How to find a private rented home

Find out how to find a place to rent privately and what to consider when thinking about where to rent.

How to find a private rented home

Search online
Many landlords and letting agencies advertise online. Popular national websites include:

Zoopla

Rightmove

Prime Location

These sites mostly advertise properties that are being let by a letting agent on behalf of a landlord. It is a good idea to check if the agent will manage the property while you live there, or whether the landlord will manage the property directly.

Other websites, such as Spareroom and Gumtree allow users to place ads directly. If you are searching for a property on this type of website, be aware that you could have fewer legal rights if the occupancy is a lodger’s agreement or sub-occupation contract. Make sure you check the contract before you sign. You should also check whether the property is registered with Rent Smart Wales and whether a Rent Smart Wales licence-holder will be managing the property. If the advertisement is for a lodger, the property does not need to be registered and licensed.

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 help 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 benefits or you are on a low income).

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.

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 holding 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.

Check out our ‘Staying safe renting a property_10 Top Tips‘.

‘No DSS’ policies

It is discrimination for a letting agent to refuse to rent to you because you are on benefits or have a ‘no DSS’ policy. If this happens to you, use our Challenging DSS Discrimination toolkit to find out what you can do.

Have a look at this Open Doors project YouTube video to find out more about discrimination in private rented housing.

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 occupation contract. 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.

Most letting fees for renters are banned in Wales so always check 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 contract-holders 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 an occupation contract 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 occupation contract you would have

Always check what type of occupation contract you will have before you move in and ask to see the contract.

An occupation contract will state the rights and responsibilities that you and your landlord have during the contract. You should check it carefully before you sign it, and get advice if you are unsure about anything it says.

Private contract-holders usually have fewer rights than people who rent from community landlords, but all contract-holders have certain rights under the law. Your landlord can’t take away these basic rights, regardless of what your occupation contract says. Your landlord must give you a written occupation contract within 2 weeks of the contract starting, but even if they don’t you still have the same legal rights. Find out more about private renters’ rights here.

Most new private renting agreements are standard occupation contracts. Standard contracts are either fixed term standard contracts or periodic standard contracts. However, in certain rare circumstances  you could have a different type of renting agreement, meaning that you could be an excluded occupier or an occupier with basic protection. If you’re not sure what type of renting agreement you have look at our pages on private renters rights, or get help.

If you are under 25, take a look at our Setting up your first home advice page, specifically put together for young people.

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.

Accommodation options chart

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This page was last updated on: April 16, 2024

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.