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Private rent

Last Modified October 19, 2015

Information about renting a property through a private landlord or estate agent.

What is private rent?

Renting in the private sector lets you choose the type and location of your new home.  As a tenant you will enter into a tenancy agreement with your landlord, which is a legal agreement that sets out the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenant. It will contain details such as the length of the agreement, the rent payable, and what is and isn't allowed in the property, such as pets.

What are the different types of tenancy agreement?

There are different types of tenancy agreement. Some provide the tenant with more rights than others:

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)

The Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is one of the most common in the private rented sector. If your tenancy began, or was agreed, on or after 28 February 1997, it is likely to be an AST. Tenancies starting, or agreed, before that date but after 15 January 1989, are more likely to be Assured Tenancies. However, it is important to know that if you are not an Assured or an Assured Shorthold Tenant as your rights may be different.

Excluded Tenancy or Licence Agreement

If you live with your landlord as a lodger and share living accommodation, this may be known as an Excluded Tenancy or Licence. You should check to see how your circumstances will define your tenancy agreement.

Private landlords

Private landlords will normally rent their property at the market rate and their right to increase the rent depends on the type of tenancy.

Tenants who have a fixed term of three years or more, are legally entitled to a written tenancy agreement. However, where there is no written tenancy agreement, a tenant with a shorthold tenancy, starting on or after 28 February 1997, has a right to ask for a written statement of any of the following main terms of the tenancy:

  • the date the tenancy began
  • the amount of rent payable and the dates on which it is due
  • any rent review arrangements
  • the length of any fixed term

The landlord wants a deposit - what is this?

When you move into your home it is likely you will have to provide the landlord or letting agency with a deposit. This should be requested to cover any unpaid rent or damage to the property. Sometimes, when a tenant decides to move on, there may be disputes concerning the returnable amount.

When you sign your tenancy agreement always check the details to see what your deposit will cover and how it will be returned. You should also ask for an inventory of the property's contents when you move in.

Ensure that you agree with the terms and conditions of the tenancy before you hand any money over.

Tenancy deposit protection

To help end the problem of a tenant's deposit being unfairly withheld by landlords and agents, Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes have been introduced. All deposits taken for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must be protected by a Government-authorised scheme.

Rent Deposit Scheme

We operate a Rent Deposit Scheme to help certain individuals get access to the private rented sector.

It is available to people who we have a legal duty to help and who would otherwise be denied access because they can't afford a deposit. The main aim is to help prevent homelessness throughout the borough.

We do this by:

  • Providing a guaranteed deposit equivalent to two months' rent
  • Allowing the deposit to be used to cover any damage and/or rent arrears
  • Providing on-going support to both parties throughout the tenancy, where appropriate (in conjunction with our tenancy liaison  officer)
  • Referring tenants to private landlords without charging any fees.

The scheme does not pay anything at the start of the tenancy, or during the tenancy, towards the rent, but tenants may be eligible for help towards rent payments through housing benefit. We don't manage the property or tenancy, but can advise landlords on how to do this effectively.

If you would like more information on the scheme, or would like to offer your rental property to the scheme, call us on 020 8207 7420.

I want to move into a private rent but I need help with my rent.

If you have a low income you may be able to get housing benefit to help pay your rent. Your savings as well as your income will be used to work out whether you can get benefits and, if so, how much.

Our benefits section has more information to help you. 

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