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Renting privately

Finding a home that you can afford to rent doesn’t have to mean finding a social housing property. There are a number of advantages to renting from a private landlord:

  • there are no waiting lists, so you’ll be able to move in quickly
  • you can choose where you live within our district, and you can move to a different area if you want
  • there are many different types of property available, from one-bedroom studio flats to houses big enough for large families
  • the properties will be decorated and carpeted; and may come with a fridge, freezer and washing machine; this is not always the case with social housing

There are a number of ways to source a privately rented property 

  • look in local newspapers
  • look in shop windows
  • through word of mouth
  • social media
  • local letting agencies
  • websites

You can find properties to rent by checking websites, such as:

We would suggest that you register with as many local letting agencies as possible and keep in weekly contact with them. Properties which come onto websites such as Rightmove may already have a list of people waiting to go and see it so make sure you are on that waiting list.

When you are looking for a suitable property there are a number of things to bear in mind.


If you have the means to pay, there are a wide variety of properties available to rent across West Northamptonshire.


There is some good quality housing but at the cheaper end of the market the accommodation may be in less good condition and poorer quality.


Private rented accommodation may be more expensive than other rented housing and landlords can charge whatever they think the market will support.

If you are not in work or on a low income you may be able to get some help to cover your rental payments. Payment of housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit will depend on your family make-up in accordance with the local housing allowance.

It is very important if you qualify for benefits to check that a privately rented property is affordable.

Single people under 35 can only claim for the cost of a reasonable market rent payable on a single room in a shared house.

If you are considering privately renting you should make appropriate arrangements to ensure

  • you can pay a deposit - expect this to be a minimum of one month’s rent
  • you can pay the first month’s rent in advance
  • you are able to afford the monthly rent
  • you can afford your utility bills
  • please also be aware that you may be required to pay for credit reference searches and other admin charges by using agents

Security of tenure

Private renting is generally easier to find and move into. Tenancies are usually set at periods of 6 or 12 months that can be renewed.

Letting agencies

Many landlords use an agency to advertise and sometimes manage their properties. They can be useful as a lot of property details can be seen in one place and the agent often makes it easier to stay in contact with the landlord.

It is illegal for letting agencies to charge for simply registering you or giving you a list of properties; however, they can charge you a fee for finding a property and for other services such as drawing up a tenancy agreement.

Most agencies require references from a previous landlord and/or employer.


When you have found a possible place to live contact the landlord or agent and arrange to view the property.

If you rent your home or are a leaseholder, you have a legal agreement with the landlord or freeholder. This gives you rights and responsibilities.

Before moving into a new place, check the agreement carefully and ask questions if there's anything you're not sure of. This can help avoid problems later.

Remember too that your rights will depend on the type of tenancy you have. You can check this using Shelter's tenancy checker.

Here are some things to check out.

Is there a tenancy agreement?

Make sure you know the terms and conditions before you accept the accommodation. A tenancy which is agreed by word of mouth is legally binding, but tenants have far more security if they have a written tenancy agreement. The agreement should set out both the landlord and tenants' rights and responsibilities.

What is the agreed rent?

Check that the amount written on your tenancy agreement or rent book is what you agreed. Is there anything in the agreement about increasing the rent?

Who pays the utility bills?

Fuel bills and water rates are normally your responsibility if you live in self-contained accommodation. Have the meters read at the start and the end of the tenancy. If the landlord is responsible for the bills you may need to pay the landlord a set amount each week.

Will you have to pay Council Tax?

In self-contained accommodation the tenant will be liable for Council Tax.  If you are on low income you may be entitled to help through Council Tax Benefit. If you live in a shared house the landlord will be liable to pay the Council tax and may try to recover it through the rent.

What type of tenancy will you have?

Since 1997 private sector landlords have had to offer assured short-hold tenancies. This allows the tenant to remain at the property for at least 6 months as long as you do not break any terms within your tenancy agreement.

If you share your accommodation with your landlord, you may be a licensee rather than a tenant. Licensees have less rights than tenants. Some licensees are protected under the terms of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. You are entitled to a 28-day written Notice to Quit if:

  • your landlord lives in the same building but does not share your living accommodation (bedroom, living room, bathroom, kitchen etc.)
  • you are a student living in halls of residence
  • you live in a hostel where a landlord does not have the right to enter your room or move you to another room

However, if your landlord (or a member of his/her family) shares accommodation with you or you pay no rent the landlord needs only to give 'reasonable notice' to evict you.

Homes in Multiple Occupation

If you share a property with a number of other tenants your landlord may be subject to Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations. If so, your landlord must be able to show you that he /she has complied with the regulations and has an HMO licence. Please ask to see it before you move in.


Deposits are usually requested by landlords to cover any damage that might be done to the property or its contents. Since April 2007 all landlords must place new deposits within a government authorised scheme to stop them withholding repayment on spurious reasons.

Is there an inventory?

If your tenancy is furnished you should arrange to agree with the landlord a list of the furniture to be provided i.e an inventory. This should help avoid disputes.


It is the tenant's responsibility to insure their own possessions. 

It is important to know whether you are a tenant or licensee because the difference in terms of your rights is significant. The law relating to tenancies and licenses is complex and you should seek advice if in doubt.

You are a tenant if:

  • you have the exclusive right to live in your premises and exclude all others including the landlord. The premises do not have to be an entire flat or house and can be as little as a single room
  • your tenancy is for a defined period of time. This can be either for a fixed term or on a periodic basis e.g. weekly or monthly. This may be stated in an agreement, agreed verbally or implied by the payment of rent weekly or monthly
  • you are required to pay rent. This can be rent in kind, for example in place of paying for work done. It must be for an agreed sum for a specified period. There must also be an intention to create a legal relationship between the parties. A temporary agreement between relatives would be unlikely to satisfy this requirement.

After the first 6 months of your tenancy or after your contract has expired your landlord can obtain a possession order to evict you. They must first serve you with a valid notice requiring possession. The notice must be in writing and must give at least two months' notice. If the contract has expired or if the tenancy is on a periodic basis the date on which the notice expires must be the last day of a tenancy period and the notice must state that possession is required under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

You do not have to leave when the notice expires; however, you may have to pay court costs if your landlord has to obtain a court order for possession. If you are in any doubt, then seek advice.

You are a licensee if:

  • you have a resident landlord whom you share facilities with - e.g. the kitchen or bathroom - or do not pay rent for your accommodation or are staying with family or friends as part of an informal arrangement. As a licensee your landlord does not have to obtain a possession order to evict you. You are entitled to reasonable notice, which can be verbal or in writing. Once this notice expires you do not have a legal right to remain in the property.

Reasonable notice is considered to be one rental period e.g. if you pay rent on a weekly basis you will only be entitled to one week's notice.

Licensees with basic protection

Some licensees will have more protection than others. If you live in the same building as your landlord or any members of their family, but do not share any facilities (e.g. bathroom) you will have basic protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. If your landlord wishes to evict you they must wait for any contract to expire, or if there is no contract they must serve a notice to quit. This must be in a form specified by law and give at least four weeks' notice. After the notice period, if you do not leave, your landlord will need to obtain a court order for possession.

Service occupiers

If you live in a property as a condition of your employment and you do not share any facilities (e.g. kitchen or bathroom) with your landlord, a possession order from the court must be obtained to evict you.

A landlord has a duty to

  • provide their name and address to the tenant
  • fix the terms of the tenancy before it begins
  • give appropriate notice to leave and, if necessary, a notice to obtain a court order
  • maintain the property to a reasonable standard and carry out repairs
  • not to harass or interfere with the 'quiet enjoyment' of the tenant
  • not to discriminate against the tenant
  • keep the tenant's personal information confidential
  • promptly negotiate the return of the tenant's deposit at the end of the tenancy
  • supply the tenant with a copy of the gas safety certificate
  • provide a How to Rent Guide

A landlord has a right to

  • charge a reasonable market rent
  • receive the rent when it is due
  • be informed of any disrepair
  • inspect the property having given reasonable notice to the tenant
  • go to court for rent arrears and damages
  • have Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance paid direct if the tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears

Your rights and duties

Tenants have a duty to

  • ensure the rent is paid in full when it is due
  • not cause any damage to the property
  • not to do anything that would cause nuisance, damage or annoyance to the landlord or neighbours
  • inform the landlord of any repairs that are needed

Tenants have the right to

  • know the name and address of the landlord
  • know the terms of the tenancy before it begins
  • have a rent book (if you have a weekly tenancy and are not provided with substantial board)
  • have a reasonable standard of repair in the property
  • have reasonable notice if the landlord wishes to inspect the property
  • correct notice if the landlord wants to end the tenancy
  • remain in occupation until a court order is granted, as long as the tenant does not share facilities with a resident landlord

The vast majority of private sector landlords are responsible and fair, but we do recognise that sometimes problems may occur. Even though you don't live in a council house, if you are experiencing trouble with your landlord, we may still be able to help you. Here are some examples of how.

Landlord obligations

Landlords have responsibilities towards their tenants under the law for example, to provide rent books, giving tenants full information on service charges and insurances etc. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (as amended) gives councils the power to prosecute landlords who have not met their obligations under this legislation.

If we receive a complaint in most cases we will require the landlord to change his/her practice and provide the required documentation / information; however, if a landlord persists in not complying with the law we may consider a prosecution. 

Providing essential utilities

We have a power under Section 33 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, to act on your behalf if you are threatened with losing, or you have already lost, your gas, electricity or water supplies because of something your landlord has done (by failing to pay bills for instance); however, we will act only as a last resort for emergency cases and then only when young children or elderly persons are affected.

In addition, we will only make arrangements with the suppliers which do not involve financial liability falling upon us but we will co-operate closely with the suppliers and wherever possible try to get the suppliers' support and assistance.

We have legal powers under the Protection from Eviction Act of 1977. If you believe you have been harassed or illegally evicted contact us as your landlord may have acted illegally. We will investigate your situation and try to mediate between all parties where this is possible. If necessary, we do have the power to bring about a prosecution. Contact the council as follows:

You can also get advice on harassment and illegal eviction from Shelter England Advice.

Invalid Section 21 notice

If you started a new tenancy or signed a renewal contract from 1 October 2015 a Section 21 notice could be invalid if:

  • your landlord didn't follow certain tenancy deposit protection rules
  • you complained in writing (or email) to your landlord about repairs or conditions in your home
  • you complained to us because your landlord didn't take steps to fix the problem
  • we sent your landlord a notice telling them to make improvements or that we will carry out emergency work

Last updated 19 December 2023