Housing system in the UK

England, being one of the most visited countries in the world and highly sought after for employment and study, poses obstacles in respect to housing. You should take into account these obstacles when looking for employment, especially the boroughs, their distances from each other and the costs of travel. No matter where your first house will be, you should know in which borough you live in. This way, you can locate the correct council to gain access to services, resources and assistance.


The English postcode is made up of letters and numbers in two parts: XX0 0XX; the first letters usually indicating where in Leicester you live, as L & S means Leicester, etc. For example, the postcode of our office is LE1 3HR, where the number 3 say that we are in a 3rd circle from the centre of Leicester. You should learn your full address and postcode by heart as soon as you have an address.

In the UK there are different ways of acquiring accommodation. Usually for individuals, the first option is to rent a room or a shared flat. When you arrive with a family, you can consider renting a house or apartment.

Your first home in the UK

In the UK, you can rent a home from either a private landlord or a social landlord.

Private landlords - (individuals or companies) who rent private accommodation on the open market.

Social landlords - Organisations like local councils or housing associations that work with the government helping to provide social housing.

Local Authorities (Councils) have a system of local taxation on domestic property, known as Council Tax. Paying the bill is normally the responsibility of the person living in the property, either the owner-occupiers or tenants in privately rented or social accommodation. Council Tax applies for both private and social accommodation.

You can rent a private property directly from a landlord or through a letting agent who can charge some fees for the service. It is important to verify the landlord is operating legally.


Renting a room

In some cases, you can rent a room from other tenants who will sublet their home. This is a common method used by those who have just arrived in the UK and students. It is important to make sure the person is permitted to sublet their home and that they are not prohibited in doing so and the agreement is legal. Request a contract for your security, which can also be useful to prove your https://www.shelter.org.uk/residence in the future.

You can find more information here

When looking for housing in the UK or London, most new migrants live in privately rented housing. Few new migrants qualify for social housing.

Social housing

New migrants who are vulnerable and homeless may receive assistance from the local council, always depending on whether or not they meet the requirements.

If you are vulnerable you should go to your local council to ask about acquiring social housing. The council can inform you, and if you are eligible, assist you and expedite a request.

Social housing is usually low-cost or free, depending on the degree of vulnerability of the person, for example, elderly people, single mothers, victims of domestic violence, disabled people etc. All information on this page have been taken from the eulamp guide that can be found online.

In an emergency, the Council may sometimes place you in ‘Temporary Accommodation’ until they locate a private landlord and help you with the costs.

You can find more information about social housing on the website of your Local Council: https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-council- housing

Shelter website contains plenty of information and also contacts details for getting advice: https://www.shelter.org.uk/

Tenancy agreement or Contract agreement

It is very important to make sure you have
a written tenancy agreement and read it carefully to understand your rights and responsibilities. Request help from someone you trust and who speaks English to read the clauses to you, as, if you fail to comply with these, this could terminate the contract.

The landlord or agent usually provides one. The government has published a model tenancy agreement that can be used.

Note: Do not sign the contract, whether it be for your housing, work or anything else if you do not understand it. If you have any concerns about the agreement, seek advice before you sign.

The tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord. The tenancy agreement gives certain rights to both you and your landlord, for example, your right to occupy the accommodation and your landlord’s right to receive rent. The agreement will specify how long it is valid for. It is common for this to be 1 year or 6 months.

Both you and your landlord can have other conditions as part of the tenancy agreement if they do not conflict with the law.

Even if you have no written contract or tenancy, you still have rights such as: 

  • your landlord is responsible for basic repairs and you must provide access for any repair;
  • you have the right to live peacefully in the accommodation without harassment from your landlord;
  • You have an obligation to use your home with respect (for example, by not causing damage and by using fixtures and fittings properly).

 A tenancy agreement can normally only be changed if both you and your landlord agree. The change should be recorded in writing, either in a new written document or by amending the existing tenancy agreement.

As part of agreeing to rent you the property, the landlord may request to see documentation proving you have the right to live in the UK (right to rent). If you hold an EU passport, showing your EU passport or ID card is sufficient. 

Paying a deposit

A landlord may insist that you pay a deposit in order to grant you a tenancy agreement. This is typically a months’ rent. The amount of deposit should be set out in the tenancy agreement and the deposit should be protected in an independent deposit scheme for the duration of the tenancy. The landlord should give you written details of the independent scheme that your deposit will be held in, together with details of how to get it back at the end of the tenancy. If, at the end of the tenancy, the landlord finds you have damaged the property or you owe any rent, the landlord may want to keep some or all of the deposit to pay for the damage or the rent owed. If there is a dispute between you and the landlord about how much s/he can keep back for these purposes, you can ask the independent scheme to mediate and make the final decision.

If your landlord did not protect the deposit or give you details of where it was protected, then he or she cannot serve a notice to end your tenancy until they have returned the deposit to you in full. You can also take the landlord to court and claim a penalty of up to 3x the value of the deposit. 

Overcrowded houses

Most people will want a home where there is enough space for a couple to have their own bedroom, where older children don’t have to share a bedroom and where there is a living room for communal activities. This is the ideal that you can normally expect in social housing. However, there are private landlords who rent out properties that do not meet these standards and most people have to rent places that are smaller than they would like due to the high cost of renting a property in the UK.

The law does set some basic standards regarding how many people can live in a property. If a landlord allows a property to become unlawfully overcrowded, then the local authority can take action against the landlord to stop the overcrowding. The law is quite complicated, but if more than 2 people have to sleep in one or more of your available rooms, then your home is likely to be unlawfully overcrowded. The law assumes a living room can be used to sleep in, ignores babies under the age of one year, and only counts children under 10 as half a person.

It is illegal to live in overcrowded conditions. While it is a reality in large cities, it is still important to report overcrowded accommodation to your local authority.

If you live in a place where you share a kitchen or bathroom with people who are not part of your household, then your home may be a “House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)”. There are additional rules about space standards and other health and safety standards that landlords have to follow if they are renting out an HMO.

House maintenance

It is important to specify who has the obligation to repair and conduct maintenance of the property. If your home is in disrepair, then your landlord normally has a duty to
carry out works to bring you home back into repair. Landlords have to take action when the structure or exterior of your home is in disrepair (e.g. the roof has broken tiles, the gutters are broken, the window cells are rotting etc.). They must also take action if any of the installations for the supply of electricity, gas or water, for sanitation or for heating and hot water are broken (e.g. a burst water pipe, leaking toilet
or non-working boiler). The landlord must also keep in repair the common parts, communal lighting, lifts, rubbish chutes etc.

It doesn’t matter whether these obligations are written into your tenancy agreement or not. The law says that landlords are responsible for all these repairs regardless of what is written in your tenancy agreement.

However, you should be aware that damage to things like broken internal doors, kitchen units, poor decoration or worn carpets etc. are not normally the responsibility of the landlord unless this is written into the tenancy agreement.

Proof of your address

In the UK it is important to have a proof of address, which you can prove with your tenancy agreement as well as other correspondence to your address.

Furthermore, it is useful for access to most services in the UK, such as opening a bank account, registering with the GP, school enrolment and applying for benefits.

Once you have your own accommodation, any of the following documents can be used as proof of address (however, it depends on the service required, therefore not all of these are always accepted):

  • Utility Bills (electricity, water, gas, etc. but not phone bills): should be dated within the last 3 months and should have your name and address
  • Driving licence issued in the UK, with your signature
  • Bank account/card extract, dated within the last 3 months
  • Council Tax bills from the current year
  • Fiscal document of the HM Revenue & Customs
  • Benefits letter Tenancy agreement


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