Privately rented homes

Helpful information for people aiming to access private rented accommodation is below. This information will complement any information provided by a Housing Advisory Officer at a Housing Options Interview.

Private rented accommodation

There is a good supply of accommodation being provided by private sector landlords. Here are a few key points that you have to remember when you start looking for accommodation in this sector.

The tenancy

This will always be an assured shorthold tenancy - sometimes simply called a shorthold or AST. The tenancy will for a minimum period of 6 months, or a few landlords offer 12-month tenancies. In most cases the tenancies are renewable at the end of the fixed period but in some cases the landlord will make it quite clear that they want the property back at the end of the fixed period. The landlord will offer you a tenancy agreement to sign and once agreed this becomes a binding contract.

The size of the accommodation

This must be suitable to your households needs. You will not be helped if the accommodation is too small - leading to overcrowding - or if it is too large. If you need to claim housing benefit then there are strict rules about the number of bedrooms that you can occupy in relation to the number of children you have. If you are unsure speak to your Housing Advisory Officer who can check these rules.

Location

The accommodation should preferably be in the borough of Havant. If you cannot find accommodation locally and decide to move to Portsmouth or another area you need to be aware that housing benefit has to be claimed from the local council.

The accommodation

This must be in a condition suitable for letting. If there is any doubt about the safety of the property you will need to check with The Environmental Health Department at the local council regarding the condition of the property. Always ask the landlord to take an inventory at the start of the tenancy. If this is not possible make your own inventory. A Housing Advisory Officer can supply you with a standard inventory form that is easy to use. Having an inventory can help prevent problems at the end of a tenancy if there are any disputes about the condition of the property.

Setting up costs

Renting from a private landlord can be very costly particularly in the first month.

Most landlords will usually ask for one or more of the following:

  • Fees of between of between £50 and £250 to cover credit checks and administrative costs
  • A deposit of one month or six weeks rent £400 –£750
  • Rent in advance of 4 or 8 weeks rent £400 - £1000
  • Guarantors: people who will underwrite the rent of you fail to pay
  • References: letters of support from people confirming your good character

As an example a couple and one young child might be expected to pay the following to secure a two bedroom flat:

  • Fees £150
  • Damage deposit £625
  • One month rent £625
  • Total £1400

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme requires your landlord to put your deposit aside so that you can get it back if you:

  • meet the terms of your tenancy agreement
  • don’t damage the property
  • pay your rent and bills

Go to www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection for more information

Rent

You need to make sure that the contractual rent that the landlord wishes to charge is at a level that you can afford. If you are paying the rent in full you need to be sure that you are not being over charged and that rents for a comparable property in a similar location are not lower.

Housing Benefit

If you think you may need help with paying the rent you may be able to claim housing benefit.

Preparing to move into private rented accommodation

You will realise from the key points listed above that in order to be successful in obtaining private rented accommodation you need to make some preparations before you contact landlords. You may need to think about starting to obtain references and guarantors. You will need to open a bank account in order to set up a standing order to pay the rent or housing benefit to your landlord. Probably most important of all, start saving because you will need to pay for start-up costs like an initial security deposit. If you can start saving before you contact landlords, even a small amount set side, might be enough to convince a landlord that you are going to be a safe bet as a responsible tenant.

The Supported Tenancy Scheme

The Supported Tenancy Scheme helps the council to provide accommodation by working directly with private landlords. When the scheme has a vacancy people are put forward for a tenancy. During the tenancy both the landlord and the tenant are offered support to make sure that the tenancy is a success. Please note that eligibility for help through the scheme is restricted to people who have had a Housing Options Interview and persons who would be accepted as a council responsibility under the homeless legislation.

Looking after the property

When you become a private tenant you will become responsible for looking after the property. Of course the landlord will be responsible for repairs and maintenance but you will be required to keep the accommodation clean and tidy. This will ensure that the landlord does not make a claim on the damage deposit when your tenancy ends. In some cases you will also be responsible for looking after the garden. If you look after the property and pay your rent you are much more likely to maintain a good relationship with the landlord and this will encourage a successful and long term tenancy.

Ending the tenancy

If you accept an offer from Hampshire Home Choice or find alternative accommodation you must serve notice on your tenancy and notify your landlord when you want to leave. The minimum period is usually 28 days notice and this means that you will be liable for rent payments until the end of the period. If you have any questions or would like further advice about renting in the private sector please contact the Housing Service.