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What is rent and what does it include?

Whoever is your landlord you will pay rent in return for living in your home. This page gives an introduction to rent, what can be charged as rent and what rent includes.

What is rent?

Rent is money paid by tenants to landlords in return for living in their property. You and your landlord will agree on the amount of rent to be paid before your tenancy starts. You should not be expected to pay any rent until the day you move into the rental property. Rent can include utilities and council tax but not in all cases.

Your tenancy agreement should state:

  • how much is your rent
  • when is the rent due (weekly, monthly, etc)
  • on which day should the rent be paid
  • how should be the rent paid (standing order, direct debit, cheque or cash)
  • what does the rent include (does it include council tax or gas, electricity or phone bills?)

If you pay your rent weekly then your landlord has to give you a rent book, this is so you can keep a record of rent paid. You can download a sample rent book, if you don't already have one, and use it to keep track of your payments.

What does rent include?

Unless otherwise stated rent will only be for living in the property itself, however rent can also cover:

  • Utility Bills such as gas or electricity
  • Council Tax
  • Phone Bills
  • Any other services

If council tax or some other bill is included in your rent it should be specified in your contract by the landlord.

Can I get help to pay the rent?

If you are on benefits or a low income you may be entitled to housing benefit to help pay your rent.

If can also apply for a budgeting loan, if you need help with paying rent in advance, as housing benefit is paid in arrears.

Who has to pay rent?

If you are the only person on the tenancy agreement then you are responsible for paying all the rent.

If you have a joint tenancy (that is, if other people living with you are on the tenancy agreement), you are all responsible for paying the rent. If one of you does not pay, the others are responsible for paying that person's share.

Can I withhold rent?

Occasionally it might be possible for you to withhold rent:

  • to recoup losses you suffered which were the fault of your landlord, for example if you had to carry out and pay for repairs that were your landlord's responsibility
  • to force your landlord to carry out repairs or improve services.

Find out more about withholding rent.

What if my landlord wants to put the rent up?

Your landlord have to follow certain procedures before they can put your rent up. The page on rent increases explains these procedures and also has advice on what you can do if you disagree with a rent increase and want to challenge it.

Can I be charged separately for gas and electricity?

Usually, when you move into a rented property, your landlord will ask you to put the gas and electricity bills in your name. However, sometimes your landlord may be responsible for paying the supplier and will bill you separately for the electricity and gas you use.

There are rules as to how much your landlord can charge you for this:

  • They can only charge you for the electricity/gas you have used.
  • They can only charge you what they themselves have been charged for the electricity/gas.
  • They cannot resell you the supply at a profit.

If you think you are being overcharged, ask your landlord to show you how your bill is calculated. If you're still not happy, contact the Energy Ombudsman.

These rules only apply if your landlord gives you a separate bill for gas and electricity. If your rent includes gas and electricity (for example, you pay £100 a week, £10 of which goes towards electricity), these rules don't apply.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're in England

The important points

  • Rent is money that tenants pay landlords in return for a place to live.
  • Your tenancy agreement should define how much your rent is, how and when it should be paid and what it includes.
  • Your landlord has to follow certain procedures if they want to put the rent up.
  • If your landlord bills you separately for gas or electricity, he or she is not allowed to charge you more than what he or she has paid.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us