Most young people start their independent lives in rented accommodation, provided by their local council or housing association, or a private landlord.
If you are leaving home for the first time, renting is ideal because it gives you the opportunity to try out various types of properties in different parts of the town or country.
At 18, you can legally buy a home and apply for a mortgage; however, you will need to have saved a deposit and met strict lending criteria.
Finding your first home
Be realistic about what you can afford. Setting up home is expensive, so be honest with yourself about what you can afford. Remember, it’s not just the rent (or mortgage payments) but utility bills, Council Tax and water rates too.
If you are hoping to get help with your housing costs, it’s important to get the right advice about what you’re entitled to before making any decisions or entering into any tenancy agreement.
Renting from a council or housing association
Applying for social housing is a good option if you are looking for somewhere to live for the foreseeable future. It tends to be less expensive than renting from a private landlord, but furniture and white goods are not provided. There are long waiting lists for social housing in most areas.
Social housing is allocated on a points or bands system, with those defined by law as having a ‘priority need’ to housing getting extra points (or going up a band).
Renting from a private landlord
If you are looking for somewhere to live immediately, or on a short-term basis, e.g. six months to a year, you might prefer to rent privately. Private rental properties might be furnished, unfurnished or half-finished, e.g. some landlords provide white goods, carpets and curtains but not beds, wardrobes, sofas, etc.
Lettings agents are no longer allowed to charge tenants for anything other than the rent, the tenancy deposit and a holding deposit. They cannot charge tenants for getting references, inventories or admin fees.
Look for flats and houses to rent on sites like Rightmove, On the Market and Gumtree. Or keep an eye open on noticeboards in local shops, where you work, etc.
If you’re looking for a room in a shared house or flat, then Spare Room is a good place to start.
If possible, try to look at several properties before making a decision. You should expect any accommodation you move into to be safe and in good condition.
All landlords of rental properties in Wales must register with Rent Smart Wales (check online). If you are asked to pay a deposit, make sure it is protected by the Deposit Protection Service.
Different types of tenancies
As a tenant you have certain rights (and responsibilities); however, these will differ depending on the type of housing you live in, who you live with and who your landlord is.
For example, if you are renting one bedroom in your landlord’s own home you will have different rights to someone who is renting a self-contained flat.
Rent Smart Wales has published a guide for tenants in the private rented sector.
Shelter Cymru offers advice about renting and tenants’ rights.
Being a good tenant
Tenants have rights and responsibilities. Looking after your home is also important for your own well-being and safety.
Some things to consider:
- Stick to your tenancy agreement. This might include rules about things like pets and decorating the property (from December 2022, this will be known as your ‘occupation contract’)
- Keep your home well-ventilated to avoid damp and mould.
- Report problems, e.g. a leak or faulty socket, straightaway.
- If you’re struggling with money seek help before things get desperate and you can’t pay your rent.
- If your landlord threatens you with eviction, or issues you with an eviction notice, seek advice as soon as possible.
New laws for rented properties
New legislation is being introduced in Wales on 1 December 2022 to improve how rental properties are managed for renters and social and private landlords.
The changes provide greater security for tenants and include:
- an ‘occupation contract’ (to replace a tenancy agreement) setting out their rights and responsibilities
- an increase in the ‘no fault’ notice period – from two to six months
- greater protection from eviction
- improved succession rights, which set out who has a right to carry on living in a property, e.g. if the original tenants
- more flexibility to add (or remove others) to an occupation contract
This list of Frequently Asked Questions will answer many of the questions you might have.
Help to pay your rent
If you are 18–21 and you start a new benefit claim, you won’t automatically be entitled to the housing element of Universal Credit (previously known as Housing Benefit).
If you are under 35, you may only be entitled to the lower ‘shared room’ rate of the housing costs element of Universal Credit (there are some exceptions).