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

Finding accommodation

This content applies to England

Finding and securing private rented accommodation.

It can take time and, in some cases, can be hard to find suitable affordable private rented accommodation, although this depends greatly upon the housing market in the local area. Some landlords will not accept people who are claiming benefits.

Finding a vacancy

When looking for private rented accommodation, it is important to get regular information about vacancies and follow it up the same day or as soon as possible. Sources of information about available private accommodation include newspapers, websites, and accommodation agencies.

If a local authority finds that an applicant is homeless (or threatened with homelessness) and is eligible for assistance, it has a duty to provide advice and assistance in looking for a home.[1] Some local authorities discharge this duty by providing homeless applicants with lists of hostels, bed and breakfast hotels and landlords looking for tenants. See Information and advice on homelessness for more information.

As lettings can be made quickly, clients should aim to visit and decide whether a property is suitable without delay. They should have money and references ready in case they decide to take it.

Holding deposit

A holding deposit is an amount of money paid to a landlord or letting agent to secure accommodation prior to signing a tenancy agreement. See Paying for private rented housing for details.

References

Many landlords/agents require prospective tenants to provide one or more references from previous landlords, bank managers or employers.

Rent in advance and deposit

Rent in advance and a deposit are usually required by a prospective tenant.

In some areas of the UK, deposit guarantee schemes (sometimes known as 'deposit bond schemes') have been set up to help people who do not have a lump sum of money to move into private rented accommodation. Schemes either pay the deposit for people or, more commonly, guarantee that the deposit will be paid if the property has been damaged during occupation. Some schemes have an arrangement with the local Housing Benefit office to ensure that housing benefit assessments for people using the scheme are 'fast tracked'. 

Guarantors

Some landlords require a guarantee from a third party (a 'guarantor') that s/he will meet the obligations under a tenancy as a condition for letting a property to a tenant. This is most likely to be the case where the tenant is a young person or a person with a poor credit rating. See Guarantors for more information.

The tenancy agreement

Although in theory the terms of a tenancy agreement may be negotiated between the landlord and the prospective tenant, in practice the tenant may not have much scope to negotiate favourable terms due to her/his need for accommodation.

If practicable, before a tenant signs up to a tenancy s/he should read the agreement carefully to check the details. See The tenancy agreement for more information.

See also government Guidance on unfair contract terms.

[1] ss.192(2) and 190(3) Housing Act 1996.

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