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Before you move in

Once you've found a place to rent there will be a few things that will have to happen before you can move in. This page outlines the most common.

Will I need references?

Before you move in, your landlord or letting agency may ask you to provide references from a previous landlord or an employer. This is to prove that you are a reliable tenant and will be able to pay the rent. They may also ask for a bank reference - your bank may charge you a small fee for this.

Students and other young people may need a parent or guardian to act as guarantor for them. This means that they undertake to pay your rent if you are unable to. Your landlord or letting agency may ask your guarantor to sign a letter or contract - ask a housing adviser to check this over if you're unsure.

Once your landlord has checked your references, you can then sign the tenancy agreement and decide on a date to move in.

The Right to Rent

From 1 February 2016 landlords who have rental properties in England and Wales will have to check that tenants or lodgers can legally rent their property. These regulations only apply to properties in England and Wales, and will not apply to tenants or lodgers who rent property in Scotland.

Energy performance certificate (the energy report)

All landlords will need to provide a energy performance certificate to potential tenants.

The energy performance certificate will give the home an energy efficiency rating. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the home is, and the lower the fuel bills are likely to be. It also looks at the impact the home has on the environment, through carbon dioxide emissions. The report looks at features such as how well insulated the home is, and how it is heated.

The energy performance certificate should also recommend ways to improve the home's energy efficiency and reduce fuel bills.

The tenancy agreement

A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord which states the terms and conditions of your living in their property.

Read more about tenancy agreements.

Paying a deposit

Most landlords require you to pay a deposit. Your landlord cannot charge you more that the equivalent of two months rent for the deposit and they have to register the deposit. with a tenancy deposit scheme, within 30 working days of the tenancy starting.

Read more about paying a deposit and what you can do if you can't afford a deposit.

What about an inventory?

An inventory is a list of the contents of the property (for example, furniture, carpets, kitchenware, etc.) and the condition it's in. If possible, you should check and sign the inventory before you move in.

Will I have to pay a fee?

Once you have paid your deposit and your first month's rent, you should not have to pay any additional charges. A landlord may ask for 'key money' or a premium. This is illegal so don't hand over any more money. Read more on deposits and key money and get advice if you are unsure whether money you are asked for is a deposit or not.

If you rent through a letting agency, you may be asked to pay an administration fee, to cover things such as checking the inventory and taking up references. It's illegal for an agency to charge you anything other than a deposit, so you shouldn't hand over any money.

Will I need insurance?

Before you move in, check with the landlord that the property is insured. The landlord's insurance will only cover damage to the structure of the property and the landlord's own furniture, so you'll have to take out your own insurance for your personal belongings.

Find out more about contents insurance and where you can buy it.

What about paying rent?

Your tenancy agreement should set out how much rent you have to pay and when it's due. It's best to arrange how you will pay your rent before you move in:

  • Make sure you know when your rent is due and how you should pay it.
  • Your landlord cannot ask you pay rent before the start of your tenancy
  • Some landlords call in person on a fixed day and time every week or month, collect the rent and sign a rent book. If you pay your rent weekly, your landlord must supply you with a rent book, otherwise it's up to the individual landlord.
  • Other landlords ask that you set up a direct debit or standing order from your bank account. This is ideal, as you can keep records yourself of the rent being paid through your bank statements.
  • It's very important that you keep a record of rent paid, otherwise you cannot prove what has been paid if the landlord claims you owe them money.
  • You can download the Shelter Scotland rent book. Just fill in the table each month, get your landlord to sign it, and keep it in a safe place.
  • Find out more about paying rent.

Make sure you have your landlord's contact details!

It is absolutely crucial that you get contact details for your landlord. Do not accept just a mobile number, as some landlords turn this off as soon as you have moved in. Mobile numbers are handy in an emergency, but make sure you get an address as well.

If you are renting through a letting agency, you have a legal right to know the name of your landlord, and this should be written on the lease. However, the agency will usually deal with any problems you may have, such as repairs or rent issues.

If you have difficulties finding out your landlord's contact details, you may be able to get the information from the council, provided that your landlord has registered.

Find out more about landlord registration.

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

  • You might need to provide references for your landlord or letting agent from previous landlords, your employer and your bank.
  • It is unlawful for letting agents to ask you to pay them any money apart from rent and deposit.
  • Ask your letting agent or landlord to confirm the property is insured and arrange contents insurance for your belongings.
  • Make sure you have your landlord's contact details, even if they are using a letting agent. It should be included in the tenancy agreement.

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