There are many different types of housing available to rent privately. You might be looking to rent a self-contained flat or house, or just a room.
When you rent privately, you will usually have to pay a deposit and rent in advance at the start of the tenancy. You may be able to get help with these costs. This is a brief look at some of the issues you'll need to think about when renting privately. If you're seriously considering this as an option visit our renting subsite which contains more detailed information.
Finding a place
You can find out about houses and flats to let from a variety of sources. You might hear about a place online, from a friend, the property section or a local newspaper, an ad in the local shop or directly through an estate agent.
If you find somewhere you might be interested in, have someone view the property before you agree to anything. Before you agree to take on a property or hand over any money, read the following pages:
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Costs of renting
If you are satisfied that the property is in good order, find out as much as you can about the costs of the accommodation before you agree to move in. Ask:
- how much is the rent,
- whether the rent includes bills,
- whether you have to pay rates,
- how much the bills are likely to be,
- whether the bills are shared with other people.
You usually have to pay the deposit and rent in advance when you sign the tenancy agreement. Any deposits paid on or after 1 April 2013 must be protected in an official tenancy deposit protection scheme.
Landlords normally ask for one month's rent in advance, although it can be more than this. The deposit is usually equivalent to one month’s rent, so initial costs of renting can add up pretty quickly.
Getting enough money for a deposit is a problem for people trying to rent privately. If you don't have money for a deposit there may be a rent guarantee scheme in your area which can help you. The Simon Community may be willing to guarantee your rent for you.
You may be able to get an interest free budgeting loan or crisis loan from the Social Fund to pay your rent in advance. You will need to pay this money back.
If a deposit is going to be a problem you should contact Smartmove NI. This is a type of social lettings agent. Many of the landlords Smartmove use will allow tenants to pay off their deposit in installments so you won't need the full amount on the day you move. However, being rehoused by Smartmove will mean that you will lose your homelessness points if you're a Full Duty Applicant.
- Recommended links:
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Housing benefit and other help
If you are on benefits or have a low income, you may be able to get housing benefit to help you pay the rent. This will be calculated under the Local Housing Allowance rules.
You may be able to get housing benefit even if you are working, as long as you qualify for assistance. You might be able to get help from the Social Fund when you are released from prison. For example, you may be able to get a Crisis loan to help with your rent in advance or a Community Care grant to help with buying clothing or furniture for your new home. The NIACRO staff at your prison will be able to answer your questions about this.
Read more about the financial help available at the following links:
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Landlords can ask you to provide references to prove that you are reliable and will be able to afford the rent. This usually means providing:
- bank details,
- a letter from your employer,
- or both of the above.
You may also be asked to name a guarantor for the rent. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay the rent if you do not.
Having a criminal record can sometimes make it more difficult to find new accommodation, although landlords should not discriminate against you because of your past.
Prisoners also have specific difficulties in accessing private rented accommodation due to lack of opportunities to view the property, meet the landlord and access money for the deposit, if they are still in prison. You may be able to arrange a viewing of a property during your parole or resettlement leave, but keep in mind that you will not be entitled to housing benefit for the new tenancy until your release.
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