Renting a room or property

Overview

There are many advantages to renting in the private sector.

  • there is a lot more choice over where you live and the type of property you live in
  • you can usually move in immediately
  • you are more likely to be able to find a house or a ground floor property with a garden
  • you will be able to rent un-furnished accommodation
  • most landlords are happy to give longer tenancies and want good tenants to stay

It can often seem difficult to find somewhere to live, but there is help available.

How to find somewhere to live

There are lettings agents in Bexley who will be able to assist with finding a place to live. You can also look in local shop windows and supermarkets for advertisements. Bexley's own Private Sector Housing team can also help people who are at risk of becoming homeless to find accommodation quickly.

Many landlords and tenants use Bexley News Shopper to advertise available homes. Respond promptly to adverts as popular properties go very quickly.

What to do when you have found a property

Once you have identified accommodation then the landlord will normally ask you for one months rent in advance and a deposit. This will need to be paid (or the deposit bond arranged) at the same time that you sign the tenancy agreement. You are now ready to make a claim for Housing Benefit. You should complete a claim form for Housing Benefit and take this along with a copy of the signed tenancy agreement to Erith Town Hall. Alternatively you can submit the claim form at the Civic Centre in Bexleyheath and it will be forwarded to Erith Town Hall on your behalf.

Please note that some landlords or Agents require a guarantor prior to offering a tenancy. Unfortunately the Council is unable to act as guarantor, however, many agents will accept someone that is earning a reasonable wage as a guarantor. Not all agents expect a guarantor to be a home owner.

For single people under 35 years old there will be a shared rate LHA that replaces the single room rent. This rate will also apply to single people over 35 and couples with no occupiers that choose to live in shared accommodation.

The Rent Direct Scheme

The rent direct scheme is one way the Council can help you with housing in the private rented sector if you are threatened with homelessness.

If a private rented property can be found for you either through your own efforts or with our help we will provide a bond to help secure the property. The bond acts in the same way as a cash deposit and can be claimed against by the landlord for losses, such as damage or theft at the end of the tenancy. The bond is not a guarantee of rent payment. If the Council pays for loss or damage through the bond this will be recovered from you.

To qualify for the scheme you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • be a household with dependent child/children
  • homeless or threatened with homelessness
  • in receipt of benefits or on a low income
  • have a local connection with Bexley

Viewing and signing up

View the accommodation and read any associated paperwork before you agree to move in or sign any agreements. Take a friend or let someone know where you are going and be sure to check the following:         

  • doors and windows can be securely locked
  • heating, lighting and plumbing are in good working order
  • the landlord has a valid gas safety certificate for any gas appliances
  • the location - will you be able to get home safely, especially at night?

Help moving in

If you are homeless and on benefits or a low income, London Borough of Bexley runs a scheme that may be able to help you to move into private rented accommodation. You may also be able to claim housing benefit (known as Local Housing Allowance or LHA) to help with paying your rent. More information about how this works is available from Local Housing Allowance and work out the maximum amount you may be entitled to at LHADirect.

If you need help finding a deposit, you may qualify for a deposit bond through our rent deposit scheme. You may be able to apply for a loan from the Credit Union if you are working. For rent in advance you may be eligible for help from the Social Fund if you are on benefits.

Your rights as a private tenant

The type of tenancy or licence you have will affect your rights and what happens if you are threatened with eviction. If you need advice about your rights or support to settle disputes with your landlord, seek help right away. You can obtain information and advice from the following sources:

  • you will usually be granted an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). Tenancies will normally be for six months or one year initially. This can usually be extended at the end of the term. You may have less rights if your landlord lives in the property with you
  • Bexley's Private Sector Housing Team may be able to assist you with any disputes or issues between you and your landlord or with the accommodation
  • Shelter publish a wide range of information and also provide a free 24hr housing advice phone line on 0808 800 4444
  • GOV.UK also publish comprehensive advice and guidance on renting privately