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Advice on renting privately

Renting in the private sector lets you choose the type and location of your new home. There are always properties available, and it is the most realistic option for accessing accommodation quickly.

When you are looking for a private let, you should start by deciding on the type of accommodation you want to live in, e.g. lodgings, house-share, bed-sit, house or flat.

Looking for a Home

There are a number of different ways to find somewhere to rent. You could try:

  • Websites
  • Letting agents
  • Newspapers
  • Weekly Property papers
  • Notice boards in newsagents, supermarkets and local shops
  • Friends, family and work colleagues – a lot of accommodation is let by word of mouth

When you have found somewhere to live

When you have found accommodation (and before you move in) you will need to know:

  • Whether you need to provide rent in advance, a deposit, a reference, or a rent guarantor
  • The type and length of tenancy being offered
  • The amount of rent and whether any bills are included eg: water, heating and lighting
  • Whether the property is furnished, or unfurnished
  • Whether the landlord has any of their own conditions, for example are pets permitted, whether smoking is allowed (if these apply) so you are advised to check

Please note – lettings agents are no longer able to charge fees for letting a property to you.


Landlords have a duty to:

  • Maintain the condition of their property
  • Ensure there are no category 1 hazards in the property
  • Have gas appliances checked every year and a valid gas safety certificate
  • Have an Energy Performance Certificate
  • Have electrical appliances they supply PAT tested before you move in and annually thereafter
  • Make sure any furniture, or furnishings comply with fire safety regulations (check labels)
  • Register certain types of accommodation called ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation’ with the council

If you are renting already and have concerns about any of the above, please contact our Private Sector Housing Team

Deposit Protection

When you pay a deposit to a landlord, they must protect it using a Government authorised tenancy deposit scheme. This is, because the Government wants to make sure that your deposit is kept safe so that you get all or part of your deposit back at the end of the tenancy if you have met the terms of the tenancy agreement and have not damaged the property.

Help with paying your rent

If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to help with paying your rent and you should claim Housing Benefit or the Housing element of Universal Credit straight away. Your claim will only start on the date you make it so you could be missing out. To find out what size accommodation you are eligible for please check the Local Housing Allowance level. If you rent accommodation which is too large or above LHA rates then you will have to pay the difference.

You must provide the appropriate supporting evidence as quickly as possible. The amount you may receive depends on your income, personal circumstances, the accommodation and the rent.

Housing Benefit will not pay for certain items that may be included in the rent like water charges, heating, lighting and food.

Single Room Rent

If you are single and aged under 35, Housing Benefit is limited to a Shared Room rate. This means the only accommodation you are likely to afford if you are not working will be a room in a shared house, a bed-sit or lodgings.

Council tax

An annual council tax charge is normally made for all residential homes. You may be eligible for an exemption or discount with your Council Tax. Information is available here.

Financial help to access private rented accommodation

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness contact HomeChoice to discuss your situation and they can advise you if you are eligible for any financial assistance from the Council.

You may also be able to apply to the Social Fund for help with the cost of moving in and some basic furnishings. The Social Fund provides lump sum payments, in the form of grants and loans. It is administered by the Department of Work and Pensions and they will assess your application based on your personal circumstances and income. Alternatively you may be eligible for assistance from the Bristol Credit Union. South Gloucestershire Council’s welfare grant scheme can also help with some essential items.

Remember to tell people that you have moved

You should contact the relevant utility companies to advise them you have moved in, for example, water, gas, electricity, TV licence and Council Tax.

You should also consider who else needs to know where you live for example GP, bank, building society, mobile phone provider, DWP or HMRC if you are in receipt of benefits. You should contact them all with your new address.


Ensure you keep a copy of your tenancy agreement with your landlord’s full contact details, a copy of any inventory or property condition report, and a copy of any relevant safety certificates.

During the tenancy

Paying your rent It is your responsibility to pay your rent. Ensure you know how and when your landlord is expecting to receive rental payment.

If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent you must ensure any changes in your household’s circumstances or income are reported to the Housing Benefit department and that you respond to all correspondence and requests for information within the specified time limits.

If you pay your rent by standing order, ensure you have enough funds in your bank account on the day it is due to be paid to prevent it from failing.

If you pay your rent by cash, ensure you have a signed rent book or receipts for rent or any other payments you make to your landlord.

Repairs Repairs should be reported to your landlord at the earliest opportunity and they should arrange for them to be investigated and fixed.

Your landlord will also be required to complete an annual gas safety certificate and if there are any electrical appliances, an annual PAT test.

Problems during your tenancy We can offer you advice you are having problems such as paying your rent, or if your landlord will not do repairs, or if your landlord is harassing you including cutting off any utilities, or you have been illegally evicted or prevented from accessing the property. Contact us on 01454 868005, or call into a One Stop Shop in Kingswood, Patchway, or Yate.

Ending the tenancy If you are renting a flat or house, it is likely you have signed up to an Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

If you wish to end this tenancy you need to give your landlord one month’s written notice stating you wish to leave the property.

Your landlord can not regain possession of the property within the first six months of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, unless there are legal grounds to do so. The Government has recently changed the rules that a landlord must following if they want to end a tenancy. Further information on these changes is available on the website

If you would like any further advice, contact the Council’s Housing Access Team on 01454 865555.

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