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Common Housing Terms & What They Mean

Housing terms can sometimes be confusing. Read our explanations to help you understand some of the most common terms used.



Anti-social behaviour – acting in a way that causes distress or disturbs other people

Appeal – a way of challenging a decision that you do not agree with. Appeals are usually made in the court and not all decisions can be challenged in this way. Always get advice before you start an appeal

Assignment – when a tenancy is transferred from one person to another

AST – Assured Shorthold Tenancy; the most common type of tenancy if you rent from a private landlord. The main feature that makes an AST different from other types of tenancies is that your landlord can evict you without a reason


Bond scheme – an alternative to a landlord taking a deposit from their tenant. They are usually run by councils, housing associations or charities


Common housing register – a waiting list for housing shared between the council and Housing Associations in the same area

Contract – a legal agreement between two or more people

Council tax – an annual fee that  councils charge for the local services it provides, like rubbish collection and libraries


Deposit – a payment made by a tenant to a landlord at the beginning of a tenancy. The money is held by the landlord to cover the cost of damage or unpaid rent. A deposit is sometimes referred to as a bond

Discharge of duty – if the council have accepted a homelessness duty to you, when they send you a ‘discharge of duty’ letter it means that they are no longer able to help you. This might happen if you  accept or refuse  a certain type of offer, or you stop being  eligible


Emergency accommodation – short-term housing you might be able to get from your local council if you make a homelessness application

Eviction – being made to leave your property by your landlord or by a court order


Fixed Term – for a fixed amount of time


Guarantor – someone who agrees to pay your rent if you don’t pay it


Holding deposit – a payment to a landlord or letting agent to reserve a property

Homeless application – an application a person over 16 makes to the council if they are homeless or threatened with homelessness within the next 56 days

Housing officer – someone who works at the council or housing association and helps to sort out  any housing problems that  a person may have


Illegal eviction – being forced to leave your property by your landlord without them following the right legal process

Inventory – a list that a landlord makes which sets out all the things that come with the rental property, such as furniture, fixtures and fittings, along with a description and their condition


Notice – served by the tenant or the landlord to bring a tenancy to an end


Periodic Tenancy – a rolling tenancy with no fixed end date

Personal Housing Plan – if you have made a homelessness application the council might work with you to write  a ‘personalised housing plan’ (PHP) based on your  needs

Possession order – a decision from a court ordering a tenant to give up possession of their property to a landlord

Prevention duty – if you have made a homelessness application, the council might decide it owes you a duty to ‘prevent you from becoming homeless’


Relief duty – if you have made a homelessness application, the council might decide it owes you a duty to ‘relieve your homelessness’. This means that they must help you to find a suitable place to live

Rent arrears – rent which is owed by a tenant to their landlord

Rent– the amount you must pay to your landlord to live in the property. If you do not pay your rent you could be evicted

Rent Smart Wales – a service that is responsible for the registration and licensing of private landlords and letting agents in Wales

Repair obligations – these tell you what repairs your landlord must carry out and what repairs are your responsibility

Repayment plan – a way to pay money back over an extended period of time

Review – a way of challenging a decision that you do not agree with. If you ask for a review then the decision is usually looked at again by someone who was not involved in making the original decision. Always get advice before asking for a review


Section 8 notice – a notice that a landlord serves on a tenant who has an Assured tenancy to bring the tenancy to an end

Section 21 notice – a notice that a landlord serves on a tenant of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy to bring the tenancy to an end

Sofa surfing – staying temporarily with various friends or relatives because you don’t have a permanent place to live

Succession – when a person takes over a tenancy when the tenant dies


Tenancy agreement – a contract between a tenant and their landlord for the occupation of a property

Term– the length of time you are able to rent the property for

Terms and conditions – the rules that apply to the contract


Utility suppliers – a company that supplies gas, electric, telephone, etc


Warrant – this is permission from the county court for the bailiffs to evict a tenant or mortgage borrower from a  property.

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Rydym yn ymddiheuro na fedrwn ddarparu’r wybodaeth yma yn Gymraeg, ond os hoffech siarad ag ymgynghorydd yn Gymraeg yna cysylltwch ar 08000 495 495.
We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

This page was last updated on: Hydref 1, 2021

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.