Find out how to get a private rented home if you claim universal credit or housing benefit. 'No DSS' policies are unlawful discrimination.
You may be able to find landlords with affordable properties for tenants claiming benefits on:
You can also use other websites to search for properties.
Some landlords advertise on social media groups and local online forums.
Beware of online scams
Scammers advertise properties that don't exist or have already been rented out and then charge a large up front fee to people looking for a home.
Some scams target benefit claimants or vulnerable groups by sending emails or texts about universal credit or government loans.
There are new scams around at the moment because of coronavirus.
Speak to your council
Some councils have lists of local private landlords who rent to tenants claiming benefits.
The council must usually provide help to find somewhere to live if you get a section 21 notice in your current tenancy or are facing homelessness for another reason.
This can include help to find an affordable private tenancy.
You may be able to get discretionary housing payments (DHPs) from the council to help with a deposit, rent in advance or ongoing rent payments.
Check the Help to Rent database
The homeless charity Crisis have an online database listing schemes across the UK that help people find and keep a private tenancy.
Most schemes on the database are aimed at single people who are homeless or facing homelessness. Some also provide support once you've moved into a private rented home.
Search for a scheme on the Crisis Help to Rent database
Contact letting agents
Many private landlords use agents to rent out their properties.
The agent acts on behalf of the landlord when offering viewings and tenancies.
Agents can't charge fees for things like viewings, references, credit or affordability checks, or immigration checks.
Dealing with 'no DSS' policies
No DSS policies are blanket bans on renting to tenants claiming universal credit or housing benefit.
You can complain if you see adverts like these or if an agent refuses to deal with you because you're on benefits.
No DSS policies and adverts are unlawful discrimination but you can still be asked to pass an affordability check.
Use our template letter to challenge discrimination
Use our template letter to challenge a blanket refusal of a viewing or tenancy just because you're on benefits.
Make sure the property is affordable for you before sending the letter. You need to know your total monthly income and your local housing allowance rate.
The template must be changed to fit your personal situation. Once you're done, it can be attached to an email and sent to the agency.
You may find it easier to use the template at a desktop or laptop computer.
Show you can afford the rent
Check your local housing allowance (LHA) rate so you can search for properties that are affordable.
LHA rates are used to work out universal credit or housing benefit for private renters. You may get less than your LHA rate if you're working.
If you already pay a similar or higher rent to a private landlord whilst claiming benefits, provide bank statements and references to show a good history of rent payments.
Find a guarantor
You may be asked to provide a guarantor for the tenancy.
Guarantors sign an agreement to cover costs if a tenant doesn't pay their rent or cover damage in the property. They are usually relatives or close friends. They may need to pass a credit or affordability check themselves.
Guarantors are not a legal requirement and you may be able to persuade a landlord or agent that you don't need one if you've already shown you can afford the rent.
Offer rent in advance
Some landlords feel unsure about letting to tenants claiming benefits because both universal credit and housing benefit are paid in arrears.
You may be able to reassure them by offering enough rent in advance for the first 2 months of the tenancy. This should cover the period while you're waiting for a benefit application or change to be processed.
Once your benefit is processed you will usually get it on the same day each month so you may be able to set up a direct debit for future payments.
Don't arrange a bank transfer until you're sure the tenancy is going ahead. If you have to pay cash, always get a receipt.
Find out more about paying rent in advance.
DWP loans for rent in advance
You can apply for a DWP loan if you don't have rent in advance to offer.
The loans are interest free but there are limits on how much you can get and they must be paid back through deductions from future benefit payments.
Find out how to apply for a:
- budgeting advance - if you get universal credit
- budgeting loan - if you get another low income benefit
Paying a deposit
Many landlords and agents ask for a tenancy deposit. It must be protected in a scheme throughout the tenancy.
You can't be asked to pay more than the equivalent of 5 weeks' rent as a deposit.
You should get it back at the end of the tenancy, unless the landlord deducts money for things like damage or rent arrears.
Deposit replacement insurance
If you can't afford a large up front deposit, there are alternatives.
Some landlords or agents will use deposit replacement insurance. This is sometimes called a zero deposit option.
You pay a non refundable fee at the start of the tenancy, often equivalent to just a week's rent.
You have less to pay up front than you would with a normal deposit but you don't get the fee back and it could cost more if there are problems during the tenancy.
Landlords and agents must get your permission to run a credit check and you can't be charged for it.
Be honest if you don't think you'll pass a credit check. You could suggest an alternative way of checking you're a suitable tenant.
If you've already shown the property is affordable and that you can provide references, a guarantor or rent in advance, there may be no need for a credit check.
Last updated 11 August 2020 | © Shelter
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