This section tells you what to consider when deciding whether or not to rent privately. It gives information about what it will cost to rent and explains how to find a place. It explains about landlord registration & licensing and gives information about letting agents.
Finding a place to rent
There are many different types of housing available to rent privately. You might be looking to rent a self contained flat or house, or just a room.
Information about private rented accommodation is often available online. Popular websites that advertise house shares and homes to rent are:
Try doing a web search to see if there are local websites or forums that advertise flats, houses or rooms to rent. When using these sites, never pay any money without seeing the property first. Take someone with you when visiting properties, if you can.
You may also be able to find places to rent privately in:
- local newspapers and magazines
- shop windows and notice boards
- by word of mouth
- from your local council housing options service (especially if you need a landlord who accepts housing benefit payments)
- through letting agencies.
You could also place an advert in a local newspaper, shop window or notice board. The advert should say what you are looking for and how much rent you can afford to pay.
If you’re a student, your university or college will probably have an accommodation office that can help you find somewhere to live. They’ll have information about private landlords, halls of residence and other accommodation specially for students. Your students’ union may have a noticeboard offering houseshares.
What sort of place are you looking for?
Private housing for rent can vary greatly in quality, size, price and services. Think carefully about the sort of place that will suit you before you start looking around.
You might want a place that is:
- near your family and friends
- shared with other people
- shared with the landlord
- furnished or unfurnished
- in a particular area
- available for a short or a long time
- on the ground floor.
You need to be realistic about what you are prepared to accept. In some areas of the country it is easy to find affordable places to rent but in other areas there may be very little available within your price range.
Have a look at our checklist Getting the right place to help you think about where to rent.
How to follow up an advert
Private places are often let fairly quickly so if you find somewhere you might be interested in:
- ring the number given in the advert straight away
- ask as much as possible about the property to decide whether it is suitable
- ask the landlord if they are registered and have a licence under the Rent Smart Wales scheme. If you are dealing with a letting agent, ask the agent if they have a licence
- if you’re still interested, arrange to visit the accommodation as soon as possible – before you agree to anything
- get another person to go with you to view the property and let someone else know where you are going
- have details of referees or references ready
- be prepared to supply a deposit (but don’t carry large amounts of cash and always get a receipt) and be sure you view the property before handing over any money.
Print off and take with you our ‘Staying safe renting a private property : 10 Top Tips‘.
What to look for when viewing places you are interested in
During the viewing, check that:
- the property is secure
- the heating, lighting and plumbing works
- any furniture is in a good state of repair.
If other people live there, try to meet them to see if you will get on with them.
Take a look at our Viewing a property checklist for ideas about other things you should look at before deciding whether to rent a place. Print and take the checklist with you to any viewing.
What each place will cost each week (or month)
You should find out as much as you can about the costs of the accommodation before you agree to move in or sign anything. This includes:
- how much the rent is
- whether the rent includes bills
- how much the council tax is
- how much the bills are (in winter and in summer)
- whether the bills are shared with other people.
Renting privately can be very expensive. The amount you have to spend usually depends on the size, location and condition of the property.
Use a budget planner to work out if you can afford the accommodation.
How much you have to pay in advance
It is usual to have to pay a deposit and rent in advance, before or at the same time as you sign the tenancy agreement. Landlords normally ask for one month’s rent in advance and one month’s deposit, although it can be more than this, especially if the property is of high value. The landlord must place your deposit into a tenancy deposit scheme which will pay the money back to you at the end of the tenancy. If you damage the property or don’t pay the rent your landlord may be able to keep all or part of the deposit.
If you find a home through a letting agent, you may have to pay agency fees. Some charge tenants and some don’t, so it may be worth shopping around.
Some landlords and agencies do not accept personal cheques as deposits or rent in advance. You might have to pay in cash or organise a banker’s draft. If you need to use cash get another person to go with you and always get a written receipt. You may also need to have a bank account as some landlords want rent to be paid by standing order. Always view a property before you pay out any money.
Whether you can get housing benefit
If you are on benefits or have a low income you may be able to get housing benefit to help you pay the rent. If your income isn’t too high you may be able to get housing benefit even if you are working. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find a landlord who lets accommodation to tenants who claim housing benefit.
It is possible to check what the maximum housing benefit would be before agreeing to move in. You can do this by checking the local housing allowance for your area. But remember that you may not be eligible for the maximum amount if your income or savings are too high.
Whether you need references
Landlords often ask potential tenants to provide references to prove that you are reliable and will be able to afford the rent. This usually means providing bank details and/or a letter from your employer confirming employment. Sometimes landlords request character references or references from former landlords. If you are taking on a tenancy for the first time, a landlord might accept a reference from a parent or guardian.
You might be asked to provide a guarantor for the rent. This is more common for young people. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay the rent if you do not.
What kind of tenancy agreement you would have
When you have found a suitable place and paid the necessary charges, you will usually be given a tenancy agreement to sign before you move in. This states the rights and responsibilities that you and your landlord will have during the tenancy. You should check it carefully before you sign it, and get advice if you are unsure about anything it says.
Private tenants usually have fewer rights than people who rent from councils or housing associations, but all tenants have certain basic rights under the law, even if they don’t have a written agreement. Your landlord can’t take away these basic rights, regardless of what your tenancy agreement says. Even if the landlord doesn’t give you a written tenancy agreement, you still have legal rights.
Most new private tenancies are assured shorthold tenancies but there are other types of tenancy in the private sector. If you’re not sure what type of tenancy you have, contact a Shelter Cymru adviser or look at our pages on private tenancies.
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 0345 075 5005.