Ways to manage your rent payments and housing costs

Services near me

About renting

The main options for renting are:

  • Private
  • Social housing – this includes council/local authority and housing association homes

If you have additional needs you may also be able to get more specialist support in sheltered housing schemes or hostel accommodation

Council’s decide who gets housing based on a points or bands system, based on housing needs. To apply to go on to the housing register you need to find out who manages this:

For Cambridgeshire it is Home Link www.home-link.org.uk

For Kings Lynn it is West Norfolk Home Choice homechoice.west-norfolk.gov.uk

For Peterborough it is Peterborough Homes Partnership www.peterborough.gov.uk

If you live somewhere else contact your District Council and they will tell you how to apply. You can find out your district council by typing in your postcode or street address here

Further information on renting can be found here


If you are homeless or expect to be made homeless within the next 28 days apply to your local council for help. The amount of help they will give you depends on various factors. You can find more information from the government website, from Shelter and there are some helpful factsheets from the National Homesless Advice Service here

This factsheet shows the process you will go through when you talk to your local council. You will be invited for an interview and your local council will check your information to confirm whether or not you are legally homeless. If they agree that you are homeless or about to be, that you are eligible for support and that you have a priority need, they have a duty to provide you with temporary accommodation until you can get more permanently settled. If you are from abroad, you may not be eligible for help, as this government website shows

If the council do not agree to help you, you might be able to appeal or find support from another source. Find more information on what to do if the council won’t help look at the Shelter website here

If you are currently homeless and living on the streets or know someone who is – get in touch with your local council  immediately for help or call the free Shelter advice line on 0808 800 4444 to find out about hostels and night shelters near you.

8am – 8pm on weekdays and 8am – 5pm on weekends, 365 days a year

If you are fleeing domestic violence, please contact: 0808 2000 247 (24 hours – confidential national helpline for Domestic Violence). You could also contact Refuge for support.


Renting privately

Private rentals for rooms, flats and houses are advertised in newspapers, on websites and through letting agents. Popular websites for advertising rentals include:

Renting privately usually means you need to be able to afford to pay upfront

  • the costs of finding a place
  • a security deposit
  • advance rent

A letting agent can still charge for work in drawing up a contract and checking your right to rent. BUT letting agents cannot charge you just for registering and showing you a list of available properties.

If you are on housing benefit, check with your local council if they have a list of landlords who will rent to you and find out if they have a rent deposit, bond or guarantee scheme to help people in housing need who cannot afford a deposit.

Even if you are entitled to housing benefit it might not cover all of your rental costs – the amount of help you get is based on your age, who you live with and where you rent. There are upper limits to the amount of help available called the Local Housing Allowance. Find out more at:



Before you can rent, a letting agency or landlord will usually want to confirm your identity and check that you can afford to pay the rent. For new rentals they also have to complete a right to rent immigration check on you and anyone aged 18 and over who will be living with you.

Some local councils can help you find a private rental as well:

Town Hall lettings covers Cambridgeshire

Ermine Street Housing based in South Cambs

You can find lots more helpful information about private renting on the Shelter website



Social housing (Renting from a housing association or council)

Housing Associations and councils aim to provide affordable homes to people in housing need. Although the cost of renting these homes is set at a lower rate than the equivalent private rental costs, if you live in an expensive area this can still mean high rents and even if you are eligible for housing benefit the overall amount of help you receive could be affected by the benefit cap.


Most of these properties are not furnished and do not have white goods or any floor covering that you might expect to get in a private rented property. You need to provide these yourself.

Although you do not have to pay agent fees or a deposit you will need to pay rent in advance and be able to show that you can afford the rent. If you are eligible for housing benefit then the amount of help you get with rent will depend on your age and who lives with you, you can find more information on the Shelter website here

To find out if you can apply for a council or Housing Association home you need to find out how to join the housing register For housing register links please see the top of this page

If you are accepted you will be placed in a ‘Band’ which confirms how urgent your housing need is. Once accepted you can bid on properties based on your personal choice but remember, there is a shortage of properties and a lot of people waiting for a home so it can take some time before you are housed, even for people with urgent housing needs.


Your responsibilities as a tenant

Your rights and responsibilities will be set out in your tenancy agreement.  The main ones are:

  1. Keep up to date with your rent and any service charges
  2. Keep your home in an acceptable condition and report any repairs needed promptly
  3. Only keep in the property the pets that you are allowed to – in most housing association homes this will be no more than two pets, including small animals
  4. Respect the other people living around you
  5. Find out if you need to get permission before making any changes

Rememberthe tenancy agreement is a legal contract and your home will be at risk if you do not keep to it – if you are unsure about anything make sure you ask. Always inform your landlord immediately if there are any changes or if you experience any problems such as with the condition of the property, the people you live with or the rent you need to pay.

If you are renting for the first time from a Housing Association you are very likely to be offered a starter tenancy just for 12 months –this gives the housing association much stronger rights and if you don’t keep to the terms including paying your rent on time they can quickly end it and you could be evicted.

If everything is managed properly then after 12 months the starter tenancy will be converted either into a fixed term tenancy (usually for 5 years) or a longer term Assured tenancy. Your landlord must make it clear to you when you move in which of these things will happen.

Nine months before your fixed-term tenancy is due to end there will be a review of your needs and how well the tenancy has been managed. If you meet the requirements for another fixed-term tenancy you will have to sign a new tenancy agreement – this doesn’t mean you will have to move house.


Leaving a rented property

Your tenancy agreement will explain what you have to do to give notice if you are going to leave your rented property. Remember you will usually have to give at least 4 weeks’ notice so do not sign up for a tenancy agreement with a new property unless you can pay the rent due on both the old and new homes at the same time!

Shelter have more information about ending a fixed term tenancy here