Finding a private rented home
Private rented homes are usually advertised online. You can rent directly from a private landlord or through a letting agency. Your rights will be the same in either case.
If you start a new private tenancy, it will be open-ended, which means there's no end date. You can end the tenancy with 28 days’ notice at any time.
Where to find a home
You can find available homes by:
checking websites like S1 Homes, Rightmove, Zoopla, Gumtree, OpenRent, and Spareroom
asking your friends, family or colleagues if they know about any homes for rent
checking local social media groups, noticeboards or newspaper listings
contacting local letting agencies to ask if they have homes available
What to check
An advert for a private rented home should usually tell you details like:
how much the rent is
how much the deposit is
how many rooms there are
when the home is available to move in
whether any furniture's included
whether pets are allowed
whether the property has an HMO licence and how many people can live there
Most private landlords must be registered, and by law they must include the registration number in the advert. Be wary of adverts that do not include a landlord registration number.
Requesting a viewing
When you find a home you’re interested in, you can usually request a viewing by phone, email, or online contact form.
Some landlords and letting agencies offer online viewings. Ask for a viewing in person if you can. Try to take someone else along with you who can help you decide if the home is right for you.
Never agree to hand over money before you've seen the property and checked the landlord's registration details.
What to check at viewings
You should get the chance to look around all the rooms and ask questions.
what the average costs for heating and electricity might be
if any costs are included in the rent, such as internet or other utilities
whether the location suits you – for example, if there’s enough public transport or parking spaces
what council tax band the home is in
what furniture is included
There's a legal repair standard for private tenancies. Look out for any repair issues, such as faulty windows, electrics or dampness. Ask the landlord when these issues will be fixed and get them to agree to it in writing.
If you're interested in the property
Let the landlord or letting agent know as soon as possible.
You'll usually be asked for details about yourself and anyone who would be living with you, such as:
when you’d like to move in
whether you have any pets
whether you want to live there temporarily or long-term
If multiple people are interested in a property, the landlord or letting agent can choose who they want to rent it to.
Checks the landlord or letting agent can do
Before you're offered a home, the landlord or letting agent may check:
your income, through payslips or bank statements
your credit rating
a reference from a previous landlord
Landlords and letting agents should not ask about your immigration status. “Right to rent” checks only apply in England.
Showing you can afford the rent
Landlords and letting agents often do affordability checks to make sure you have enough income to pay the rent.
If you get benefits, this should be treated the same as any other income. If you're refused a viewing or a tenancy because you get benefits, this could be discrimination. Check our guidance on challenging benefits discrimination.
If your income is lower than the requirements, or your credit score is too low, you could:
ask to use a guarantor – this is someone who agrees to pay the rent if you do not
offer to pay the rent in advance – you can agree to pay up to 6 months' rent at a time
If you're asked to pay any fees
Landlords and letting agents cannot charge unlawful fees. These include:
fees for credit checks or reference checks
other administration fees
holding fees, key money or premiums
They can only ask you to pay a refundable tenancy deposit and rent in advance.
If you decide to pay a holding fee to get a tenancy, ask them to confirm that it’s refundable.
If a landlord or letting agent refuses to refund illegal fees, you could claim them back through a court or tribunal. Citizens Advice has guidance on what you can do about illegal fees.
If you’re offered a home
Do some checks before you sign a contract or pay any money.
Check the landlord’s details
If you do not already have them, ask the landlord or letting agency for their:
contact number and email address
landlord registration number
With these details, check the landlord is on the Scottish landlord register.
If you’re dealing with a letting agency, check they're on the letting agent register.
There are some exceptions where landlords do not have to be registered. Check if your landlord must be registered and what to do if they’re not.
Check the tenancy agreement
You should be given a private residential tenancy agreement, along with notes that explain it in simple terms. Check your rights in a private residential tenancy.
If you're not given anything in writing, you'll still have the same rights. If the agreement says it's a different type of tenancy, this will not be valid.
If you’re moving in with the landlord, you’ll have a common law tenancy instead, which gives you different rights. Check your rights if you live with your landlord.
Your tenancy agreement should include:
yours and the landlord’s details
the address of the rented property
how much the rent is
when the rent is due and how it should be paid
Read the tenancy agreement to make sure you agree with all the conditions. If there’s anything you do not understand, ask the landlord or letting agent to explain it.
Paying a deposit and rent in advance
You can be asked for a tenancy deposit up to 2 months’ rent. This usually must be put in a deposit protection scheme. Check our guidance on paying a deposit.
You can also be asked to pay up to 6 months’ rent in advance. Most landlords and letting agents will ask for 1 or 2 months’ rent in advance.
If you need help to pay your deposit or rent
Check our guidance to see if you could get:
Housing Benefit, if you're pension age
Discretionary Housing Payment from the council
If you’re not from the UK or Ireland, your immigration status affects which benefits you can claim. Check your rights on Citizens Advice.
Check your other housing options
If you cannot find a private rented home that suits your needs and budget, you could:
Last updated: 19 January 2023