Renting privately

There are many ways to find somewhere to live and renting a private property is usually the easiest and most available. It can be confusing, and there can be challenges, and we are here to help you.

Before you start

Landlords/letting agents may require a deposit of up to five weeks rent and one month’s rent in advance. ECDC offer a deposit loan scheme on a case by case basis to assist with securing a property in the private rented sector. You will be advised after your Income and expenditure meeting if you meet the criteria to access the scheme.

Do you have a deposit and one month’s rent in advance ready?


We are aware of scammers online requesting money to arrange a viewing. Never pay any monies to view a property and report any such incidents to Action Fraud (external link). Action Fraud telephone number is 0300 123 20 40. 

Step one

East Cambridgeshire District Council will complete an Income (all the money you have coming in) and Expenditure (all the money you have going out) with you and advise you how much you can afford to spend on rent. The amount stated is a guide to the maximum amount of money you can afford to spend on rent. If you can find a property to rent cheaper that meets your family’s needs this is good news!!!

Remember, rent is only one of the essential costs of living you may also have to pay bills for example gas, electricity, water, Council Tax, TV licence. It is really important that you consider all the costs that you will have to pay to live in a property. The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) can help you to compare the utility costs for living in an energy efficient home, which will lead to less money spent on bills. All rents will be based on local housing allowance (LHA) rates, these are based on postcodes so be very careful when you start your property search to check the LHA rate for the specific property address you are interested in and visit the LHA online calculator (external link)

Step two

Where do you want to live?

So you are super excited, you know what you can afford, the reality is that rents are decided by the market so it may be that your perfect location is not affordable so you will need to widen your search area. You can start searching by checking;

  • letting agents on the high street or online
  • using social media
  • asking friends, family, associates
  • putting advertisements in shops and newsagents
  • or any other possible source you become aware of

It is a good idea to make a short list of properties you are interested in and arranging a viewing as quickly as possible. When arranging viewings always try to present a positive image.

  • Be honest
  • Be positive
  • Make a list of sensible questions to ask

Landlords and agents want to know why you are the best tenant for the property and often this is based on you being friendly, clear and honest with your answers. At the earliest opportunity inform agents/landlords if you are in receipt of benefits and may be in receipt of assistance with a deposit from ECDC.

Step three

Understand the Risks and Responsibilities

What are you really looking for? Before you make any big plans, it’s important to make sure you know what you want.


  • Is it near transportation?
  • Is it near amenities – for example, shops, schools and doctors

In the property

  • Are there lots of stairs?
  • Is it well heated/ventilated?
  • Is it the right size for your family’s needs?
  • Do they accept pets?

What about benefits?

You may find that landlords and agents also have their list of what tenants they want. This may exclude people on benefits, pets, children, smokers. Certain conditions on the property ownership or insurance may exclude landlords from renting to people on benefits. But persistence pays off and there are many landlords and agents who will consider applicants on an individual basis.

Step four

During the viewing

If you are lucky enough to arrange a viewing well done!! Pretty pictures and nice floors may be exciting but what really matters are the health and safety of the property. A quick checklist is to make a note of:

  • Mould & Condensation?
  • Fire Hazards?
  • Unsafe doors, fencing, windows?
  • Blocked drains?
  • Over-grown garden?

Any property showing signs of poor repair are not acceptable housing standards for anyone, if you do come across such property please report it to environmental health on 01353 665555. East Cambridgeshire District Council is committed to ensuring every home in our district is safe and healthy and we will not tolerate unsafe housing conditions where homes are unfit for human habitation.

Step five

After the viewing

If possible take some time to consider the good and bad points on all the properties you have viewed. This is a big decision. Perhaps write down a list of the pros and cons. 

Recheck the following:

  • Affordability
  • Condition acceptable
  • Availability
  • Suitable for current needs

If you are happy to go ahead advise the agent or landlord as soon as possible.

Step six

When you find the perfect property

Complete a tenancy application form for the property. At this point you may be required to pay a holding deposit, subject to references and other checks. The holding deposit is your initial commitment to the tenancy, if you fail credit checks, criminal reference checks, employment and previous landlord checks or fail to declare any information that is untrue this money will not be returned. If however, the landlord or agent has a change of mind you are entitled to have all of this money returned by law. The process of checks may take 24 hours or up to a week depending on a landlord/ letting agents processes. Landlords and agents are legally required to check all tenants over 18 years of age have a right to rent in the UK. This will require you to provide original identity documents as evidence.

Step seven

Successful checks

Almost there, well done!! The agent or landlord will confirm with you that the tenancy is acceptable and ready to go! At this point you will be required to sign a tenancy contract. This is a legal document, if you are unsure of what it says or what it means ask to take the form away and get legal advice or the help of a reliable friend to read it through for you before you sign it. It will state the terms you are agreeing to:

  • Landlord details
  • Tenant details
  • Length of tenancy
  • Type of tenancy
  • Inventory of property condition
  • Amount of rent due
  • Payment dates
  • Conditions of tenancy
  • How or when the tenancy ends

Of course if you have any specific requirements or objections now is a good time to agree them as once the contract is signed you are responsible and liable to accept all the conditions.

Step eight

Moving In- collecting the keys

Along with a copy of the tenancy agreement, the landlord/agent should provide you with the following documents at the start of the tenancy;

  • Energy Performance Certificates
  • Gas Safety Certificates (where required)
  • Electrical Safety Certificates (where required)
  • Smoke alarms and Carbon monoxide monitors
  • Furniture and fittings safety labels
  • Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) licence
  • Copy of ‘How to rent’ guide
  • Prescribed information
  • Deposit protection scheme details
  • Details of utilities, rubbish collection dates
  • Number and type of keys provided

Step nine

Great news - You are in your new home

Here is a handy to-do checklist

Contact Job Centre:
  • Apply for Universal credit/housing benefit (Get rent in payment)

Contact ECDC:
  • Council Tax
  • Bin collection
Contact utilities:
  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Broadband/Telephone
  • TV licence
  • Drivers licence

Get written down somewhere safe:

  • Emergency numbers for landlord
  • Emergency numbers for plumber
  • Emergency numbers for electrician
  • Next of kin details in case of emergency
You have made it this far, what are you waiting for? You can contact ECDC for tenancy support, mediation with tenancy issues and advice and guidance with sustaining the tenancy. For any further assistance contact ECDC. It only takes a few minutes and the Housing and Community Advice Team is ready and waiting to guide you through the whole process, from finding the right tenants to signing the contract and living happily ever after.

When things go wrong

Remember always notify the landlord/letting agents in a timely manner. Never call the landlord expecting the issue to be resolved immediately, as tradesmen if required will need to be booked and they are often very busy.


  • Keep windows open to improve ventilation

Damp and Mould

  • Notify the landlord immediately
  • Is your lifestyle contributing to the problem?
  • Not all damp and mould problems are due to lack of landlord attention
  • Take photographic evidence and report to environmental health if the landlord is at fault and fails to take action

Boilers broken/unsafe

  • Notify the landlord as soon as possible. Do not attempt to repair the boiler, this is a task for a qualified gas safe engineer
  • If you have run out of gas because you have a prepayment meter, you may be charged by your landlord to relight the boiler


  • May be damaged after windy/winter weather. Notify the landlord so that they can check which side of the fence they are responsible for

Overgrown trees/garden maintenance

  • Check your contract is the tenant or landlord responsible for garden maintenance?
  • Keep trees to a reasonable height and always check when there is a severe wind warning that branches are safe

Electrical problems

  • Do not attempt any electrical repairs - always notify the landlord. This is a task for a qualified electrician. It is important to note that electricians are very busy so you may have to wait for the issue to be resolved in a timely manner

Water leaks and blocked toilets

  • Notify the landlord as soon as possible. Do you know where the stopcock is?
  • If the water leak is near an electrical source, turn off and unplug the item immediately
  • If the blocked toilets are due to tenant behaviour your landlord may charge you to repair it
  • Treat the toilets with care and avoid blocking with unnecessary materials

Blocked drains

  • If the blocked drains are due to tenant behaviour your landlord may charge you to repair it
  • Treat the drains with care and avoid blocking with unnecessary materials, food and fat

General repairs

  • If you have a repair issue report it to your landlord as soon as possible and give them time to complete the repair
  • You must continue to pay rent whilst waiting for the repair to be completed
  • If you think the repair is taking longer than is acceptable you may contact the private landlord liaison officer at ECDC for advice, guidance and information

Have you received a Section 21 notice of possession?

Form 6A, (previously Section 21) is the document most landlords issue to start the eviction process when they require possession of the property. There may be a few reasons why a landlord will start this process. The main reasons are highlighted below:

  • The landlord wants to increase the rent
  • The landlord is concerned because there is a shortfall in the rent from your benefits
  • There are rent arrears
  • The landlord is unhappy with your behaviour
  • The landlord is selling/moving into the property
  • The landlord has asked you to leave due to significant repairs

ECDC has a letter for each of the above issues that you can complete and return to the landlord to start the self-help process of addressing your housing issues before the point of eviction. For any further help and advice regarding a tenancy please contact us.

Further advice


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