Information about privately rented housing
What is privately rented housing?
These are properties made available as homes by their private owners (landlords) or by letting agents (employed by landlords). Landlords usually require one month's rent in advance and the same amount as a deposit against any damage before they will consider you as a tenant. The landlord will then expect you to pay an agreed amount per month. This payment is called the rent. Once you are renting, you are a tenant.
Private tenancies are regulated by the Housing Act 1996. Most will be called Assured Shorthold tenancies or AST’s. There are other sorts of tenancies. It's always sensible to make sure you know your rights about your tenancy. Use this link from the Shelter website which explains the different types of tenancies and provides useful information about your rights as a tenant.
My landlord wants to carry out a credit check and is asking for a guarantor
Some landlords will arrange to check your credit status. They might use this as a way of considering if you'll be a reliable tenant. A guarantor is a person who agrees to pay the rent should you be unable to do so. The guarantor usually has to be in full-time work and / or earn more than a certain amount per year. They'll have to sign a document agreeing to be the guarantor.
Where you are able to pay the entire six or twelve months' rent in advance in cash, the landlord will usually offer the tenancy. Please see below: 'Will I get any help to pay the rent?'
Is it legal not to have a written agreement?
Yes. If you are paying rent and your landlord lives elsewhere, the landlord has to follow the same legal process to evict you as he would if he'd drawn up a written Agreement.
How can I pay rent and deposit in advance? I'm on benefits and/or earn a very low income
There is not an easy way to do this if your funds are low. You could negotiate paying an additional amount each month to build a deposit as you go along. Perhaps a family member will help you or you could ask for help with your bank or perhaps save up every month.
Will the council help with money in advance?
If you are threatened with homelessness, in priority need and have a local connection, in some instances the council may pay the initial rent and deposit required on a private property. The money is paid as a loan and is fully repayable.
We also offer some Rent and Deposit assist to some single homeless people. None of these schemes is available as a 'right' and not everyone who is homeless qualifies for them. Please talk to the Housing Options team to find out more.
What about protecting my deposit?
Tenancy deposit protection (TDP) schemes ensure that money paid by tenants (as deposits) is kept safe. For details of the schemes and advice on how to choose a scheme please see the www.gov.uk
The Deregulation Act 2015 has introduced some new rules in relation to deposits taken before the 6th of April 2007. Speak to our Housing Advice team on 01202 633804 if you have any concerns about your deposit not being protected by your landlord.
Will I get any help to pay the rent?
You might through Housing Benefit, it depends on your income, the size of your family and other factors. It's always worth seeing if you qualify for Housing Benefit whether you receive Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, other benefits and/or are working.
You can estimate your entitlement using the Housing Benefits Calculator
Your income will result in the same basic Housing Benefit entitlement whether you rent privately, from the Council or from a Housing Association.
You might have to pay additional money if the rent the private landlord requires is higher than the figure Housing Benefit will pay as a maximum.
You can pick up a Housing Benefit claim form when you have arranged a particular property to rent. Click here to make an online claim.
The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) applies to private sector tenants who make a new claim for Housing Benefit and for tenants already claiming who change address or move into private sector accommodation. The LHA is the maximum amount of Housing Benefit a tenant could receive towards their rent. Click here to read more about the Local Housing Allowance.
How many bedrooms will Housing Benefit pay for?
Unless there are special circumstances, children under the age of 10 are expected to share a bedroom. So a couple with two children (even of opposite sexes) would have a 'two-bedroom' need.
What about my pets?
Pets become part of our family and it's difficult to imagine moving on without them. Some landlords will allow tenants to have pets - but it can be a problem to find a landlord who'll permit you to have even one dog or cat. Landlords are not obliged to accept pets. But some will be sympathetic so it's always worth negotiating with the landlord.
Do I have to sign the Agreement?
Most landlords will expect you to sign an Agreement that you will live in their property for at least six (sometimes twelve) months. Sometimes no written Agreement is signed. It's still a tenancy if you pay rent. Keep a record of payments signed by the landlord if possible.
Don't forget to tell all the right people about your move - utility companies, your bank, your doctor and so on. Websites such as’ I am moving’ provide an online change of address service. Remember to tell the Council that you are moving as a change in circumstances could affect any benefits you receive.
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