rent. This is sometimes called a ‘zero deposit scheme’ or ‘deposit replacement scheme’.

It's usually best to pay a deposit because using a scheme can cost you more money. For example, if you use a scheme you:

  • won't get your money back at the end of your tenancy

  • might have extra costs when you leave - for example paying for any damage

  • might have to pay for a third party to resolve disagreements with your landlord

Your landlord or letting agent must give you the option to pay a deposit. If they say you have to use a scheme, this might be an ‘unfair tenancy fee’. Get help by contacting the Citizens Advice consumer helpline to report them.

Paying rent in advance

You’ll usually be asked to pay the rent for the first 1 or 2 months before you move in. This is called paying 'rent in advance'.

There’s no legal limit on how much rent in advance you can be asked for. You might be asked to pay more if there’s a problem with your credit check or references.

If you can’t afford a tenancy deposit or rent in advance

Your local council might be able to help you through a rent deposit scheme or rent guarantee scheme.

A rent deposit scheme lends you money in advance to pay a tenancy deposit, which you’ll pay back over time.

A rent guarantee scheme (or bond scheme) gives your landlord a bond instead of you paying a deposit. If there’s a problem with damage or something else the landlord would normally take out of your deposit, they will use the bond instead to get the money from the council. 

You might be able to get money for a deposit or rent in advance through a homelessness prevention fund or social services. You might need to pay the money back over time - every council has different rules.

Check what help your local council can give you on GOV.UK

If you claim Universal Credit or Housing Benefit

You can make a claim for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). A DHP is a single payment from your local council that can go towards a deposit or rent in advance.

Ask your local council for a claim form. You can find your local council on GOV.UK. It's a good idea to keep a copy of the filled in form for your records.

If you need help filling in a DHP claim form, talk to an adviser.

Paying a holding deposit

You can pay a holding deposit to reserve a property until you can sign a tenancy agreement.

If you’re renting with other people, you should only pay one holding deposit for the property between you.

A holding deposit can’t be more than 1 week’s rent. Ask for a refund if you’re charged more.

Don't pay or sign anything unless you're sure you want the property, as you could lose the money. The landlord or letting agent must give you your deposit back unless you:

  • decide not to move in

  • don’t give them important information within 15 days - for example a reference

  • give them false or misleading information

  • fail a 'right to rent' immigration check - check if you have the right to rent

If you pay the holding deposit 

The landlord or letting agent can't rent the property to anyone else for 15 days without offering it to you first. You can ask them to hold the property for more than 15 days but they must agree to this in writing.

Make sure your landlord or letting agent gives you details of your holding deposit in writing. This should include how much you paid and what will happen to the money if you don’t move in.

You'll get the deposit back if the landlord or letting agent decides not to rent to you. They must return your holding deposit within either:

  • 7 days from when they decided not to rent the property to you

  • 7 days from the end of the deadline for the holding period

If you sign a tenancy agreement

Your landlord or letting agent should pay the holding deposit back within 7 days of you signing the agreement. They can pay you back by putting the money towards your tenancy deposit or first rent payment, if you agree.

Check if you can get help with moving costs

Some charities offer grants or other financial help for moving costs. You can check what extra money you can apply for on the Turn2us website.

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