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Finding a Property

1. What sort of property do I need?

The type of property you need will largely depend on who lives with you but might also depend on your age, employment status or other factors. A single, 20 year old is likely to have different needs to a family with 4 children or even a single person in their 60s or 70s. The following is a guide to the types of accommodation that might be available:

· Lodgings - you have your own room (which should be lockable) but share the rest of the house with your landlord. Bills are usually included with the rent (meals may also be included);

· Bedsit - you have your own, lockable room but usually share other facilities (e.g. kitchen and bathroom) with the other people living in the property. Bills are often included with the rent;

· House-share - you have your own room but share the rest of the property (which might include a communal living-room) with the other tenants. There may be one tenancy agreement for the whole property (with two or more of the occupants being joint tenants) or all the occupants may have their own individual tenancy agreement;

· Self-contained flats & houses - you have 'sole and exclusive' possession of the property, you do not share any facilities with people who do not form a part of your household.

The type of tenancy you are offered will mainly depend on:

· The date you moved in;

· Who you live with;

· Who your landlord is; and

· The type of housing you live in.

To check what type of tenancy you may be offered (and your legal rights) please follow this link.

2. How do I find private rented housing?

Colchester has a very competitive private rented housing sector which can make it very difficult to find a landlord who is willing to offer you a tenancy. The tips below may help you to overcome some of those difficulties:

· Speak to friends, family and work colleagues (and as many other people as possible) - let them know that you are looking for somewhere to live as they may know a landlord with property to let;

· Regularly check newspapers, shop windows and shop notice boards for property to let;

· Contact local letting agents - most letting agents will require you to pass their credit and referencing checks before considering you for one of their tenancies. You will usually be asked to pay a fee for these checks to be undertaken (so it will be a good idea to know what is required in order to 'pass' the tests before you pay the fee). If you do not pass the credit and referencing checks, you may be able to get somewhere to live by providing a guarantor (who does pass the tests)>The guarantor will be legally liable to pay the rent if you don't. Whilst some landlords choose not to accept tenants in receipt of housing benefit, we are not aware of any letting agents who have a blanket policy not to accept tenants in receipt of benefits (so it will usually be worth checking with them);

· Use websites such as Zoopla, Rightmove, Gumtree, Openrent, etc to search for properties to rent. You can set up alerts so that you get emails when new properties become available to rent;

· If you are looking for a room to rent rather than a whole property, try looking on the Flatmate Rooms or Spare Room websites.

3. What size property do I need?

The housing benefit and universal credit rules state that 1 bedroom is required for each of the following:

· A couple or a single adult;

· A person aged 16 or over;

· 2 children aged 10-15 who are of the same sex;

· 2 children under 10 regardless of their sex

4. Help with paying the rent

You may be entitled to some help with your rent costs - the amount of help (if any) that you receive will depend on the size of property you need, your income and family make-up. You can check whether or not you might be entitled to help with your rent payments (as well as any other financial help that you might be entitled to) by completing a trial benefit calculation - a number of different calculators can be found by following this link.

5. What will I need to pay in order to secure a tenancy?

Most letting agents will require you to pay various fees before offering you a tenancy. The fees will often cover the cost of credit checks, referencing, providing a tenancy agreement, etc. The fees currently charged can be quite expensive but the government has recently published a draft Bill which aims to ban landlords and letting agents from charging many of the fees currently charged to tenants.

Once a landlord has agreed to offer you a tenancy, you will usually be required to pay one month's rent in advance and a damage deposit (usually 1-1½ month's rent). The landlord must place the damage deposit in a deposit protection scheme. The landlord must also provide you with certain information about the steps they have taken to protect the damage deposit. If the landlord fails to either protect the damage deposit or give the information required, you may be able to take action resulting in the return of the deposit itself plus damages of up to 3 times the amount of the deposit.

More information on deposit protection can be found here.

Information about deposits and rent in advance payments generally (including where you might get help to pay these) can be found here.

6. My landlord has asked for evidence that I have the 'right to rent' - do I have to provide it?

By law, all private sector landlords and letting agents must undertake a 'right to rent check' before they rent you a property. This means that they must check your immigration status and that of anyone aged 18 or over who will be living with you. If a landlord or letting agency fails to do the checks, they may be liable for a fine of up to £3,000.

The need for landlords and letting agents to check that you have the 'right to rent' applies to everyone, including British citizens who have always lived in this country. A landlord or letting agent must carry out the 'right to rent' checks whether you are renting a whole property, a property with shared facilities or a room in the landlord's home.

When your landlord or letting agent asks you for evidence that you (and everyone aged 18 or over who lives with you) has the right to rent, you should fully cooperate with them - if you do not cooperate, the landlord is unlikely to rent their property to you.

For more information about the 'right to rent' checks, please follow this link.

For a list of the documents that can be accepted to prove that you do have the 'right to rent', please follow this link.