In recent years, more and more people in Northern Ireland are choosing to rent their homes from a private landlord. This type of arrangement has both advantages and disadvantages. Although you have greater choice about where you would like to live and flexibility in relation to the type of property you would like to live in, your security of tenure in your home is limited and you can’t normally consider the property you rent as a home for life.
Deciding to rent privately
Before you decide to look for private rented accommodation, you should make sure that it’s the right housing choice for you and your household. Renting a home can be a positive experience for many people. There are a number of organisations which can provide support to you in your rented home if you have particular support or care needs. The Housing Executive's Supporting People directory can help you find suitable services.
Finding a place to rent
There are a number of ways to find properties available to rent. Before you start looking, you should think about what kind of property you need. Think about:
- How many bedrooms you need
- How much rent you can afford each month
- What type of heating is most affordable
- Which areas you want to live in
- How long you wish to rent for.
Your household size and the area in which you wish to live will be important if you intend to use housing benefit to pay for your home. These factors will determine how much housing benefit you will receive.
Finding a property
Once you have a good idea of the type of property you require and the location that best suits you, you can start looking for suitable properties. There are a number of ways to find property available for rent.
There are a number of websites which advertise property available to rent. As well as dedicated property websites, such as PropertyPal and PropertyNews, websites like Gumtree often contain privately advertised rental homes. Checking what properties are available on the internet can give you a better idea of what you should expect to pay for a particular type of home in specific areas.
Register with an agent
Contact agents who operate in the area you wish to live in and ask them if they have any suitable properties. Often properties are let very quickly, before the agent has an opportunity to advertise it. If you contact an agent to let them know what kind of property you are looking for they may keep you in mind when a suitable home becomes available. Tell the agent:
- the location you want to live in
- the type of property you are interested in
- how long you want to live in the property and
- how much you can afford to pay in rent.
Never pay an agent to find you somewhere to live. Some agents may try to charge you a fee for adding you to a “client list” but these fees are illegal. The property advertisement should contain information on any other fees that the agent will charge you if you decide to move into the property.
Look around the neighbourhood
If you know what neighbourhood you’d like to live in you may wish to spend an afternoon walking around, taking note of any properties that you would like to find out more about. Most properties that are available to rent will display a “To Let” sign or a notice in the window. Check local newspapers or store notice boards for properties advertised to let.
Assistance with finding a rented home
Some people can find it difficult to move into rented accommodation because you will often be asked to pay a deposit and a month’s rent in advance before moving in. The following schemes may be able to help you if you're finding it tought to find a rented home that you can afford.
Smartmove is a tenancy support scheme, provided by First Housing Aid & Support Services. It operates throughout Northern Ireland.
Smartmove works with a large number of private landlords to assist homeless people find accommodation in the private rented sector. Smartmove offers a deposit savings option. This means you'll only be asked to pay part of your deposit upfront and you'll be allowed to pay the rest off over the next few months If you accept a tenancy with Smartmove you will lose any points you have been given under the selection scheme and will be removed from the social housing waiting list.
Simon Community NI
The Simon Community runs a ‘Rent and Deposit Bond Scheme’ which aims to help homeless people access private rented accommodation by helping with rent in advance and deposits. Some landlords may accept a written bond from the Simon Community instead of a deposit or rent in advance.