Housing in the UK


English row terraced house in spring season, England UK. Brick building and environment.


Adequate housing is the basis of stability and security for an individual or family. While increasingly viewed as a commodity, housing is most importantly a human right. Finding your home in the UK can be challenging but typically people find housing via

    • Purchase
    • Private renting
    • Social housing – council or housing association.

Housing options 

    • Purchasing
    • Buying a property is a major financial commitment and the process can be time consuming. A steady increase in demand for housing, particularly in the most economically successful areas where employment opportunities bring large numbers of people, has resulted in increased house prices.
    • Given the financial commitment, you should take the guidance of different experts throughout the process. The process typically includes the following stages.
      • Establishing your budget and sourcing necessary finance via a mortgage. Most people will need to obtain a mortgage (a loan used to buy a property or land which is secured by the property). Mortgages can be sourced from various financial institutions directly or via a mortgage broker.
      • Finding a property that you like and can afford.
      • Making an offer.
      • Liaising with a solicitor and surveyor.
      • Completing the offer and mortgage application.
      • Exchanging contracts.
    • Each of these stages can be complex and detailed however, there are several sites which provide objective and accurate information on the various elements in the process and the experts required for each phase.
    • GOV.UK – How to buy a home
    • Money Helper.
    • Which?
    • Renting

The cost of renting in the UK, in particular London and other major cities, has increased drastically over the last twelve months (2022-2023). At the same time, a lack of available property has resulted in tough competition to secure a home. In addition, with a rise in people working from home, there is increased demand for properties with more than one bedroom, creating even more competition.

Factors to consider when renting:

  • Location
    • Distance from work.
    • Necessary amenities in the area – public transport, schools, shops, sports centres, outdoor areas etc.
    • It is safe. You can check crimes in the area by using police.uk.
    • Accessibility to the property – easy access, stairs, working lifts etc.
  • Costs
    • Can you afford the rent?
      • 35% of take-home pay is the most that many people can afford, but this depends on what other outgoings are (e.g., whether you have children).
    • Council tax, utilities cost, (particularly with the current high energy charges) parking charges, etc.
    • Is it furnished or do you have to buy furniture and white goods (major electrical appliances such as refrigerator, washing machine, etc.)?
    • Cost of transport to work and schools.
    • Moving and/or real estate agency fees.
    • What deposits are required.
      • Tenants deposit
        • Since 1 June 2019, there is a cap on tenant’s deposit.
        • If total annual rent is less than £50,000, the maximum deposit is five weeks’ rent.
        • If annual rent is £50,000 or above, the maximum deposit is six weeks’ rent.
        • Deposit must be refundable at end of tenancy, subject to rent being paid and the property being in a good condition (excluding standard wear and tear).
      • Holding deposit
        • Refundable charge to reserve a property, which cannot equate to more than one week’s rent.
        • Do not pay this deposit unless you’ve viewed the property in person and are serious about taking the tenancy.
        • Landlord or agent can only take one holding deposit for the property at a time.
    • You should check if there are other costs to be expected further into the tenancy such as exit fees, renewal fees.

Sourcing properties 

  1. Directly from a landlord
    • Dealing directly with the landlord may speed up the process.
    • Might make it easier to settle any issues relating to the property.
    • Ensure you have a legal rental contract which covers the rights and responsibilities of both tenant and landlord.
  2. Using a letting agent
    • Can save you time as they source the properties.
    • Can include fees for their services but ensure you are not charged banned agency fees .
    • Check the agent is a member of a redress scheme.
  3. Searching online

There are many sites marketing rental properties. These are some of the more common sources, but it is recommended you research sites that work for you.

  • Other sources
    • Local noticeboards or newspapers.
    • Workplace or community noticeboards.
    • Word of mouth.
    • Facebook and WhatsApp groups.

Sharing a property

  • Subletting
    • Renting a room or full property from someone who has a tenancy of the property.
    • Your immediate landlord is that person and it is with them you have the direct legal relationship.
    • Your landlord needs permission to enter your room or property.
    • Ensure you have a contract which clearly states both tenant and landlord’s rights and responsibilities including length of contract, rent amount, notice period to end contract, etc.
  • Lodging
    • Renting a bedroom in a home where the homeowner or primary tenant (termed landlord) is living.
    • Sharing common spaces such as living room, bathroom, and kitchen.
    • Paying an amount that typically covers rent and bills.
    • The landlord may provide additional services such as cleaning your room, providing meals, etc. depending on the agreement.
    • The landlord has permission to access your bedroom.
    • Ensure you have a written contract which includes your and the landlord’s rights and responsibilities and length of tenancy (fixed term i.e., six or 12 months or rolling contract with no end set date).
    • For further information, visit the Citizens Advice site on Lodging.

Tenants and landlords’ rights and responsibilities

  • The UK Government has produced a detailed guide How to Rent which covers the above areas and other rights and responsibilities in more detail.

Right to rent immigration checks

  • Before you can rent in England, you need to prove your “right to rent” to your landlord.
  • You do not need to prove your right to rent in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.
  • How you prove your right to rent depends on your nationality and your immigration status.
  • You will be asked to provide documents to show you have the right to live in the UK, either permanently or temporarily.
  • The organisation Shelter has a detailed guide on the right to rent process.


Social Housing

Social housing is provided by either housing associations (not-for-profit organisations that own, let, and manage rented housing) or the local council.

  • Housing associations
  • They offer similar types of housing as local councils – often to people on a low income or who need extra support.
    • Housing associations are also known as Registered Social Landlords or Private Registered Providers of Social Housing.
    • Like council housing there is a waiting list.
    • You can apply directly to a housing association or through your local council.
    • You can apply to more than one housing association at a time.
  • For more information go to GOV.UK – Social Housing.
  • Council housing

    Council housing was built originally to help the most vulnerable in society gain access to a home and has helped to reduce homelessness. In recent years, the amount of council housing has decreased, leading to limited supply and long waiting lists.

    • You can apply for council housing through your local council.
    • Each council has its own rules, which may differ from area to area.
    • You can apply if you are over 18 years of age (some councils may let you apply if you are 16 years of age).
    • For more information go to the GOV.UK – Council and the Shelter website.

    Further information and helplines

    The UK government recommend in addition to their website on housing, the following organisations which can provide guidance on processes and issues.

    • Citizens Advice – free, independent, confidential, and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities.
    • Shelter – housing and homelessness charity who offer advice and support.
    • Crisis – advice and support for people who are homeless or facing homelessness.
    • Your local council – to make a complaint about your landlord or the condition of your property.
    • Redress Scheme – to make a complaint about your letting agent.
    • MoneyHelper – free and impartial money advice.
    • The Law Society – to find a lawyer.
    • Gas Safe Register – for help and advice on gas safety issues.
    • Electrical Safety First – for help and advice on electrical safety issues.
    • Foundations – a national organisation that can provide advice and help disabled people apply for funding to make adaptations to their home.
      • Smart Energy GB – for help and advice on installing a smart meter and tips on energy efficiency.
    • Welcome – a guide for refugees – while aimed at adults who have recently been granted refugee or Humanitarian Protection status in England after claiming asylum, it contains useful information for anyone moving to the UK.

    Last updated August 2023