What you will need to rent a private property
Most private landlords ask for a deposit before they will grant a tenancy. This is to act as an insurance against non-payment of rent or damage to their property. You should always check with the landlord before going to see a property how much deposit is required and on what terms.
If you have had to pay a deposit, a receipt for the money you have paid
You may need references from previous addresses and from your employer if you are working. Again, you should check with the landlord what is required before going to see a property.
You should ask your landlord for a written copy of your tenancy agreement.
Damages and your deposit
It is worth agreeing with your landlord the extent of any damage to the property before you move in to avoid problems later recovering your deposit.
What does 'assured tenancy' mean?
Unfurnished private properties are let on what is known as an assured tenancy. This means that you are secure in the property, as long as you don't break any of the tenancy rules laid down in your tenancy agreement, for a minimum period of six months.
Length of your tenancy agreement
You need to agree with the landlord how long a shorthold tenancy will last. It can last for a set period (known as a 'fixed term') or be left open ended. An assured shorthold tenancy does not give you the right to have your tenancy extended after the original period has ended. It is well worth asking your landlord how long he is planning to let the property, especially if you want to avoid having to move on again in the future.
Paying for a private rented property
If you are planning to rent a private property, check that you can afford to pay the rent. In places where demand for privately rented properties is high, such as Keswick and Cockermouth, rents are quite high. Don't forget that you will also have to pay the Council Tax and bills such as electricity and gas.
You may be able to get Housing Benefit or other benefits to help with paying your rent.
Before you take on a tenancy and claim housing benefit, you can ask the Council for a pre-tenancy determination. This will give you the rent figure which will be used to work out your Housing Benefit. However, the pre-tenancy determination does not guarantee that you will get Housing Benefit or tell you the amount you will get.
You should remember that your Housing Benefit can be reduced for a number of reasons. Examples include the rent being charged being above normal market rents and the property being too big for your needs.
Can I be refused a tenancy if I am on benefits?
For a long time, letting agents and landlords have been putting in place so-called ‘no DSS’, ‘no benefits’, or ‘no Universal Credit’ policies to prevent renters who receive housing benefit from accessing homes.
However, a landmark court ruling in July 2020 confirmed that refusing to allow someone to rent a property because they are on benefits is discrimination and therefore unlawful.
If an estate agent, or landlord, is refusing to accept you because you are on benefits, please contact the housing team on 0300 373 3730 .
More information from the Property Ombudsman and the website Landlord Zone.
What if I fall behind with my rent?
If you don't pay your rent, your landlord can seek a Court Order to evict you from your home. If you are more than two months or eight weeks in rent arrears. In most cases the Courts cannot refuse to grant the landlord an Eviction Order, so you should at all times make sure your rent is kept up to date.
You can get a claim form for housing benefit and pre-tenancy determination form from any Council office or calling us.
If you are struggling with your rent or any other bills, you can find more advice or assistance on our budget advice page , or give us a call.
I think my rent is too high
If you think your rent is too high, you can in the first six months of your tenancy ask the Rent Assessment Committee to decide what your rent should be.
Ending a shorthold tenancy
Your landlord can ask you to leave at any time after six months, providing any fixed term you agreed has ended. He must give you two months notice in writing that he wants you to leave.
Your landlord can apply to the County Court for a Court Order ending the tenancy at any time for certain reasons laid down in law. These include rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and damage to the property.
Your landlord cannot evict you without a possession order from the County Court.
If you have problems with your landlord trying to force you out of your home, contact the Housing Options team especially if you are facing being made homeless .
House condition complaints
We may be able to assist you if you are worried about the condition of your private rented property. The Council uses the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess housing conditions. If you would like to make a complaint about your private rented property, please contact the Housing Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org .
You must have let your landlord know about the issues in writing at least 14 days before you contact Housing Services. To help you report your concerns to your landlord, Shelter has template letters on their website at shelter.org.uk