This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Factors to consider

This content applies to England & Wales

This page looks at the factors to consider when choosing private rented accommodation.

Availability

The main advantage of private rented accommodation is the amount of choice that can be available regarding location and type of property. In some areas there is a large stock of private rented accommodation to choose from, but in others (especially in rural areas) the availability and choice of housing available may be much more limited. Private rented accommodation may be the only feasible option for people who are not able to access council or housing association rented accommodation, and for whom owner-occupation is too expensive.

Cost

Private rented accommodation is often more expensive than other forms of rented housing, as the vast majority of new private rented lettings are only subject to very limited rent control. Landlords are able to charge whatever rents they consider reasonable and which people are willing to pay. This can mean that in areas of housing shortage, or particularly popular areas, rents can be very high.

In addition to the cost of rent, there is usually an up-front initial cost to be met in the form of a deposit and rent in advance. See the section Deposits for more information. 

If a lettings agency is used, it may make charges for the service it provides. See the page Agency charges for details.

Housing benefit will not always cover the amount of rent that landlords charge, which can mean that clients are left with a shortfall to make up, and risk accruing rent arrears. Most tenants with private landlords will be paid housing benefit using the local housing allowance (LHA) scheme (for more information see the Local Housing allowance section). The LHA rates for the different sizes of property, in different areas, can be found using the LHA Direct calculator. This will show the maximum amount that will be paid to a claimant until the LHA scheme.

Most single people aged under the age of 35 have their housing benefit restricted to cover the rent payable on the equivalent of a single room in a shared house.

If housing benefit does not cover the full amount of rent due, it may in some circumstances be possible to apply for a discretionary housing payment if the restriction is likely to cause exceptional hardship, or if there are exceptional circumstances. A discretionary housing payment may also be awarded to an existing housing benefit claimant to meet rent in advance or a deposit. See the page Discretionary housing payments for more information.

See also the pages Help with paying for accommodation and Paying for private rented housing for more information.

Security of tenure

Private renting can be much more flexible than other forms of housing, with periodic and fixed term, short and long lets available. If necessary, clients may be able to find and move into a property in the private sector very quickly. However, in general, private tenants have less security of tenure and fewer rights than most tenants of social landlords. See the page Security of tenure for the private rented sector for more information.

Quality

Private rented accommodation varies widely in terms of quality. Very high standard accommodation can be found, but many flats and houses at the cheaper end of the market are in a poor state of repair. The standard of the accommodation and the facilities provided will generally be reflected in the levels of rent charged.

Landlord accreditation schemes

Landlord accreditation is a form of self-regulation under which landlords who meet certain standards can apply to be accredited by a recognised scheme. Schemes are usually administered by local authorities, landlords associations or universities.

Accreditation can apply to the landlord, the properties themselves, or both. Many schemes are free for landlords to join, while some charge a small annual fee for the membership. Accredited landlords can access a range of benefits from these schemes, such as easier access to rent guarantees, deposit bonds, grants for repairs, reduced licensing fees for Houses in Multiple Occupation, tenant referencing, advice and support.

The minimum standards that accreditation schemes set mean that tenants should expect certain standards of management and have greater confidence that their landlord will be trustworthy and responsive. A landlord's non-compliance with the standards of the scheme can lead to their accredited status being revoked.

Unipol and accommodationforstudents.com operate an accreditation scheme for private landlords who let properties to students. Accreditation Network UK offers comprehensive information about accreditation for local authorities, landlords and tenants.

Selective licensing

Local authorities have the power to introduce selective licensing for all privately rented housing (not only houses in multiple occupation) in the whole or part of its area, where an authority believes that it would reduce or eliminate specific housing problems. For more information see the page Selective Licensing.

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