Private accommodation advice

The information on this page will guide you through the process of finding a new home, moving in and out and help you with any problems you may encounter.


Looking for a place

While the team at Accommodation Services do not provide housing for you, we are always happy to provide support, information and advice to help you search. A list of property and landlord contact details can be provided to you upon request.

You may find the idea of looking for a flat or house very daunting, especially if you are new to the United Kingdom, but don’t worry – with a little advice and common sense you can find a wonderful place in the area.


Money and contracts

Once you have found a place to live, you will need to pay the required deposits and fees and sign a contract. The contract is there to protect you in case things go wrong.


Free contract checking service

We can check your contract for you before you sign. We know how contracts work and can advise you on the contract document, check for possible unfair contract clauses and explain what all these clauses actually mean.

You are welcome to email your contract or other documents to us; if you do so please send a PDF and include your phone number in the email body; we may need to talk to you to be able to do the contract check.


What to pay and when

The holding deposit (the equivalent of 1 week’s rent) is money you pay to a landlord or agent to confirm you would like to take the accommodation having previously viewed it.

The damage deposit (the equivalent of 5 weeks’ rent) is money that is kept separate from your rent and is there to cover the landlord for any damage that may be incurred, or in case you do not pay your rent. If your contract is an Assured Short-hold Tenancy, your landlord will need to use Check your tenancy deposit is protected – Shelter England.

The first rent payment will be the first month’s rent if you have a UK-based guarantor. If you do not have a guarantor you may be asked to pay 6 months’ rent up front before you move in. Rent is usually advertised but paid monthly. This can be confusing as a calendar month is more than 4 weeks.

Most letting agent fees are now banned. Rent payments are commonly made by bank transfer (you may want to set up a standing order for monthly rent payments). Landlord refunds are also usually done by bank transfer, occasionally by cheque. If you do not have a UK bank account, it may be difficult to get the deposit refunded after you move out.


Documents and contracts

You may need to decide quickly whether or not you want to accept the property or room, but any responsible landlord or agent will give you some time to think about it.

Once you have found a place you like, the landlord or agent will take you through a referencing process, to check you are a suitable tenant. Expect to be asked for the following information:

  • A reference from your previous landlord if you have rented in the UK before.
  • Financial information showing you can afford the rent.
  • A copy of your offer letter or a student status letter (enrolment confirmation)
  • Documents to show you have the right to stay in the UK. This is known as ‘Right to Rent’ checks, you can find information on this on the Shelter website.

Your contract is an important document. It is important that the contract content matches what you have discussed and agreed with the landlord or agent. Please do not sign a contract that you do not understand or do not agree to. It is good to have a written contract document so you and your landlord can remember what has been agreed.

If you don’t have a written contract, or you are not sure you have the correct contract, you can use Tenancy status checker – Shelter England to find out what type of contract you have.

At its most basic, a contract document will state:

  • your landlord’s name and contact address
  • your name(s)
  • the address of the property you are renting
  • the rent – how much, when and how to pay
  • the amount of the deposit and what it is for
  • start and end dates, and how to end the contract
  • your rights and responsibilities
  • your landlord’s rights and responsibilities.

If your contract is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, your landlord or agent will be required to give the following information with the contract:

  • information on the deposit protection scheme they will use
  • a copy of the Government’s How to Rent booklet
  • a copy of the gas safety certificate
  • a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate.

If your contract is not an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the landlord does not need to give all this extra information.

As well as the information on this page Accommodation Services also offer the following services:

  • one-on-one friendly advice and information
  • free contract checking service
  • free legal advice to help you deal with problems

Tips for renting

  • Research before looking for a room, flat or house to rent from a private landlord.
  • View the accommodation in person or vial live video before you pay any money. You need to make sure it is good and the offer is genuine.
  • Take a look at their Private Housing Guide to find out more about living in private rented accommodation.
  • The Shelter website also has useful information about renting in London.