Advice for people renting privately

Privately renting in Southwark - FAQs

What is a private rented property?

A private rented property could be any type of residential property such as a house or flat. The property is owned by an individual who then allows someone to live in it for a monthly fee.

If you're not sure what type of tenancy you have, use this checker to find out what rights you have.

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What are the benefits to privately renting?

In Southwark and across London, there's a good supply of private rented properties in most areas. It's often easier, quicker and more convenient to secure a private rented property.

  • properties are usually available immediately
  • you have greater choice over where you live
  • available furnished, unfurnished and even part furnished
  • it's easy to end the tenancy if you decide to move

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Is there anything important I should know?

  • it's important that you check you can afford the rent
  • be safe - take a friend with you when you go to view if possible
  • do not part with any money until you've accepted the accommodation
  • be sure to get a receipt and read your tenancy agreement carefully
  • consider renting with friends to help with the cost
  • check if there's an up to date gas and electric certificate
  • if you're dealing with a letting agent, check that they're a member of either the Property Redress Scheme or the Property Ombudsman Scheme, by using that scheme’s website member search tool; agents must be a member of one of these by law

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Where can I afford to live?

Private sector rents can be very high, especially in Southwark. Use these tools to check which areas you can afford to rent privately:

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Where can I find somewhere to rent?

Landlords often advertise properties available to rent in local newspapers or newsagents windows. Letting agents and estate agents often let and manage properties for private landlords. These agencies are private businesses, which some landlords use to advertise their property. An agency will normally charge for the service they provide and you should consider keeping money aside to pay for this.

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What safety checks shall I do?

During the viewing there will be a number of things you may be looking for, but it's also important for you to consider the following:

Gas safety

If there are gas appliances in the property, the landlord must show you a gas safety certificate issued by a Gas Safety registered engineer within the last 12 months. It's a crime to let accommodation where there's a gas supply without a valid certificate. The landlord must give, or show you, a copy of the certificate before you move in.

Electrical safety

The landlord is also responsible for ensuring an up to date electrical safety certificate is obtained from a qualified electrician. The certificate should include a recommendation for when the electrical installation next needs checking. Check that there are enough electrical sockets for your appliances and make sure there are no broken or exposed sockets.

Fire safety

Ask the landlord how you'd leave the property in the event of a fire. If the property is furnished, check that all the foam filled furniture has a label to show it is fire-resistant. Shared accommodation should contain fire safety equipment. Check that any safety equipment is in good working order and easy to find, for example:

  • fire doors should shut properly by themselves
  • the smoke alarm system must work properly
  • there should be a fire blanket in each shared kitchen, which is easy to reach

Other important checks

  • Are there sufficient bolts and locks on the doors and windows?
  • Is there enough space for you and your belongings?
  • If the property is not vacant, which items of furniture and fittings will come with the accommodation?
  • Is there enough natural and artificial lighting?
  • Is there sufficient ventilation?
  • How much will it cost to heat the property?

Property licensing

Some of Southwark’s private rented properties must be licensed, including all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Find more information here.

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What is a tenancy agreement?

A tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord, which sets out conditions and rules which you both must meet.

There are many types of tenancies, however an assured short-hold tenancy is the type commonly used by private landlords. Under an assured short-hold tenancy you have a legal right to live in your home for a period of time.

The landlord can evict you at the end of the fixed term tenancy. However, if your fixed term tenancy is for less than six months or if you have a periodic tenancy, the landlord must wait for six months from the start of the tenancy before they can evict you.

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Are there any other charges I may need to pay?

There are charges that you may have to pay. You should speak to the landlord to check if any of them apply to you before you sign a contract.


The landlord can charge a returnable deposit of up to two months rent. You have a responsibility to leave the property in the same condition that it was left to you, allowing for fair wear and tear.

From 6 April 2007, when you pay a deposit, your landlord must protect it using a government authorised deposit scheme. Within 14 days of receiving your deposit your landlord must give information about how your deposit is protected.

Your landlord must give you:

  • contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme
  • contact details of the landlord or agent
  • details of how to apply for the deposit to be returned to you
  • information explaining the purpose of the deposit
  • information about what to do if there's a dispute about the deposit

Since the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act 2019, any tenancy entered into after 1 June 2019 that requires a deposit, is at a maximum of 5 weeks rent.

Holding deposit

A holding deposit may be charged in order to reserve a property. This cannot be more than the equivalent of 1 weeks’ worth of rent. This money is usually deducted from the first month’s rent once a contract has been determined.

Before paying any money to a property agent, make sure they're a member of one of the six government approved client money protection schemes. Check with the scheme direct or ask to see the agent’s current membership certificate.

Other fees

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 bans most other charges to tenants.

For more information on the upfront costs associated with private renting, view Shelter’s advice and their advice on tenant fees.

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I live in shared accommodation, am I responsible for the bills?

You should ask whether payments for gas, electric, water and phone services are included in the rent or whether you will need to pay the suppliers yourself. Often within shared accommodation, there's a set amount that must be paid monthly.

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What are my responsibilities?

As a tenant you have responsibilities which you must fulfil, including:

  • pay your rent on time
  • behave in a reasonable way, not causing nuisance or annoyance to others
  • not damage any fixture, fittings, or furniture belonging to the landlord
  • if there is furniture that you do not want ask the landlord to remove it, don’t store it elsewhere without their permission
  • ask the landlord’s permission before making any changes to the property
  • inform the landlord if any repairs are required
  • allow the landlord to have access to the property at reasonable times, for example to carry out repairs

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Page last updated: 12 May 2022

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