Key points to remember when looking for private accommodation are listed below. The tenancy This will usually be an assured shorthold tenancies, sometimes called a shorthold or AST. The tenancy will be for a minimum period of 6-12 months. In most cases the tenancies are renewable at the end of the fixed period but in some cases, the landlord will state that they want the property back at the end of the fixed period. The landlord will offer you a tenancy agreement to sign and once agreed this becomes a binding contract. The size of the accommodation This must be suitable to your households needs. You will not be helped if the accommodation is too small - leading to overcrowding - or if it is too large. If you need to claim housing benefit or Universal Credit then there are strict rules about the number of bedrooms that you can occupy in relation to the number of children you have. If you are unsure speak to your Housing Advisory Officer who can check these rules. Location The accommodation should preferably be in the district of East Hampshire. If you cannot find accommodation locally and decide to move to another area, housing benefit has to be claimed from the local council. You can check the LHA rates for you, based on the area you live in. Condition of accommodation This must be in a condition suitable for letting. If there is any doubt about the safety of the property you will need to check with The Environmental Health Department at the local council regarding the condition of the property. Always ask the landlord to take an inventory at the start of the tenancy. If this is not possible make your own inventory. A Housing Advisory Officer can supply you with a standard inventory form that is easy to use. Having an inventory can help prevent problems at the end of a tenancy if there are any disputes about the condition of the property. Setting up costs Renting from a private landlord can be very costly particularly in the first month. Most landlords will usually ask for one or more of the following: a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than 5 weeks’ rent a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than 1 week’s rent a guarantor – someone who will underwrite the rent if you fail to pay references – letters of support from people confirming your good character From 1 June 2019, landlords or letting agents are restricted as to what they can charge to tenants in relation to new contracts, for example they are no longer entitled to charge fees for the cost of setting up a tenancy agreement. More information on the Tenants Fees Act can be found at GOV.UK website. Tenancy Deposit Scheme The Tenancy Deposit Scheme requires your landlord to put your deposit aside so that you can get it back if you: meet the terms of your tenancy agreement don’t damage the property pay your rent and bills More information on the Tenancy Deposit Scheme can be found at GOV.UK website. Rent You need to make sure that the contractual rent that the landlord wishes to charge is at a level that you can afford. If you are paying the rent in full you need to be sure that you are not being over charged and that rents for a comparable property in a similar location are not lower. Housing benefit If you think you may need help with paying the rent you may be able to claim housing benefit. Moving into private rented accommodation You will realise from the key points listed above that in order to be successful in obtaining private rented accommodation you need to make some preparations before you contact landlords. You may need to think about starting to obtain references and guarantors. You will need to open a bank account in order to set up a standing order to pay the rent or housing benefit to your landlord. Probably most important of all, start saving because you will need to pay for start-up costs like an initial security deposit. If you can start saving before you contact landlords, even a small amount set side, might be enough to convince a landlord that you are going to be a safe bet as a responsible tenant. The Supported Tenancy Scheme The Supported Tenancy Scheme helps the council to provide accommodation by working directly with private landlords. When the scheme has a vacancy people are put forward for a tenancy. During the tenancy, both the landlord and the tenant are offered support to make sure that the tenancy is a success. Please note that eligibility for help through the scheme is restricted to people who have had a Housing Options Interview and persons who would be accepted as a council responsibility under the homeless legislation. Looking after the property When you become a private tenant you will become responsible for looking after the property. Of course, the landlord will be responsible for repairs and maintenance but you will be required to keep the accommodation clean and tidy. This will ensure that the landlord does not make a claim on the damage deposit when your tenancy ends. In some cases you will also be responsible for looking after the garden. If you look after the property and pay your rent you are much more likely to maintain a good relationship with the landlord and this will encourage a successful and long term tenancy. Ending the tenancy If you accept an offer from Hampshire Home Choice or find alternative accommodation you must serve notice on your tenancy and notify your landlord when you want to leave. The minimum period is usually 28 days notice and this means that you will be liable for rent payments until the end of the period. If you have any questions or would like further advice about renting in the private sector please contact the Housing Service.