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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:

  • your income

  • 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 identity

  • 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 advice 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:

  • full name

  • UK address

  • 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 advice on deposits.

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:

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

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This content applies to Scotland only.

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