Guide to private renting
Finding a property
South Cambridgeshire's private rented housing market
Rented accommodation comes in different types from bed-sits to flats or houses and shared flats/houses. In some cases the house or flat may be shared with the landlord (resident landlord). In others, the property may be managed by a letting agent or managing agent. Properties for private renting may either be furnished or unfurnished. Rents for the different types of property are likely to vary accordingly.
Work out your housing need
When choosing accommodation it is essential that you choose accommodation that you need rather than what you necessarily want. This is especially the case for people who will be relying on housing benefit under the Local Housing Allowance to pay their rent. When deciding what housing you need, you should consider:
Property type - studio/bedsit, house, flat or maisonette. You also need to decide what floor accommodation you would accept e.g. ground floor, first floor.
Property size - see LHA bedroom rates for further details.
If a property has more bedrooms than housing benefit think you need, your benefit may be reduced.
Where to look for property
Once you have decided on your housing need you can begin to look for properties. There are a number of ways to do this:
- local newspapers - have a look in the special sections of local newspapers advertising accommodation to let.
- other ideas - local shop windows / community noticeboards / supermarket noticeboards or anywhere where people may advertise. Landlords will often advertise here.
- letting agents - letting agents manage properties on behalf of private landlords so that the landlord does not have to deal directly with their tenant.
What to do when you think you have found a property
View the property - Make sure you go and have a look at a property before you sign any forms to say that you will take it. What may sound perfect may be completely different when you actually view it. If you have any concerns, you are not obliged to take it, especially if you haven't signed anything, and you can refuse it and start looking again.
Registering with utilities companies - you must contact all the companies that provide services to your accommodation to register that you live at the property. You must tell them the date you moved in and will probably need to give meter readings from the electric and gas meters unless they are on a key. You should also contact the local water company to have this service put in your name.
Registering with council tax - your landlord should inform our council tax team that you are moving into their property, however, you should also let them know. You will then be sent a bill showing what you owe and how it should be paid. If you have a low income you may be able to apply for council tax benefit, you can apply for this on the same form as housing benefit.
Furniture and household goods
If you need to purchase furniture and household goods and are on a low income, then you may want to contact Cambridge Reuse who can provide low cost, second hand items. For more information, please visit their website: www.cambridgereuse.org.uk.
If you believe your household is experiencing exceptional hardship or financial pressure, it may also be possible to receive assistance from Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme (CLAS). For more information about CLAS and to find out if you would qualify, please visit the website: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk.
Problems during the tenancy
Repairs - As a tenant your landlord is responsible for maintaining the following in your home:
- Installation for the supply of water, gas and electricity, for example boilers, tanks;
- Wash basins, sinks, baths and toilets;
- Installations for space heating and heating water, for example boilers.
Your landlord should also carry out a gas safety check every year if gas appliances are supplied.
Your landlord is also responsible for maintaining the structure and exterior of your home, including drains, gutters and external pipes, and also window frames and walls. The tenant is usually responsible for keeping gutters clear of leaves and unblocking drains but this should be specified in your tenancy agreement.
Damage - If you damage anything in the property, you will normally be liable for the damage and have to pay for it. The money will be taken from your deposit or you may be able to negotiate with your landlord / letting agent to replace it or repair the damage yourself.
Problems with your landlord / letting agent - If you have problems with your landlord / letting agent, for example them coming round to visit the property without notice; trying to get you to move out without proper notice or not carrying out repairs, you can contact our housing advice and options team on: email@example.com or call 03450 450 051
Deposits and rent
Deposits and rent in advance
Most private landlords ask for a deposit, usually the same as to one month's rent, before letting a room or a property. This money is their security against non-payment of rent, damage to property or removal of furniture. A deposit is returnable and you should get this back when you leave the property. However, you will not get back all of your deposit if your landlord has to make deductions. Your landlord must place your deposit into a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. If he/she fails to do so, they will lose some of their rights to issue you notice if they wish you to leave. For further information see www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection.
An agent or landlord may also ask for an extra fee for drawing up the tenancy agreement and inventory. No financial help is available for this. However, they can only charge these fees where they have found accommodation for you. It is illegal for an agency to charge for registering with them. If an agency asks for cash before finding a property for you, get advice, as you should not have to pay for information from them or to go on their lists.
Rent Deposit Loan Scheme
You may be able to get help with your deposit through the rent deposit loan scheme run by King Street Housing Society. It is aimed at helping people who are homeless / potentially homeless and in priority need. The aim of the scheme is to help people access private rented accommodation in Cambridgeshire by offering deposit guarantees to landlords on behalf of prospective tenants who cannot afford to pay deposits themselves. This deposit is repayable by the applicant in weekly/monthly instalments, the repayment amount will be agreed based on affordability and payments should start once the tenancy has begun. For more information please call Housing Advice on 03450 450 051.
Your tenancy agreement may be written or verbal. Verbal agreements are as legally binding as written ones. Agreements normally contain information on the amount of rent, how long the tenancy lasts for and the rights and obligations you and your landlord have. Read the agreement carefully before signing it. Check the type of tenancy or licence, who has to do repairs, who is responsible for bills and what happens if you want to leave. Get advice if you are unsure about anything. It is important that you keep to all the terms of the agreement, otherwise your landlord could take steps to evict you on the grounds that you have broken one or more of these.
Paying your rent
If you pay your rent on a weekly basis, by law, your landlord should provide you with a rent book. If you do not pay rent on a weekly basis, still ask your landlord to provide a rent book or, failing this, ask for a receipt each time you pay your rent. Either way, this will provide a correct record of payments, especially if you pay your rent in cash.
If you are unhappy about paying rent in cash, pay by cheque instead - make sure you still get receipts or your rent book is kept up to date.
If you have a written agreement, this should state how much rent you should pay each month / week and when.
If you require further assistance, call 03450 450 051