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Private Renting Facts and Questions

Why do I need to find a property to rent in the private sector and why can't I get a Housing Association property?
There is not enough affordable or social housing in this area to satisfy demand. This means that people are having to rely more and more on the private sector for their housing. The Council is helping people secure this type of housing.

How can I find a home to rent in the private sector?
There is a list of local lettings agents (pdf icon List of letting agents [89kb]) for you to contact to see what properties are available. You should also look at the advertisements in the local press and don't forget to ask people you know if they are aware of any properties available to rent.
You could also try putting a card on shop notice boards.

How often should I contact the letting agents?
As often as possible. A property could be put on their books at any time and you need to find out about it as soon as you can.

Can I rent any size of property?
Not if you are going to claim Housing Benefit to help you with the rent. Housing Benefit will only pay for the size of property you (and your family) need. If you rent a property that is bigger than you need your Housing Benefit will be restricted and you will have to pay the difference. If you are unsure what size property you (and your family) need, you should speak to the Housing Benefit office as it will depend on how many people there are in your household, their relationship to you, their age and gender.
However, if you are a single person, aged under 35, you will only be able to get Housing Benefit for a room in a shared house. This is called a 'single room rent'. You will not be eligible for Housing Benefit on anything larger. Find out more about Local Housing Allowance.

How will I know if Housing Benefit will meet the rent for the property?
To find out what rent Housing Benefit would use to work out your claim, you should check the monthly Local Housing Allowance Rates. This will tell you before you commit yourself to a tenancy, if you can afford to take it on.

What sort of tenancy will I have?
You will usually have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy that lasts for 6 months. This is called the tenancy period. It does not mean you will have to move at the end of the tenancy period.
Most landlords want tenants who will pay their rent on time and look after the property. If you do this you are likely to be able to remain in the property. You may not be issued with a new tenancy agreement if this happens, but the terms of your original tenancy will continue and your tenancy then becomes a 'Periodic Tenancy'.

Besides paying Housing Benefit will the Council give me any other help?
We may be able to provide you with a deposit for a property. If we can do this, the deposit is paid direct to your landlord or letting agent and when you leave the property the money is repaid to us. If any or all of the deposit is withheld because of damage to the property or the fixtures and fittings caused by you or a member of your household, you will have to repay this amount to the Council. For more information please refer to Deposit / Bond Guarantee schemes.
There is also a scheme, which you may qualify for, called a Discretionary Housing Payment. This is a scheme administered by Housing Benefits to help people meet some or all of a shortfall in their rent for a short period of time.
There is a form you must complete to apply for this. It is only awarded in very special circumstances.

A lot of adverts say 'No DSS'
It is true that some landlords will not take tenants who are on State benefits. However, we would always advise you to try for a property even when an advert says this.

Can I remain on the Housing Register if I rent a property in the private sector?
Yes, but you must inform the Housing Advice Teams and complete a new application form for Homefinder Somerset.

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