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Advice on renting privately

Renting in the private sector lets you choose the type and location of your new home. Due to the demand for social housing in South Gloucestershire, it may also be the most realistic option for you.

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.

If you are relying on Housing Benefit to help you to pay your rent you need to find out what size accommodation you are eligible for and you need to check the Local Housing Allowance level.

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, a rent guarantor, or pay any agency fees
  • 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

Safety

  • 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 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

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.

Housing Benefit & Local Housing Allowance

If you are on a low income and need help to pay your rent, you should claim Housing Benefit straight away. You may also be eligible for help to pay your Council Tax. You can apply for this using the same application form. You must provide the appropriate supporting evidence as quickly as possible. If you delay making your claim you risk losing out on Housing Benefit you have been entitled to. The amount you may receive depends on your income, personal circumstances, the accommodation and the rent.

Restrictions can be applied if the accommodation is too large or above LHA rates. Also, 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.

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.

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.

Documentation

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 with your rent, or your deposit, or if your landlord will not do repairs, or if your landlord is harassing you, or you have been illegally evicted. Contact us on 01454 868005, or call into a One Stop Shop in Kingswood, Patchway, Yate or Thornbury

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.

If your landlord wishes to end your tenancy, they need to give you two months written notice. Your landlord cannot regain possession of the property within the first six months of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy unless there are legal grounds to do so.

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

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