Most people rent from a private landlord. Others rent from the council/local authority or housing associations. This is called social housing.
If you have additional needs you may also be able to get more specialist support in sheltered housing schemes or hostel accommodation.
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
- tenant referencing
- guarantor referencing
- tenancy preparation
- inventory checklist
BUT letting agents cannot charge you just for registering and showing you a list of available properties.
If you are unable to afford these upfront costs, check whether your local council is able to help you. In some circumstances, councils will help with rent arrears and help with short term rent top ups as well.
If you are on housing benefit, check with your local council if they have a list of landlords. 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 covers South Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
You can find lots more helpful information about private renting on the Shelter website
If you are at risk of being made homeless, please see our section on homelessness here
Social housing (Renting from a housing association or council)
Housing Associations and councils aim to provide affordable homes to people in housing need.
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
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:
- Keep up to date with your rent and any service charges
- Keep your home in an acceptable condition and report any repairs needed promptly
- Only keep in the property the pets that you are allowed to – some housing association homes may allow one or two pets, including small animals. Others don’t allow any
- Respect the other people living around you
- Find out if you need to get permission before making any changes
Remember – the 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