Viewing a property

Coronavirus: For latest information, advice and guidance for private tenants visit our dedicated Changes to Services page. If you have any questions or concerns, call please call the Private Housing team, on: 020 8937 2384 or email us.

When viewing properties and especially before signing a tenancy agreement, make sure you know:


  • How long is the tenancy agreement? It has to be at least 6 months and may last much longer than this… but do ask.
  • How much the rent is? When is it paid? E.g. weekly or monthly? What is included in the rent? I.e. does it include utility bills?
  • Will the landlord accept Housing Benefit? It is important not to mislead your landlord about this. For example, if your circumstances change during your tenancy i.e. if your employment status changes, you may find that your Housing Benefit payments are suspended while you provide evidence of your new income. Can you afford to pay the whole rent during this period?
  • What are the upfront charges? (agency fees, rent in advance and deposit)

Gas safety

  • Does the property have the necessary gas safety certificate? They are valid for 12 months. Ask to see it. A rented property must have a valid one for the let to be legal. View an example of a sample gas certificate

Energy performance

  • Does the property have an Energy Performance certificate? This is also a legal requirement and your heating costs might be high if the performance rating is low. View and example of energy performance certificate.
  • Does the property have an electrical safety certificate? This is not yet a legal requirement but you should seek reassurance that the electrical wiring, fittings and fuse box are safe.
  • Does the property have smoke detectors or a fire alarm system?
  • Will the landlord allow pets? Many don’t.
  • Is any furniture provided and has it been fire checked?

Is the property affordable?

Please ensure that the property you find is affordable before signing a new tenancy.

Consider how much you can afford to pay each week/month. Remember you will have other bills such as utility bills, council tax, travel and food to include in your budget. Don’t overstretch yourself, even if it is a property that you really like, if it is not affordable, it won’t be suitable for you.

We will only be able to assist you into a new property if it is affordable.

If you would like more information/advice on how to manage your money, please visit Shelter's free online financial health checker tool.


This is usually the equivalent of 2 months’ rent and must be protected by the landlord or agent in an independent deposit protection scheme. In the event of damage, rent arrears or if you break the terms of the tenancy agreement, the landlord may make a claim against part or all of your deposit.

Council Tax

You can find out which band of Council Tax your chosen property falls into and how much the bill is likely to be here.

Gas and electricity

The property will have either a credit or prepayment meter. A credit meter is where you will be billed quarterly for the energy you have consumed. Prepayment meters are usually cashless and use an electronically-coded token or key, which record how much credit you have available for energy in the home. You can top up these keys at local shops and post offices.

There are a large number of energy suppliers – you may want to compare prices to see who will offer the best deal. There are a number of free price comparison sites on the internet.


Some lettings agencies ask for a guarantor. This is someone who guarantees that s/he will pay the rent if you can’t or don’t. If a guarantor is needed, it is likely that s/he will need to be a home owner. The Council cannot act as a guarantor for you.