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Check the costs of starting to rent from a private landlord

Mae’r cyngor hwn yn berthnasol i Cymru

Check if this advice applies to you

This advice applies if you're going to have an 'occupation contract' with a private landlord. You’ll usually have an occupation contract if you won't be living with your landlord.

If you’re not sure, or you’re going to have a different kind of agreement with a private landlord, check your contract or tenancy type if you rent from a private landlord.

When you’ve found a property to rent, you'll have to make some payments before you move in.

You’II usually have to pay your first month’s rent in advance and a rent deposit. If you rent from a letting agent they'll usually ask you to pay a holding deposit.

Ask about all payments before taking a property so you don’t have to deal with any unexpected costs.

Get a receipt from your landlord or letting agent when you pay any money - you'll need this in case there are any problems.

Check if there are hidden costs

When you view a property, ask the landlord or letting agent about everything you’ll have to pay if you rent the property. This helps you avoid unexpected costs. It’s best to ask for details of any extra costs in writing.

If your agent charges you extra fees

If you have a standard occupation contract that started on or after 1 September 2019, letting agents can only charge you for:

  • rent
  • utility bills
  • a rent deposit
  • a holding deposit
  • council tax
  • a TV licence
  • breaking the terms of your written statement - as long as the fee is described in the written statement

Talk to an adviser if you’re charged fees for anything else.

Get help with moving costs

Some charities offer grants or other financial help for moving costs. You can check what extra money you can apply for on the Turn2us website.

Using a guarantor

A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay your rent if you can’t, for example a parent. If you have a guarantor, a landlord or letting agent is more likely to rent to you - for example if you have a low income or poor credit history.

Having a guarantor can help you negotiate the details of renting the property - for example a landlord might be willing to rent to you without a deposit if you have a guarantor.

Check how to use a guarantor.

Paying rent in advance

You might be asked to pay 1 to 2 months' rent before you move in. This is called paying 'rent in advance'. The actual amount you’II pay will depend on your landlord and your written statement - this shows what’s included in your contract.

By paying your rent in advance you'll always be paying rent for the month ahead.

You might be asked to pay several months’ rent in advance if there’s a problem with your credit check or references.

Read about checks that are made before you move into a property.

Paying a rent deposit

Your rent deposit will usually be the same amount as 4 or 5 weeks' rent. 

You’II get your deposit back when you move out of the property - your landlord or letting agent can only keep some money if, for example you damage something or don't pay your rent.

If you have an occupation contract, your landlord or letting agent has to put your deposit in a 'deposit protection scheme'. This is done to keep it safe. They must give you all the written information about the scheme. 

You can take action against your landlord if your tenancy rent deposit isn't protected.

If you’re given the option to pay extra money instead of a deposit

The landlord or letting agent might say you can pay extra money instead of a deposit. This could be a single payment that’s less than a deposit or an extra amount every time you pay your rent. This is sometimes called a ‘deposit replacement scheme’ or ‘zero deposit scheme’.

Always read the terms and conditions before you agree to use a deposit replacement scheme. The payments aren’t deposits, so:

  • you won’t get the money back at the end of the occupation contract
  • you’ll have to pay more money if you damage the property - it won’t come out of the money you’ve paid to the scheme

If you and the landlord disagree about how much you owe them at the end of the contract, you might have to go to a third party to decide how much you owe. This is called ‘arbitration’. You might have to pay more money for arbitration.

If you don’t go to arbitration or you don’t agree with the arbitration decision, you might have to go to court to decide how much you owe.

It’s usually best to pay a deposit if you can afford it instead of using a zero deposit scheme. If you can’t afford to pay a deposit, you can:

If you still can’t afford a deposit and you want to use a deposit replacement scheme, check you can afford to pay the extra amounts.

The landlord or letting agent must give you the option to pay a deposit instead of using a deposit replacement scheme. If they say you have to use a scheme, this might be an ‘unfair fee’ - you can report them by:

  • contacting your local council’s housing department

If you can’t afford a rent deposit or rent in advance

Your local council might be able to help you through a rent deposit scheme or rent guarantee scheme.

A rent deposit scheme lends you money in advance to pay a tenancy deposit, which you’ll pay back over time.

A rent guarantee scheme (or bond scheme) gives your landlord a bond instead of you paying a deposit. If there’s a problem with damage or something else the landlord would normally take out of your deposit, they will use the bond instead to get the money from the council. 

You might be able to get money for a deposit or rent in advance with a housing support grant or through social services. You might need to pay the money back over time - every council has different rules.

You can check what help your local council can give you on their website. Find your local council on GOV.UK.

If you claim Universal Credit or Housing Benefit

You can make a claim for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). A DHP is a single payment from your local council that can go towards a deposit or rent in advance.

Ask your local council for a claim form. You can find your local council on GOV.UK. It's a good idea to keep a copy of the filled in form for your records.

If you need help filling in a DHP claim form, talk to an adviser.

Help paying rent costs

If you’re on benefits or a low income you might be able to get help with the cost of renting. For example, help to pay your rent in advance or your rent deposit.

Paying a holding deposit

You might be asked to pay a holding deposit to reserve a property. Don't pay it or sign anything unless you're sure you want the property - you usually won’t get the money back if you change your mind.

Once you’ve paid the holding deposit you have 15 days to sign a written statement.

The landlord or letting agent can't rent the property to anyone else in that time without offering it to you first. You can ask them to hold the property for more than 15 days but you and the landlord or letting agent must agree to this in writing.

A holding deposit can be up to 1 week’s rent. If the rent is monthly, work out 1 week’s rent by multiplying the monthly amount by 12 months then dividing it by 52 weeks.


Monthly rent = £650

Multiply by 12 = £7,800

Divide £7,800 by 52 = £150 per week

The holding deposit will be £150

If you’re renting with other people, you should only be charged one holding deposit between you. For example, if 2 people rent together and the weekly rent is £150, the total holding deposit would be £150. You shouldn’t be asked to pay £150 each.

Before you pay a holding deposit the landlord or letting agent must tell you:

  • the amount of the holding deposit
  • the address of the property and the contact details of the landlord or letting agent
  • the type of contract, start date and how long it’s for
  • how much the rent is and how often you’ll have to pay it, for example weekly or monthly
  • the amount of any rent deposit
  • if you’ll need a guarantor and what the conditions are
  • if they’ll do reference checks
  • if they need any extra information from you
  • if there are any extra terms or changes to the proposed contract

They should give you this information in writing. They can post the information or give it to you in person - or they can email it to you if you agree.

After you pay the deposit, make sure your landlord or letting agent gives you details of your holding deposit in writing. This should include how much you paid and what will happen to the money if you don’t end up moving in.

What happens to the holding deposit

You'll get the deposit back if the landlord or letting agent decides not to go ahead. Once the 15 day holding period has ended, they must return your holding deposit within 7 days.

The landlord or letting agent won’t give the deposit back if you:

  • decide not to move in
  • decide to move in but don’t give them the right information within 15 days
  • give them false or misleading information - for example, you tell them your income is more than it is

You can still ask for it back if you weren’t given the right information about the holding deposit before you paid it. Write a letter to your landlord or letting agent asking for the full holding deposit back.

If you’ve signed a written statement, the landlord should pay the holding deposit back within 7 days of you signing the written statement. The landlord or letting agent can put it towards your rent deposit or first rent payment.


John is moving into a 1-bedroom flat, found using a local letting agent. His rent will be £120 a week. He’ll also need to pay:

  • a rent deposit of £600 - this is the same as 5 weeks’ rent
  • 4 weeks’ rent in advance which comes to £480

John will also need to pay a holding deposit of £120 - which will go towards the cost of his rent deposit or rent in advance.

In total John will pay around £1,200 before he moves in.

Negotiating with your landlord or letting agent  

It’s worth trying to negotiate with your landlord or letting agent when you find a property - this can save you some money.  

You can negotiate to get:

  • cheaper rent
  • the length of your occupation contract and other terms changed, for example you can ask if the rent can include any bills

You should remember when negotiating that there’s a risk that the property could be offered to someone else.

You should have a plan and think about your chances of getting what you want. For example, if you’re offered a fixed-term occupation contract for 6 months and you need longer, you can negotiate to get a longer period.

Get what you agree in writing - you might need to refer back to what was said if there are problems.

Be careful making payments

You should never make payments if you haven’t seen the property.

Make sure you get your landlord or letting agent’s name and contact details before you pay any money. They have to give you their details if you ask for them.

If someone else looks after the property for your landlord, for example a family member, they still have to give you the landlord's details.

Talk to an adviser if your landlord refuses to give their details or if your letting agent won’t give you a landlord's details.

Check your landlord or letting agent has a licence

The landlord or letting agent who manages the property should have a licence from Rent Smart Wales. If they don’t have a licence, they’re breaking the law and you shouldn’t pay them any money. 

You can check if your landlord or letting agent has a licence on the Rent Smart Wales website.

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