Private renting


Private renting

If you need somewhere else to live, the private rented sector offers you plenty of choice. It's likely to be the quickest solution for most people. However, it's important that you go into it with your eyes open.

Types of tenancy

Most private lets are Assured Shorthold Tenancies for fixed terms of 6 months or a year. This does not mean that you will definitely have to move out after this period ends.

If you're a good tenant and the landlord wants you to continue renting, they may renew your tenancy for another period of 6 or 12 months. They could also allow you to stay on a rolling monthly tenancy called a Periodic Tenancy.

Be aware that, when you enter into a fixed term tenancy, you're committing to the tenancy for that whole period, so you'll be liable for all the rent for that period.

Working out what you can afford

Lettings agents will expect your annual income to be around 30 times the monthly rent they're charging. If you're earning £25,000 per year before tax, you can afford a monthly rent of around £830. This makes your rent no more than 40% of your gross monthly income.

You should create a monthly budget, so that you're sure that you can afford the rent, taking into account any other regular outgoings you will have. The National Debt line have an online budget tool you can use.

If you're pushing yourself to the limit of what you can afford, or if you have a poor credit history, the landlord may require you to have a guarantor. This is someone who becomes liable for the rent if you cannot pay it.

Properties often become cheaper to rent if they're slightly further way from the conveniences of town centers. Do not forget to allow for any additional travel costs in your budget if you need to live out of town. If you do not have a car, check public transport routes, costs and frequency.

Searching in your price range

Most rented properties and rooms are advertised online, on sites such as:

If you do not have access to the internet at home, most local libraries have a service.

You can register your interest with lettings agents who have offices in the location where you want to live. Ask people you know. It's also worth looking in the local papers as a lot of them have online classified property ads.

Finding a landlord or agent

You can ask the prospective landlord if they're a member of an accreditation scheme or another professional body.

You can also search for local lettings agents who are members of a professional membership.

Help with housing costs

If you're on a low income or claim benefits and have less than £16,000 in savings, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit. The amount you could get is based of the household income and the number of bedrooms your household needs.

To find out how much help you may be eligible for, check the online benefits calculator. Before you start, make sure you have information about your savings, income, pensions and existing benefits (for you and any other adults in your household).

Upfront costs

Most landlords charge a tenancy deposit plus at least a month’s rent in advance. This covers the costs of breakages and/or missed rent. Lettings agents may also charge administration fees (for carrying out a credit check, for example). However, landlords or agents are not permitted to charge you for registering your interest or showing you around a property.

We have a Homefinder Scheme where we can help you with the upfront costs of renting if you have insufficient savings as long as you're owed a housing duty.


Protecting your deposit

Landlords are required to protect your tenancy deposit in a registered scheme.

A landlord is entitled to charge a deposit at the start of a tenancy. This gives them access to a sum of money to cover their costs if you damage the property or fail to pay all the rent.  You might expect this deposit to be equivalent to around two months’ rent. This is a separate sum to rent in advance – most landlords will ask for the first month’s rent to be paid upfront in addition.

Inventories

To make a claim against the deposit, the landlord must be able to show that there has been damage, or that there has been a breach of the tenancy agreement conditions.

To avoid any disagreements at the end of the tenancy, it is best if you ask for an inventory from the landlord at the start, and you both sign it. An inventory is a list of all the items in the property, and the condition they're in before you move in. It's also a good idea to take photographs, particularly if there is any existing damage which the landlord does not intend to put right before you move in.

Make sure you have written records of all the rent payments you make, or that they show clearly on your bank statement if you pay by Direct Debit or bank transfer.

Protecting the deposit

If your landlord has taken a deposit from you, they must protect it by registering it with one of three independent schemes within the first 30 days of the tenancy. This is so that it's easier for you to get back any money you're legitimately owed at the end of the tenancy.

If there's a dispute between you and your landlord about how much you should be given back, the deposit protection scheme administrators will decide what is correct.

Your landlord should tell you which scheme they have placed your deposit in. You can check with each of the schemes yourself by using these links:

For more information of renting somewhere to live in Kent please see the Moving on or Moving in Guidance.

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