Private renting advice

Renting in the private sector has lots of advantages. You will have greater choice about the type of property you live in and the location. You will also be able to find a property relatively quickly.

 If you decide to rent in the private rented sector you will need to think about:

  • the size of property you need
  • how much you can pay
  • the location that will best suit you or your family

How do I find a property?

1) Accommodation agencies and letting agents

Before accepting a flat or handing over any money, ask the agency if it charges for:

  • finding a place
  • tenancy agreements and inventories
  • collecting the rent
  • renewing your tenancy agreement when the initial contract ends
  • administration costs, such as phone calls and postage

Letting agents are allowed to charge a fee for finding you a home but not before you are offered a place and formally agree to take it. It is illegal for a letting agency to charge you a fee before this point.

They cannot charge for taking your details or giving you a list of properties that are available for rent.

2) Shop windows/notice-boards

You can find notice boards in libraries, bookshops, newsagents, local shops and community centres.

3) Newspapers

  • Evening Standard
  • Pink Paper (for gay lettings)
  • Local papers

4) Websites

Some useful websites are listed below:

I'm not sure if I can afford a property

If you are on a low income you may be eligible for housing benefit, which can help to pay your rent.

There are also other sources of help to meet the cost of private renting:

The Social Fund

Most landlords ask for a deposit plus one months' rent in advance. If you have been claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) for at least 26 weeks, then you could apply for a loan from the Social Fund to help you raise this money.

Each loan assessment is calculated according to your current circumstances, and is not guaranteed. You have to pay the money back out of your benefits.

For more information on the Social Fund, contact your local benefits office and ask for an SF500 form.

Crisis SmartMove

Crisis SmartMove helps homeless or vulnerably housed people to access homes in the private rented sector by offering landlords a guarantee in place of a cash deposit.

Tenants are offered ongoing support, including befriending support, and advice.

Crisis Loan

You must be at least 16 years old to apply for a crisis loan. You don't have to be claiming benefits, but must show that your health and safety would be at risk if you don't get a loan.

If you have more than £500 in savings, or £1,000 if you or your partner is over 60, you are less likely to get a loan. If you have already borrowed from the social fund and have not paid back what you borrowed last time, it will affect the amount you can get now.

Supported Accommodation

Shared Ownership

Affordable housing schemes are designed to help people in Brent and the surrounding area who cannot afford to buy a home on the open market.

You can:

  • buy a share in a property, usually buying between 25 per cent to 75 per cent of the purchase price of the property
  • pay below-market rent on the remaining share owned by a housing association

Although the proportion of the property that you can purchase can sometimes be capped, most schemes allow you to 'staircase' to full ownership in the future (i.e. buy more shares in the property up to 100 per cent ownership).

To find out more about affordable home ownership, and browse available units in Brent and other London boroughs, contact First Steps on 020 8920 7777 or email: firststeps@mht.co.uk