Renting Property in the UK

Renting a home in the UK has become a more popular option for many new arrivals waiting or unwilling to get on the property ladder.  Homes can be rented from housing associations or private property owners known in the UK as landlords.

Using a local authority

Most local authorities (or councils) provide housing, which is often referred to as 'council housing'.  Everyone is entitled to apply for council housing, although there is a shortage in many areas of the UK, so some people may have to wait a very long time for a house or flat using this process.

To make an application, you are required to put your name on the council register or list, which is available from your local authority's housing department.  You will then be assessed on the urgency of your need according to a points system, which will determine your position on the council housing waiting list.

  • Further Information: Shelter (http://england.shelter.org.uk/) are dedicated to helping people find housing, with detailed pages on council housing, tenant rights, the process of being put on the waiting list and more.

Using housing associations

Housing associations are independent non-profit organisations which provide housing for rent. Their presence has expanded in recent years to the point that they have taken over the administration of local authority housing. 

Additionally, they run schemes which allow for shared ownership, so people can just buy part of a house or flat if they cannot afford to buy it all at once.  Like council housing, there are often waiting lists for homes owned by housing associations.

  • Further Information: The Housing Corporation (http://www.housingcorp.gov.uk/) is the official government agency that funds new affordable homes and regulates housing associations in England.

Renting through private landlords

People hoping to rent a home may also do so privately, using landlords.  Privately rented accommodation listings can be found on websites, as well as in local newspapers, estate agents and letting agents. 

Please note: you may be required to pay a fee to use the services of agents, so it's important to research the quality of their service prior to registering with them.

  • Further Information:  One of the leading online resources for landlords and letting agencies to advertise flats and apartments is Gumtree (http://www.gumtree.com/), which have a wide range of location specific free adverts for accommodation of all sizes and price ranges.

Making a tenancy agreement

Once you have found a house or flat to rent privately, you are required to sign a tenancy agreement, or lease.  Essentially, this outlines the conditions you must follow while renting the property.  Please ensure you scrutinise this agreement closely in order to avoid any later problems. 

The agreement should also contain an inventory of furniture and fittings in the property, so be sure to check that everything is included that should be.  Finally, before you sign the agreement, check the details and then be sure to keep it safe during your tenancy.

Deposit and rent

Generally, a deposit is required at the very beginning of your tenancy.  This is required to cover the cost of any damage, and is paid to the landlord to cover the costs of any potential damage during your tenancy.  Barring any such situations though, it should be returned to you at the end of your tenancy.

The rent is fixed with your landlord at the beginning of your tenancy, and it cannot be raised without your agreement.  Additionally, should you find yourself in a position where you are unable to pay your rent, you have the option to try and claim Housing Benefit to assist you.

Ending or renewing a tenancy

A tenancy will usually be for a fixed period of time, with six months being the most common. After this time, the tenancy can be ended or, should both landlord and tenant agree, renewed.  Should you wish to end the tenancy before it is over, you will often still be required to still pay for the full period of the tenancy.

In the case of a dispute between landlord and tenant, you should be aware that a landlord cannot force you to leave without going through the proper channels and procedures (which vary, according to the type of tenancy). However, it is a universal rule that a landlord cannot use threats of violence or other methods to force the tenant to leave, and must use a court order to do so.