Renting Privately in Southwark

Plan of Southwark

Elephant and Castle

Types of accommodation

There are different types of private accommodation. It can be either self-contained (your own place) or shared with others. Sharing usually works out cheaper.  

  • Shared flats or houses: House or flat sharing can be a way to make private renting affordable.  You would usually have your own bedroom but have to share other facilities such as kitchen, bathroom and living room.
  • Lodgings/rooms: You may rent a bedroom in someone's house (also known as a 'lodger'). However, if you share a house and some facilities with your landlord then you will have fewer rights if they ask you to leave.
  • Bedsits: These are often single rooms in large houses. They can be self-contained with mini kitchens and bathrooms and combined living/bedrooms or they may have some shared facilities.
  • Flats/houses: If you have a family or have a bigger budget, you may rent a whole flat or house for your exclusive occupation.

If you're 25 or under, you won't get housing benefit for a flat, house or bedsit, if you have exclusive use of a bathroom or kitchen.

Private tenants


It is important to remember that you and your landlord probably will approach your rental contract in different ways.  You need to bear in mind that you are entering a contract like any other, with rights and responsibilities for both sides. 

You are providing a home for yourself and your family with all that means and as a result problems are likely to be a much bigger concern to you and your landlord probably sees the property more as his business and a key source of income.

It is important for both landlord and tenant to treat each other with respect and try to see this from the others viewpoint.  If relationships break down the resident is in the weaker position because the landlord can end the letting without having to give a reason, so it is always worth trying to work out a problem if you want to stay in property.

Remember it is not all one way though.

Your rights

The law governing property letting is complicated and both landlords and tenants struggle to understand it in detail but there are some basic rules that landlords have to abide by.

Safety – The Duty of Care

Your landlord is responsible for making sure that the property you occupy is safe to live in.  This includes:-

·         They must ensure that the Gas Appliances are inspected before occupation and then again every year.

·         The property must be free from serious health and safety hazards, including the fabric of the building in general, electrics, water supply, insufficient or inadequate water supply, inadequate or unsafe lighting, free from dampness and or mould, uneven floors and uneven or inadequate stairs.

·         If the property has any common areas there must be a current fire risk assessment which is available for you to keep or posted in the common area.  Any work identified as required in the Fire Risk Assessment must be completed in a reasonable time.

·         The heating and hot water must work properly and safely.  Before you let a property the landlord must give you a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate.  This will tell you how efficient the property is and give some guidance as to what it will cost to heat.

·         If you find anything that is a safety hazard, notify the landlord immediately, they must respond to the problem in a reasonable time, depending on how serious the issue is.

Your home – Quiet Enjoyment

Once you have both signed your agreement the landlord has agreed to let you live in the property in privacy without being harassed or bothered by inconvenient visits.  The landlord can insist on coming into and inspecting or repairing the property but at a time that is convenient for you and with reasonable notice.  He can’t enter when you are not there or without an appointment.

You should be reasonable in allowing the landlord or his workmen in to repair or inspect.  Try to work out a time that is suitable for both of you.

If your landlord is visiting without an appointment or entering the property without telling you, politely ask him to stop, maybe follow up with a letter or email.  If your landlord acts in such a way that you feel harassed or alarmed you should contact Southwark Council's Tenancy Relations Service on 020 7525 4113 and / or the police on 101, or if an emergency 999.

Repairs and Maintenance

You are entitled to have a home where all the building parts, electrical and water systems, furniture and appliances work properly and safely.  Your rental agreement is a contract and repairs and maintenance are a part of the contract. 

Your landlord must do repairs in a reasonable time, so if it is urgent, for example heating failure in winter then repairs should be done in a few days.  If it’s not urgent then it’s OK to wait until he has someone coming round to do other repairs.  It is up to both parties to agree.  Some landlords are not keen to do repairs but you must be polite and keep reminding the landlord if he is taking too long to do the work.

If the landlord ignores your requests for repairs, you can ask for help from the organisations at the top of this leaflet.  You must give the landlord a fair chance to sort out the problem before taking it further.


You should get a written tenancy or license agreement with all the terms on it, who pays what and when and who is responsible for what.  It needs to be signed and dated by both sides.  Your landlord needs to give you his contact details, phone, email and address in case you need to contact him.

You landlord should treat you fairly and not try to bully you or discriminate against you.

Your responsibilities

You have to abide by the rules as well:-

  • Fire Safety – Read the fire risk assessment and do what it says. Don’t obstruct fire exits or leave anything in the hallways and stairs. Don’t leave bicycles, buggies or scooters in places where they will obstruct people leaving in an emergency
  • Gas Safety - You must allow entry for your annual gas safety check. It’s in your interest to do this and failing to allow the tester in could invalidate your insurances
  • If anything develops a fault or you notice a repair is required you must tell your landlord quickly and help him to sort it out by allowing access
  • Act sensibly and don’t put your self at risk. Don’t do DIY repairs or decorating without the landlord’s permission or if you don’t know what you are doing or do the work to a good standard
  • If there is an emergency you must do what you can to stop it getting worse without putting yourself or others at risk, for example, if there is a water leak turn off the stop cock and so on


  • You must act with consideration for your landlord, your neighbours and the community you live in. This includes:
  • Think – about how your actions will affect your landlord and your neighbours. Landlords are required to take action on anti social behaviour (ABS)
  • Noise – Don’t be noisy late at night
  • Visitors – You are responsible for what your guests do
  • Rubbish – Dispose of it properly using the correct bins. Don’t leave things that attract vermin outside bins
  • Pets – If your landlord allows pets you must take responsibility for what they do. You must clear up after them and make good any damage they cause

Rent and bills

  • You must pay your rent and bills on time every time, even if you have a dispute or problem with your landlord
  • If you are going to have difficulty with rent or bills, contact the landlord early on and explain what you’re doing to sort it out. Landlords are likely to me more sympathetic if you advise them before the payment date and you are honest about the problems
  • If you have continuing problems with rent or bills you should seek advice from a debt advice service as soon as possible
  • Remember landlords have bills and mortgages as well and your late payments may well affect them seriously

The Landlord's property

  • The landlord expects you to act in a "tenant like manner". This is quite a wide subject but might be summarised as looking after the property in general, not allowing the sinks or toilets to get blocked, properly ventilating so the property does not suffer from condensation, changing smoke alarm batteries and light bulbs and so on...
  • You must do your best not to damage the landlord’s property. He is entitled to ask for a deposit and to take the cost of anything you damage from that money when you leave
  • If you break or damage something, tell the landlord straight away. Everyone expects little breakages and everything in a house will wear out eventually but if you have helped it along or been careless you can expect the landlord to charge you for whatever the repairs are
  • If there is a garden or yard, to keep it tidy and the greenery under control


Southwark private rental standard
HMO standards
Temporary Accommodation standards