Find your home

Introduction

London is in the middle of a housing crisis - demand is significantly outstripping supply and councils simply cannot build houses fast enough.

Despite being one of the best boroughs in London for building affordable accommodation, we are experiencing a huge pressure on our housing services.

The average waiting time for a council house is 14 years and private rented housing has become more expensive. The overall benefit cap has also meant that households are now capped on the amount of housing benefit they can receive in order to pay the rent.  

If your homeless application was accepted after 9 November 2012, we are likely to provide you with suitable accommodation in the Private Rented Sector. However, you will more than likely be offered affordable accommodation outside of Brent and possibly outside of London. This is due to how expensive private rented housing in London has become.

To help you, we have introduced the ‘Find Your Home Scheme’. We will work with you to stop you losing your current tenancy, if you have one, as we know that moving can be disruptive and the chances of finding another property locally are small. If we cannot help to stop you from losing your current tenancy, we will support you to find an affordable property in the Private Rented Sector, anywhere in the country. This will give you the opportunity to choose where you live rather than waiting to receive the one offer that the Council is able to make to people facing homelessness.

This scheme focuses on self-service and tries to avoid households from entering Temporary Accommodation as a middle step.

You will need to be assessed by a Homelessness Prevention Officer who will confirm if you qualify for the scheme.

If you do qualify, Find Your Home will:

  • Give you the chance to find your own affordable accommodation in an area of your choice
  • Pay one month’s deposit and one month’s rent in advance direct to the agent/landlord
  • Help you with removal costs

Please do not wait until you are actually homeless before contacting us.

How to find a property

We will work with you to stop you losing your current tenancy, if you have one, as we know that moving can be disruptive and the chances of finding another property locally are small. If we cannot help stop you losing your current tenancy, we will support you to find an affordable property in the Private Rented Sector, anywhere in the country, rather than waiting to receive the one offer the Council is able to make you.

What is the Private Rented Sector?

The term ‘private rented sector’ means properties that are owned by private individuals and rented out to single people and/or families. The rent is set at market rates and tenancies are normally shorter in comparison to the social rented sector. However, it is possible for tenancies to be renewed on an annual basis.

If you wait until the Council offers you accommodation, then the council will make sure that the property is suitable but it will not be your choice of area or property.                             

All properties must be:

  • self-contained with no shared facilities
  • decorated to a reasonable standard
  • let through an agent or from a landlord not related to you
  • affordable and in line with the Local Housing Allowance

You should check the following daily:

  • local lettings agencies and landlords
  • websites
  • local newspapers, Loot, Evening Standard and Pink Paper (for gay lettings)
  • shop windows, community notice boards, supermarket boards etc.

Useful website to help you find a home:

We recommend that you also check these websites regularly. Also, ask family and friends to keep their eyes and ears open for you. The more people you have helping you, the better!

If a property states ‘No DSS’, the landlord does not accept Housing Benefit payments. 

It is very important that you contact your Housing Officer before signing for a property.

Why rent a property from a Private Landlord?

There are many reasons why you may choose to live in the private rented sector.  A few of the main ones are:

Choice

There is a range of properties in different areas of your choice available to you.

However, you will need to ensure that the property is affordable and many properties in London will not be affordable. Therefore, be prepared to look outside of London for an affordable property.

Lack of affordable accommodation in Brent and London

Due to a severe shortage of affordable housing in Brent and a great shortage of Council and Housing Association properties in London, for many people, renting a home in the private rented sector outside of London is the only realistic way to find a home.

Where can you afford to live?

You need to be realistic about what to expect. In some areas of the country it is easy to find affordable accommodation of all types to rent, but in Brent and London there may be very little available within your price range.

If you are affected by the Overall Benefit Cap and cannot afford to rent in London, you may have no choice but to look for accommodation in areas outside London where it is often more affordable.

Use or affordability map which shows the areas of Brent that are affordable in relation to Housing Benefit.

If you do not know how much Housing Benefit you are entitled to, you can find out here.

Letting and management agents 

Agents manage properties on behalf of many, but not all, private landlords. Agents should not charge you to simply look for a property.  If you find a property through an agent, you will often be charged a fee – usually one third of a month’s rent plus VAT. This fee may be non-refundable. They will also require a deposit and up to two months’ rent in advance. Some agents may require a credit check and/or references.

Housing Benefit

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is the Housing Benefit payable for private sector rentals.

You should be very clear about the size of property you need, how many bedrooms and where you are prepared to live. You may need to compromise but where housing is concerned, most people have to; and please remember: what you want isn’t always what you need.

1st April 2017 – 31st March 2018 LHA maximum rates are:

  North BrentSouth BrentWest Brent
 

 Monthly (approx.)   

Weekly 

Monthly (approx.) Weekly Monthly (approx.) Weekly

Shared Property 

£87.40

£378.73 

£100.76 £436.63 £110.54 £479.01

1 Bedroom Rate 

(self-contained accommodation)

£191.38 £829.31  £260.64 £1,129.44 £243.18 £1,053.78
2 Bedroom Rate £242.33 £1,050.10  £302.33 £1,310.10 £302.33 £1,310.10
3 Bedroom Rate £303.00 £1,313.00  £354.46 £1,535.99 £354.46 £1,535.99
4 (or more) Bedroom Rate £374.40 £1,622.40  £417.02 £1,807.09 £417.02 £1,807.09

Remember - The LHA rate is the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can receive. The actual amount of Housing Benefit you are awarded will depend on your circumstances.

Be certain about the property size you can afford. Where Housing Benefit (LHA) is concerned, it is based on your household size. Housing Benefit rules are that you need one bedroom for each of the following:

  • A couple who live together
  • Someone else in the household who is 16 or over
  • Two children of the same sex (a child is a person under 16 years old)
  • Two children of any sex who are younger than 10

So, an example would be Mother and father (1 bedroom), a girl of 4 and a boy of 2

(1 bedroom), a boy of 12 (unpaired person) (1 bedroom) and a 16 year old older sister (1 bedroom).This family therefore has a 4 bedroom need and may be able to claim LHA up to a maximum monthly payment of £1807.09

NB Even if you have a 5 or 6 bedroom need, you cannot claim LHA for more than the 4-bedroom rate.

Please use the LHA Rate Calculator to find the LHA rate in the area of your choice.

Also remember that Housing Benefit is paid two weeks in arrears, so cannot be used to pay for rent in advance.

Try a Benefit Calculator to see what help you can get.

The quickest and easiest way to make a claim for housing benefit is to complete a simple online housing benefit application.

Viewing a property

When viewing properties and especially before signing a tenancy agreement, make sure you know:

Rent

  • How long is the tenancy agreement? It has to be at least 6 months and may last much longer than this… but do ask.
  • How much the rent is? When is it paid (weekly or monthly?). What is included in the rent i.e. does it include council tax or utility bills?
  • Will the landlord accept housing benefit? You are not under any obligation to tell a landlord or letting agent that you claim housing benefit but it could become quite difficult for you if you don’t.

For example:

  • there will be a wait before your housing benefit claim is processed and paid. Can you afford to pay rent during this wait? 
  • if your circumstances change during your tenancy i.e. you start work, you may find that your HB payments are suspended while you provide evidence of your new income. Can you afford to pay the whole rent during this period?  Might it be better to be clear with your landlord that you claim HB, have just found work and there may be a delay in rent payment.

What are the upfront charges (agency fees, rent in advance and deposit). See the section ‘What Other Costs Should You Expect?’

Gas safety 

  • Does the property have the necessary gas safety certificate? They are valid for 12 months. Ask to see it. A rented property must have a valid one for the let to be legal. View an example of a sample gas certificate.

Energy performance 

Does the property have an Energy Performance certificate? This is also a legal requirement and your heating costs might be high if the performance rating is low. View and example of a same energy performance certificate.

  • Does the property have an electrical safety certificate? This is not yet a legal requirement but you should seek reassurance that the electrical wiring, fittings and fuse box are safe.
  • Does the property have smoke detectors or a fire alarm system?
  • Will the landlord allow pets?  Many don’t.
  • Is any furniture provided and has it been fire checked?

Is the Property Affordable?

Are you affected by the Overall Benefit Cap?

Please ensure that the property you find is affordable before signing a new tenancy.

Consider how much you can afford to pay each week/month. Don’t overstretch yourself, even if it is a property that you really like as we will only assist if the property is affordable. Remember you will have other bills such as utility bills, council tax, travel and food to include in your budget.

If you would like more information/advice on how to manage your money, please visit Shelter's free online financial health checker tool.

Deposit

This is usually the equivalent of 2 months’ rent and must be protected by the landlord or agent in an independent deposit protection scheme. In the event of damage, rent arrears or if you break the terms of the tenancy agreement, the landlord may make a claim against part or all of your deposit.

Council Tax

You can find out which band of Council Tax your chosen property falls into and how much the bill is likely to be here.

Gas and Electricity

The property will have either a credit or prepayment meter.  A credit meter is where you will be billed quarterly for the energy you have consumed.  Prepayment meters are usually cashless and use an electronically-coded token or key, which record how much credit you have available for energy in the home.  You can top up these keys at local shops and post offices.

There are a large number of energy suppliers – you may want to compare prices to see who will offer the best deal. There are a number of free price comparison sites on the internet.

Guarantors

Some lettings agencies ask for a guarantor. This is someone who guarantees that s/he will pay the rent if you can’t or don’t. If a guarantor is needed, it is likely that s/he will need to be a home owner.

What to do when you find a suitable property?

When you find a property you are happy with, you must provide our dedicated Find Your Home team with the following information:

  • The name and contact details of the agent/landlord through whom you have found the property
  • The full property address including postcode
  • The rent amount requested by the agent.

One of our Homelessness Prevention Officers will carry out a rental assessment to make sure the rent is affordable for your household. You should not sign any agreement or hand over any money until this has been done.

Once the rent level has been agreed, we will contact you and the agent/landlord to arrange a move-in date and request a copy of the Tenancy Agreement. This must be signed by the agency and you, the tenant. Payments can only be processed once the Homelessness Prevention Officer has seen a copy of the signed Tenancy Agreement, checked your household documents and signed the necessary paperwork at our office.

In some cases, an agent/landlord may request a letter to guarantee that the payment will be provided by Brent Find Your Home Team. We can do this on your behalf and send it direct to the agent/landlord.

Our top tips

If you are under 35 and single

If you are under 35 and renting from a private landlord, your Housing Benefit is restricted to the ‘shared room. In practical terms this means the rent charged for a room in a shared house or bedsit.

  • Single room rent does not apply to couples or people living with their children
  • You may be exempt from single room rent up to your 22nd birthday if you were in care, or exempt up to your 25th birthday if claiming certain health benefits.
  • If you are 25-35 and have lived for 3 months or more in some kind of supported housing or hostel for homeless people, at any time you may be exempt from this restriction.

Top Tips 

  • DO NOT hand over money straight away
  • Always bear in mind that landlords and lettings agents always look for good tenants – people who are reliable, will keep the property in good condition and pay the rent. There is a huge demand for private rented accommodation out of London so the better you are able to present yourself, the more likely it is that landlords and agents will be impressed.
  • Ring landlords and agents – It will usually take more than a couple of phone calls before you’re viewing properties and you shouldn’t expect lettings agents always to ring you back. Making regular, polite and relaxed calls is a very good idea.
  • Don’t contact just one or two lettings agencies – Keep regular track of all the agencies that serve the areas you want to live in; make sure you’re checking local newspapers, websites, community noticeboards, shop windows and so on. The wider you search, the more likely you will be successful.
  • When you have viewings of properties… look presentable, be on time, be friendly, and make sure you have your particular questions written down and ready to ask.