Finding a Rental Property

How to go about finding an apartment, flat or house to rent in the United Kingdom, with details of private rentals and lettings agents, flatsharing and the documents required...

There are two types of rentals available:

  1. Private rentals, through individual landlords
  2. Rentals through a letting agency

Properties to let are advertised in various places, and the way in which properties are generally advertised varies between regions. In towns and cities, there are large numbers of private landlords and lettings agents who routinely advertise on large websites. In smaller towns and villages, they may advertise online, in local papers, by means of cards in shop windows and by word of mouth.

In university towns, online flatshare advertisements are particularly common. A group of people may join together online to look for a communal house or flat, and groups of existing flatmates may advertise to fill a spare room. In these situations, members of the group will often request personal descriptions or informal interviews to make sure that the personalities in the household are be compatible.

Council or social housing may be available in certain circumstances through the council's housing list.

Furnished and Unfurnished Properties

Rental properties can either be:

  • Unfurnished, where no furniture is provided. Definitions of unfurnished can vary from property to property so it is always advisable to ask what is and is not included. Unlike other countries unfurnished properties in the UK always include basics such as a kitchen and floor coverings.
  • Part-furnished, where basic furniture such as wardrobes, dining table and chairs are included with the above
  • Furnished or fully furnished, where everything is provided from beds, sofas and shelves to kitchen appliances

Private Rentals

There are many newspapers and websites through which a property can be found to rent privately, without going through an agency. With private rental, there are no agency fees to pay and any disputes or house problems can be solved by direct negotiation with the landlord. Depending on the landlord, this can be either an advantage or a disadvantage. Private rentals are subject to a contract called a tenancy agreement, which sets out the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant.

The most popular websites for advertising a house or apartment vary over time. They include:

Letting/Rental Agencies

The alternative to a private rental is a lease via a lettings agency. A letting agent is a realtor or real estate agent that deals purely in rental accommodation. The agency charges an administration fee if a suitable property is found; the fee varies from one agent to another but is usually anywhere from £150 to £350. Agency fees are not strictly regulated, and can change at the agent's discretion, so these fees can vary greatly. Some agencies vary their fee depending on the number of tenants making an application. Fees may also be charged for contract renewal at the end of the tenancy period.

There are numerous letting agents on any high street (main street) in the UK. Lettings agents can help potential tenants to find a property, and can also be approached directly about the properties that they manage. Properties available to let via lettings agencies can be found on the above-listed websites, on the agency's own website, in local newspapers and elsewhere.

Once a Property Has Been Found

Reservation fee/Deposit

The prospective tenant may be asked to pay a reservation fee to the agency to keep the property off the market while the necessary security and credit checks take place. This fee is usually the value of two weeks' rent and is deductible from the security deposit (bond) when a leas is signed. It may not be fully refunded if the applicant fails the security checks, and may be used to pay administration fees.

Credit checks

At their discretion, lettings agents and private landlords may request personal, professional and financial references. This is in order for them to ensure that the prospective tenant will be able to pay the rent. Documents that may be requested include:

  • Proof of full name, date of birth and nationality (passport)
  • Address history for the previous two or three years
  • Proof of address (bank statements or a utility bill; a mobile phone bill is not suitable)
  • Occupation: details of salary and employer or company accounts for self-employed applicants
  • Contact details for a character referee
  • Details of previous landlord or managing agent
  • Students need to provide proof of their student status and agencies may request a guarantor
  • Professional credit checks from one of the UK's three major credit reference agencies

Further Information