Rental jargon buster: Simplified terms for tenants

Find out the latest rental terms and terminology with our jargon buster guide. Whether you are a new or an existing tenant, the world of lettings is constantly changing.

Our rental jargon-busting guide explains the words and expressions that are in regular use when letting a property. We explain everything from dilapidations and deposit protection schemes to fixtures and fittings.

Administration fee (Wales only)

A payment which is is often charged by letting agents to cover the costs of processing a property rental application. This is paid by the tenant and will be taken from the initial monies once the tenancy starts.

Agreement fee

A payment which is charged to cover the costs of drawing up a tenancy agreement. This is usually shared between the landlord and tenant.


Late rent or rent which is unpaid and the tenant owes to the landlord.

ARLA Propertymark

ARLA Propertymark (formally the Association of Residential Letting Agents), is the UK’s foremost professional body for letting agents. It protects and guides consumers, helping tenants and landlords, working to raise professional standards among letting agents and promoting education and qualifications within the sector. Over 9,000 letting agents are ARLA Propertymark Protected, meeting higher standards than the law demands.

Assured shorthold tenancy (AST)

A widely used rental agreement where the tenant is an individual and net rent does not exceed £25,000 a year. It covers a fixed period, so both parties know the date the property will be vacated.

Break clause

A clause sometimes agreed between the landlord and tenant to be inserted in a fixed term agreement, typically if the initial fixed term is for a year or more. A break clause will usually allow either landlord or tenant to give written notice after a particular date or period of the tenancy in order to end the tenancy earlier than the original fixed term.

Credit search references

References requested for a tenant applying to take up rented accommodation. Many agents and individual landlords use external companies, who will contact the applicant’s employer, landlord and check the tenant’s credit history, providing a report on their financial suitability to rent.

Default fees

These could be charges applied for late rent payments or lost keys. These must be ‘reasonable costs’ with evidence given in writing by the landlord or agents.


A monetary sum held by the landlord or agent for security against damage to a property or a breach of the tenancy terms. This is usually the equivalent of four to six weeks’ rent. If the deposit is for an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), then it must be protected by an approved tenancy deposit protection scheme.

Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS)

A government-authorised scheme which requires a tenant’s deposit to be paid over to the DPS for the duration of the tenancy. This amount is then paid back at the end of the tenancy when an agreement between both parties has been reached. The scheme is free to use and open to all landlords and letting agents.


Items that have been damaged during a tenancy. The tenant is usually responsible for the cost of repair or replacement.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) shows the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of a property and gives an indication of the fuel bills. It is displayed as two graphs – the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the property. Each is graded from A (the best) to G (the worst). Landlords are required to supply tenants with an EPC for the property being let.


Being removed from a property by a bailiff after the serving of a possession order issued by the courts. A sanction usually invoked only when tenants are in serious and/or repeated breach of their tenancy agreement.

Fixtures and fittings

Items usually provided in a letting which may include curtains, carpets, blinds, light fittings, kitchen units and appliances. In some cases, furniture may also be included. It is advisable to check exactly what fixtures and fittings come with a property and not assume, for example, that furniture will automatically be provided, but many properties are let unfurnished.

Gas safety record

A certificate that states all gas appliances, pipework and flues are safe. It is a legal requirement for all landlords and must be provided every year by a Gas Safe Register engineer after a safety check.

The Government’s Rental Guide

This step-by-step guide for landlords and tenants in the private rental sector is designed to help both parties understand their rights and responsibilities. It is downloadable on the Government’s website and landlords must supply tenants with a copy at the start of their tenancy.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A property qualifies as an HMO if it has at least three tenants, comprising more than one household, and tenants share bathroom, toilet or kitchen facilities.


A list of the contents of a rental property. The inventory will note the condition of items and will form the basis of a dilapidation report at the end of the tenancy. It often includes photographs of specific items and existing damage/defects.


The owner of the property with whom the tenant enters into a tenancy agreement.

Letting agent

Many private landlords use letting agents to let their properties. Sometimes called managing agents if they both let and manage a property. Their responsibilities range from sourcing tenants and collecting rent to day-to-day management of the property. They will often be the main contact point for tenants, particularly if the landlord does not live locally.


Many tenanted properties have a ‘no-pets’ provision in the tenancy agreement. Pet-owning tenants should seek early clarification of whether their pets will be welcome. Also, check for whether there is a higher rental cost for bringing your pet.

Redress scheme

By law, property agents are required to join a government authorised consumer redress scheme. The purpose of this is to give customers of the agent an escalated complaints procedure if they are unhappy with how their complaint has been dealt with by the agent. There are two government approved redress schemes. These are The Property Ombudsman (TPO) and the Property Redress Scheme (PRS).


A reference is the process by which landlords vet prospective tenants, which may include employment checks and checks with a tenant’s current landlord.

‘Right to rent’ check

The right to rent requires all landlords and agents to check that tenants are legally allowed to be in the country and therefore rent a property. If the landlord or agent fails to check, there is the risk o an unlimited fine or imprisonment.


Possession of a property by a tenant under the terms of a lease.

Tenancy agreement

The legal agreement governing the occupation of a property by a tenant. Such agreements can run to many pages, and it is vital that tenants acquaint themselves with the main provisions.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)

A government-insurance-based scheme run by The Dispute Service Ltd. for the protection of tenancy deposits and the resolution of disputes between landlords, agents and tenants concerning the return of deposits at the end of a tenancy. It is one of three schemes approved for tenancy deposit protection. TDS has recently launched a Code of Recommended Practice. This Code of Practice sets out the recommended requirements which letting agents and landlords should meet as members of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.


The person who has temporary possession of a property under a lease or tenancy agreement.

Unauthorised sub-letting

Unauthorised sub-letting occurs when a tenant sub-lets a property to a tenant without the permission of the landlord. Most tenancy agreements specifically bar sub-letting. A breach of this provision constitutes a serious breach of the contract and, in the last resort, can be grounds for eviction.

Zero Deposit Scheme (ZDS)

A new scheme designed to help tenants who have difficulty raising the full deposit on a rental property. They can move into their new property, having paid the equivalent of a week’s rent to secure a Zero Deposit Guarantee.

Content provided by is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.

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