If you want to start looking for a new private rented home, you should begin by finding out how much rent you can afford to pay each month.
If you are on a low income and think you might struggle with payments, you might be able to claim Housing Benefit.
If you have small children or a debilitating illness and are at risk of losing your home, please contact the Homelessness unit for additional advice.
Finding a home
There are four main ways people look for private accommodation.
1) Via the internet
Sites such as Zoopla and SpareRoom will help you find your next home whether you're looking for an entire flat or house, or just one room. The Southern Daily Echo also has a dedicated property section on its website.
2) Via newspapers
Newspapers such as the Southern Daily Echo and Property Advertiser print local properties that are available to rent.
3) Via word of mouth
Friends and neighbours may know of a property that has recently come on the market. It's worth stating what you're looking for on Facebook to see if anyone is able to help you.
4) Via local estate agents, letting agents
Local agents do the work on your behalf, but be aware that there may be charges for their services.
Viewing a property
When viewing a property, visit the property in daylight and take someone with you, or tell someone where you are going and how long you will be.
You will need to be aware of the following issues:
- Safety within the accommodation and the location
- The security of the property
- The condition of the property and whether it needs repair
- Make sure that you and the landlord are clear who is responsible for repairs, bills, service charges
- Remember to check the inventory and condition of any furniture that is in the accommodation.
For a comprehensive guide on what to look for when viewing a property, please read our guide to Renting a Safe Home.
If you do decide to take on the property, make sure that you have a copy of the tenancy agreement and check the details again before signing.
Check what type of tenancy you have. In most cases this will be an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), but you may only have a licence to occupy, leaving you with far fewer rights.
If you are unsure what tenancy you have, seek advice before signing.
If sharing with friends, check whether you will have individual contracts or if it will be a shared tenancy.
Before you move in
You will normally be asked for a deposit in advance. You must agree a move in date with your landlord.
If you are unemployed or on a low income you may be able to claim Housing Benefit.
To apply for Local Housing Allowance you will need to submit a form to Gateway.
You will need to provide two forms of ID (Birth Certificate, Passport, full driving licence and your National Insurance Number), plus your tenancy agreement as proof of rent and residence. You will also need to provide income proof. Always get a receipt from Gateway to show you provided this information.
Further housing options