How to find a place to rent privately
This section tells you what to consider when deciding whether or not to rent privately and explains how to find a place.
How to find a private rented home
Popular national websites include:
You may also find local websites or social media sites advertising places to rent.
Use a letting agent
Use a letting agency to help you find a home to rent. It is an offence for a landlord or letting agent to charge most ‘admin’ or letting fees so always get advice before paying any fees.
Check or advertise locally
Look in local papers, magazines, shop windows and notice boards. You could also place an advert yourself.
Contact your local council
Your local council housing options service should be able to help you (especially if you need a landlord who accepts housing benefit or universal credit housing cost payments).
What sort of place are you looking for?
Private rented housing can vary greatly in quality, size, price and services. Think carefully about the sort of place that will suit you.
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 often let quickly. If you find somewhere you like:
- ring the landlord or letting agent as soon as you can
- 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
- 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 pay 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‘.
If the landlord or letting agent refuses to rent the property to you, or tries to charge you a higher rent than others in the property, they might be discriminating against you. Have a look at this Open Doors project YouTube video to find out more about your rights.
What to look for when going to a viewing
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.
What each place will cost
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 is the rent?
- does the rent include bills?
- how much is the council tax?
- how much are the bills (in winter and in summer)?
- are the bills shared with other people?
Renting privately can be expensive.
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, when 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. Make sure you ask how much these are before you sign anything.
The landlord or letting agent may also ask you to pay letting fees (or ‘admin fees’). For example, to prepare the tenancy agreement or to hold a property for you whilst they check out any references. Many letting fees have been banned in Wales and it is an offence for a landlord or agent to try and charge them so always get advice before paying anything over. For more advice on which fees are banned, click here.
Whether you can get housing benefit or universal credit
If you are on benefits or have a low income you may be able to get housing benefit or universal credit housing costs to help pay the rent. If your income isn’t too high you may be able to get help even if you are working.
You can check what the maximum housing benefit would be in your area by checking the local housing allowance for your area. But remember that you may not receive this 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
Always check what type of tenancy you will have before you move in and ask to see the tenancy agreement.
A tenancy agreement will state the rights and responsibilities that you and your landlord 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. 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 private tenancy. 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.