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Housing advice: private renting

Advice on renting in the private sector, including what it is, how to find properties, deposits, rent, tenant rights and eviction.

If you are at risk of homelessness or worried about your housing situation, you can email and we will contact you to arrange an appointment.

If you are homeless today, or your enquiry is urgent, you can call 01635 519 530 and choose option 2 to speak to a housing officer. We are available Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 5pm, Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm. 
If you have been made homeless outside of these hours, call the emergency duty team on 01344 351 999.

See our homelessness support page for more information.

On this page:

What is private renting

Renting privately means renting a property from a landlord or a company. The rent is set by your landlord. This is different from social housing where the property is owned by a housing association.

There will be a legal contract between you and your landlord. This contract is called a tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement covers each person's rights and responsibilities.

This includes:

  • how and when you must pay the rent
  • how your landlord will deal with repairs

Your tenancy will be for at least 6 months to start with. This is known as the 'fixed term' of your tenancy. You can find out more about types of tenancy on our assured and assured shorthold tenancy page.

What's good about it?

The main benefit of renting privately is that you'll have a lot of choice. You choose what you want to rent and where it is.

You can often find a property to rent quickly, as landlords don't want their properties empty for long. If you are on benefits or a low income, you may be able to get help with paying your rent - see our section on paying rent below.

What sort of rental properties are available?

There are a wide range of properties available when privately renting, from an entire house or bungalow to a flat, maisonette, or a room in a shared property.

The property may be:

  • fully furnished, with everything you would need
  • part-furnished, with only the main items included
  • unfurnished, with no furniture at all

Check whether the property has carpets, curtains, a cooker, a fridge and a washing machine.

If you rent a room in a shared house, shared properties:

  • are usually furnished
  • may have a shared kitchen, lounge or bathroom
  • provide a separate bedroom for each sharer

Types of tenancy

You can find out about private renting tenancies on Shelter's 'types of tenancy agreement' page or on our assured and assured shorthold tenancies page.

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Finding a private rental property

There are lots of places to look for private rental properties.

Looking for rental properties online is a good way to property search and arrange viewings. There are lots of websites advertising properties to rent, for example:

You can also look in local newspapers or local estate agents - usually they will advertise properties in the window (as well as online). Local corner shops often advertise properties in their windows, and local supermarkets may have a notice board you can check.

Letting agents

You can rent a property through a letting agent, and they can help you find a rental property. However, finding a property through a letting agent may involve costs, for example:

  • an administration fee
  • a credit check fee

Make sure you get a written explanation of all the costs involved before you sign any paperwork or a tenancy agreement.

Viewing a property

Make sure you view the property before paying any money.

Bear in mind that landlords and lettings agents look for good tenants who are reliable, will keep the property in good condition and pay the rent. When you have a viewing, make sure to be on time and be friendly and presentable.

You can find more advice on finding a rental property on the Citizens Advice website.

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Most landlords will expect you to pay a deposit (sometimes called a 'bond'). Some landlords will agree to you paying a deposit in instalments if you ask to. Make sure you get a receipt for any money you pay.

Deposit protection

Your landlord must pay your deposit into an approved scheme for safe-keeping. They are not allowed to keep your money themselves. Your landlord must tell you where they have put your money so that you know who to contact if there is any dispute when you leave. 

You can find out about approved deposit schemes on the GOV.UK website.

If you can't afford a deposit

If you can't afford a deposit, check whether you are eligible for the Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme. See our rent in advance and rent deposits page for further information.

If you are not eligible for the rent deposit scheme but you are on certain benefits, you may be able to access a Budgeting Loan through Jobcentre Plus.

If you're currently receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). See our Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) page for full details.

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Paying your rent

What the rent covers

If you have a rented property to yourself, bills are not usually included. In shared properties some or all bills may be covered in the rent, so ask the landlord what is included.

As well as rent, you will have to pay:

  • council tax
  • water rates
  • gas and electricity bills
  • phone and internet charges
  • household insurance

If you're struggling to pay your rent

If you are having trouble paying your rent, you should contact your landlord (or letting agent) immediately, before the situation gets any worse. You should aim to agree a repayment plan with your landlord for any rent that you owe. However, if you have tried this but have been unable to reach an agreement, we can speak to your landlord on your behalf. You can contact our Housing Options Team for advice.

If you are on a low or no income, you could be eligible to apply for benefits towards your rent payments. You can find out about available benefits on GOV.UK, or use their benefits and financial support checker.

If you're currently receiving Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit, see our Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) page.

You can also find guidance on help with renting costs on the Citizens Advice website.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Rates

When applying for assistance with housing costs, the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate is used to decide the maximum cost you can claim. Your entitlement will be calculated based on your household income.
If you are affected by the Benefit Cap, you will not receive the maximum LHA rate.

To find out which LHA rate will be used to assess your claim, use Direct Gov's Local Housing Allowance rates search:

  • step 1: confirm the number of bedrooms your household is entitled to - you can find this out using the Bedroom calculator
  • step 2: enter your post code or select your local authority

The average market rent in West Berkshire is significantly higher than the average Local Housing Allowance rate, so even if you are entitled to the full LHA rate, you may still need to make a contribution to your rent. If your property is no longer affordable for you, we will be able to support you to find alternative accommodation. See our what help we can offer section below.

If you're single and under 35

If you are under 35, single, do not have children, and you're renting from a private landlord, the benefit that you receive will only be equivalent to the Local Housing Allowance rate for a room in a shared property. This is also known as the 'shared accommodation rate'. 

You can find out more about the shared accommodation rate here.

The Benefit Cap

The Benefit Cap limits the amount of money that you will receive if you claim certain benefits. You can find information about the benefit cap on GOV.UK.

You can also find information on which benefits are/are not included in the Benefit Cap on the Citizens Advice website.

If you are affected by the benefit cap and will struggle to afford your current accommodation, we will help you to explore other housing options. See our what help we can offer section below.

You can also find advice on costs involved in private renting on the Citizens Advice website.

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Your tenancy rights as a private tenant

Everybody has the right to:

  • their landlord or agent's name and address
  • a written tenancy agreement
  • an inventory or list of furniture in the property

Legally, a property must be safe and free from significant hazards. If your landlord lives in the property and shares facilities with you, your rights are more limited.

Your rights will also depend on your type of tenancy. There are several types of tenancies available to renters. If you are renting through a private landlord you are likely to have an assured shorthold tenancy. You can find out more on our assured and assured shorthold tenancies page.

If it is not clear what type of tenancy you have, you can use the tenancy checker on the Shelter website.

The government has produced guidance to help you to understand your rights and responsibilities, find out more about renting and what happens at the end of a tenancy. You can find the private renting guidance on the GOV.UK website, here.

You can also contact our housing options team for advice and information about your housing situation.

Your responsibilities as a tenant

As a private tenant, you must:

  • paying your rent on time - your landlord can take action to evict you if you don't pay your rent
  • look after your home and report repairs
  • allow your landlord reasonable access
  • behave responsibly
  • end your tenancy properly


Landlords have a responsibility to repair problems with:

  • the structure of the property, such as walls, roof, windows and doors
  • sinks, baths and toilets
  • pipes and wiring
  • heating and hot water, such as the boiler
  • the safety of gas and electrical appliances

Tenants should report repairs to their landlord (preferably in writing). If the landlord does not fix the issue within a reasonable period of time, you can report the disrepair to the council by contacting Environmental Health.

Tenants are responsible for minor repairs, for example, changing light bulbs. You can find more repairs information on the Citizens Advice website.

If your tenancy is coming to an end

When your tenancy (known as the fixed term) comes to an end, it automatically becomes a periodic tenancy running from month to month. If your landlord wants the property back, they must follow the eviction process.


There are a variety of grounds which a landlord could use to re-gain possession of a property, depending on the tenancy type. You can find further information about possession on the Shelter website.

You should not leave your property because your landlord has simply asked you to; they must serve you with a valid notice to start an eviction process.

The length of notice you get from your landlord will depend on:

  • your tenancy agreement
  • the type of property you are in

After the notice has expired, your landlord will need to apply to the courts to obtain a possession order. If a possession order is granted, it will give you a date when you must give back possession of the property to your landlord. 
When that date expires, your landlord must return to the courts again to ask for an eviction notice. If granted, the eviction notice (also known as a bailiff warrant) will give you a date and time that you must vacate the property.

You can find out more about the eviction process on the Shelter website.

If you share the accommodation with your landlord

If your landlord is resident on the premises and you share facilities with them (for example: a kitchen or bathroom or living space), they need to serve you with reasonable notice. When the notice expires, you will have to leave the property.

Your landlord will not have to get a court order to evict you when the notice has expired. This rule may also apply to other types of occupiers, such as those living in a hostel.

Although your landlord does not have to obtain a court order to evict you in these circumstances, it is still unlawful for a landlord to harass or attempt to evict you before the notice expires.

If you are ever in danger of losing your home, contact the Housing Options team straight away for advice.

Your landlord must not harass you, illegally evict you or evict you because of a disrepair complaint. See our illegal eviction and harassment page for further information.

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Help from the housing options team

The Housing Options team can:

  • help you with a rent deposit guarantee, if you qualify
  • offer advice on affordability and Local Housing Allowance
  • help you claim housing benefit towards your rent if you are on a low income or benefits and offer advice on Discretionary Housing Payments
  • refer you to support with budgeting, advice about paying bills and looking after the property
  • help you understand the responsibilities of being a tenant and living on your own
  • advise you on issues like tenancy deposit protection and tenancy law

Once you have moved into a private rented property, we may be also able to offer you support to help you maintain your tenancy.

You can call us on 01635 519 530 and choose option 2. Alternatively, you can contact us by email at

You can also get advice from Citizens Advice West Berkshire.

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