Advice Column: Privately renting for the first time

Thursday 4th November

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column, this week we focus on top tips for those renting privately for the first time.



I’ve gone back to university and moved into a shared house with friends for the first time. Although I’m excited, I’m also a bit nervous as I’ve never rented from a private landlord before. The house looked fine when we viewed it, but I’ve heard horror stories about dodgy landlords for student houses. What should I look out for?


Renting privately for the first time can be daunting — lots of terms you might not have come across, lots of things to sign and lots of fees to pay! If you’re renting for the first time, we’ve got you covered. Here’s 5 things you need to know…


  1. Your deposit has to be protected
  • If you’re living in what is known as an ‘assured shorthold tenancy’ (you probably are if you’re renting from a private landlord or letting agent) your deposit has to be protected in a deposit protection scheme.
  • The scheme keeps your money safe and makes sure you get back what you’re owed at the end of your tenancy.
  • At the end of your tenancy, you’ll need to contact your landlord and ask them for your deposit. You might lose some of your deposit if you’ve caused damage or owe rent but your landlord has to tell you why they’re taking money off and you can challenge them through the scheme.
  • Your deposit doesn’t need to be protected if you’re a lodger or a student in halls.


  1. You might be liable if your flatmate stops paying rent
  • If you’re on a joint tenancy, you’re all liable for the rent both jointly and individually. This means you’re all responsible for paying the whole rent. So, if someone you live with doesn’t pay their share of the rent, the rest of you are responsible for making up the shortfall.
  • If your landlord rents out each room separately, so each resident has their own individual agreement, known as a sole tenancy, you’ll only be responsible for paying your share of the rent.


  1. You are responsible for some repairs and maintenance
  • In England, your landlord is responsible for making sure that your property is fit for you to live in and make sure the hot water, gas, electricity, water supply and heating are working properly.
  • You’re responsible for minor repairs such as changing light bulbs or fuses. And you’re also responsible for any damage caused by someone you invited round.


  1. Other fees
  • As well as your deposit, you’ll normally need to pay your first month’s rent in advance.
  • Letting agents will normally ask you to pay a holding deposit as well. Make sure you get a receipt for any fees you pay.
  • If there is an issue with your credit check or references you might be asked to pay several months’ rent in advance.


  1. There are differences between living in university halls and renting from a private landlord
  • If you’re living in university halls, there are some key differences between having a university as a landlord and a private landlord.
  • Universities have the power to discipline student residents using their code of conduct or disciplinary procedure.
  • For example, if you deliberately set off a fire alarm you could be fined or face other penalties under the code of conduct. A private landlord couldn’t do this.
  • In some cases, if you still owe the university rent at the end of the academic year, they might not allow you to progress to the next year, receive exam results or even graduate


For more information and advice about renting in the private sector, go to


Look out for our column next week when we focus on energy costs.


The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit