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Privately Rented Accommodation

You can download this guide here: Guide to Privately Rented Accommodation


What is Privately Rented Accommodation?


Private rented accommodation is owned by private individuals and rented out to tenants. The rent is set at market value and tenancies are usually shorter than in social housing, but can be renewed if agreed between the tenant and landlord. Landlords have a duty to ensure properties are safe and free from health hazards, to ensure you have sufficient gas, water and electricity and to carry out certain repairs. Your landlord cannot legally ask you to leave without following the proper eviction procedures, meaning you won't ever be evicted without at least 2 months notice. The exception to this is where your landlord lives in the property with you.


  • It is a practical and flexible solution to your housing problems

  • It can be an affordable option as housing benefit can be used to help with the cost of rent (depending on the level of household income)

  • Rent costs depend on the size and location of the property


Why rent privately?


There are many advantages to renting in the private sector:

  • You decide the area in which you would like to live

  • You choose 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


Can I afford it?


If you are in receipt of benefits there is a limit to how much help you claim for your housing costs. This limit is called the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and is based on the location of the property, the size and composition of your household and your age if you are a single person. To find out what size property you would be entitled to claim for and what the LHA rate is visit

If you are under 35 and single you will usually only be able to claim the shared accommodation rate. There are some exemptions to this - for more information visit

If you are not on full benefits, you may still qualify for help depending on your income. To find out, please use the benefit calculator at You will have to answer the questions as if you are currently renting privately, and input the approximate rent you expect to pay.


Rent in Advance and Deposit


When moving into a privately rented property you will usually be required to pay at least 1 months rent in advance and a deposit up to the value of 6 weeks. For people on benefits, low incomes or people with no savings or friends or family to help, this can be an impossible sum of money to find. If you meet the criteria for the Rent Deposit Scheme, we can help by paying the deposit and rent in advance directly to the landlord and giving you an interest free loan for the first months rent. We will make arrangements for you to pay this back at a rate of £20 per month. There is no set timescale on this loan repayment but there is an option to pay more than the set £20 per month if you feel you can manage more.


To qualify for the scheme you must have lived in the London Borough of Sutton for 1 year and be one of the following:

  • Threatened with homelessness

  • Living in insecure accommodation

  • Homeless

  • Living in accommodation in poor repair which exacerbates health problems

  • Living in accommodation where there has been a relationship breakdown

  • All applicants who meet the criteria will be considered, but priority will be given to those in priority need.


We will not be able to assist where:

  • We have assisted you previously and there is no payment arrangement

  • You have previously been evicted for rent arrears or anti-social behaviour and there has been no change in your behaviour

  • If we have assisted you previously where we have had to pay out on the deposit guarantee to your previous landlord


How do I apply?

To make an application you will first need to find a property.  More information on how to find a property can be found further on in this pack. Once you have somewhere suitable, please contact us on 0208 770 5000 to apply. It is very important that you do not pay any deposit or holding fee before speaking to us, as we will not be able to reimburse you for anything you have already paid. You will be asked to complete and return an Income and Expenditure Form to ensure the accommodation is affordable for you and submit recent bank statements, proof of benefits and payslips (if applicable). If you are unsure whether you are eligible or would like some more information, speak to your case worker, call 0208 770 5000 or email


Budgeting loans to help pay for rent in advance


You may be able to apply for a budgeting loan or budgeting advance if you can't afford to pay rent in advance and don’t qualify for the Rent Deposit Scheme.

To qualify for a budgeting loan, you or your partner must have been receiving income support or income based jobseeker's allowance for at least 26 weeks.

You can make an application for a budgeting loan at your local Jobcentre Plus or you can apply online or download a claim form at (search budgeting loans)

If you are claiming Universal Credit, you can apply for a budgeting advance. To apply please contact the Jobcentre.


Finding private rented accommodation


You can use websites, lettings agents or search in local newspapers and shop windows for a privately rented property.  

A list of suggested websites and agencies is included in this pack.


Letting agent fees for tenants


There are often extra costs involved if you choose to rent via a lettings agency. In November 2016, the government announced in its Autumn Statement that it plans to ban letting agent fees for tenants, however no timetable has yet been set for the new law needed to stop letting agents charging tenants.


Charges before you move in


Before you move in, most letting agents charge you for:

  • drawing up the contract

  • doing an inventory of the property

  • doing credit checks to see if you've had problems paying bills in the past

  • getting references from your employer, bank or previous landlord

  • admin costs for things like phone calls and postage

You may also be charged for a right to rent immigration check.

You could also have to pay a holding deposit to 'reserve' the property before you sign a tenancy agreement. You may also want to speak to the agent/landlord of the property you find who is asking for this as this can be refundable or deducted from the first months rent.

It's worth shopping around as charges vary.

What letting agents can't charge you for

Letting agents should not charge you for:

  • routine inspections during your tenancy

  • anything they also charge the landlord for

  • damages which have resulted in no deliberate act caused by the tenant

It's a criminal offence if a letting agent charges you to register with them or to show you a list of properties to rent.


What letting agents must tell you


Before you sign a tenancy agreement, make sure you find out about all the fees you'll be charged.

Letting agents must clearly set out the fees they charge on their websites and in their offices. They must not mislead you. They must clearly describe:

  • the cost of each fee including VAT

  • what each fee covers

  • the EPC rating of the property

Fees don't have to be published in this way for websites that just advertise properties, like Rightmove or Zoopla.


Holding deposits to reserve a property


If you want to reserve a property, a letting agent may ask you to pay a holding deposit while they check your references.

Paying a holding deposit means:

  • You're committed to renting the property

  • The landlord is committed to renting the property to you, subject to checks

Don't pay a holding deposit or sign anything if you are not sure that you want the property.

Before you pay any money, ask the letting agent to confirm to you in writing:

  • how the holding deposit will be used

  • if it will be returned to you (this should happen if the landlord decides not to rent the property to you)

  • if it will be used towards your tenancy deposit or rent

  • if any of their fees will be taken from it

  • when some of it may not be refunded, for example, if you give inaccurate information about yourself (they can't legally keep all of it)

After you pay a holding deposit, the landlord shouldn't ask you to pay a higher rent than you initially agreed. You have the right to change your mind and get all your holding deposit back if they do.

Please note if you do have a poor credit rating or have history of poor credit, you may wish to discuss this with the agent/landlord prior to issuing the holding deposit in case this is non refundable if references are not passed. You can check your credit score for free at

You can take the letting agent to court for breaking the agreement if they:


  • decide not to rent to you when all your references and credit checks were in order

  • change the fees whilst any checks are underway

Fees when your contract ends


When your tenancy agreement ends the letting agent can ask you to pay for:

  • renewing your tenancy agreement

  • an inspection of the property when you move out (if they told you about it when you moved in)

  • professional cleaning costs (if your tenancy or deposit agreement allow for this)

You don't have to pay a fee to stay on after the fixed term ends if you don't sign a new agreement.


How to complain about letting agent fees


You must contact the agency first to complain about fees that are hidden or unclear.

You can complain to a letting agent redress scheme if the letting agent doesn't resolve the problem. Letting agents must be a member of a redress scheme.

If fees are unlawful or the agency doesn't belong to a redress scheme you can complain to your local council's trading standards department through Citizens Advice.

Only agencies themselves can deal with complaints about the level of fees.


I can't find a landlord who accepts benefits, what can I do?


People on benefits often find it more difficult to find a landlord willing to rent to them. There are some steps you can take to increase your chances:


When looking for properties:

  • Be prepared to compromise. If you have your heart set on a house with a garden in a certain area it will be much more difficult to find something within your budget - consider flats in areas that may not be your first choice.


When making contact:


  • Make a good impression.

  • Prepare what you are going to say to the landlord or agent when you contact them about their property.

  • Don't start the conversation by asking if the landlord accepts people on benefits - the majority of the time they will say no. It is better if they can get to know you a bit first before the subject comes up.

  • Begin by explaining why you want to live in their property, and why you would be a good tenant.

  • Offer to send a record of your rental history and references from previous landlords.

  • If you don't have a previous landlord, ask current or ex-employers to write you a character reference.

  • Dress smartly for viewings and be polite; treat the viewing as you would a job interview.

  • Be honest with the landlord or agent.

  • Inform them that we can potentially look to assist with the rent in advance and deposit, if you are eligible.

Prove you can pay the rent:



  • Show wage slips or letters confirming that you can claim housing benefit.

  • Offer to pay more than one months rent in advance.

  • Provide a 'guarantor'. This is a friend or family member who is willing to sign a contract stating they are prepared to pay the rent if you can't.

  • Ask the council or Universal Credit to pay your housing benefit directly to your landlord.

Ask someone to negotiate for you

  • If you are not confident enough to negotiate with a landlord or agent, ask a friend, colleague, family member or advice worker for help.


Above all, be persistent. It may be difficult but it is not impossible. Check websites and other sources every day for new properties, and don't give up.


Find out more


Where to search for privately rented accommodation


Below is a list of websites where you can find privately rented accommodation.  As well as websites, don’t forget to check local newspapers, shop windows and noticeboards, ask around friends and family and on social media.


Spare Room



Open Rent


Place Buzz

Homes 24

House Ladder


Friday Ad

Prime Location

News Now

DSS Move

Find a Flat

I Am The Agent

DSS Accepted

Easy Roommate

House Pals


Estate Agents that sometimes work with Landlords that accept Universal Credit or Housing Benefit payments:


RI Properties

60 Grove Road, Sutton, SM1 1BT

020 8770 9696

Ideal Properties

020 3252 3090


The Market, Rose Hill, Sutton, SM1 3HE

0208 644 5000

Mann Countrywide

40 High Street, Sutton, SM1 1HF

020 3151 4331

Your Move

51A Woodcote Road, Wallington, SM6 0LT

020 8647 1066

Patricia Shepherd

280 High Street, Sutton, SM1 1PG

020 8255 5526

Jackson Property Services

82-84 South End Croydon CR0 1DQ

020 8686 6667

Top Move Estate Agents

39 Whitehorse Road Croydon CR0 2JG

020 8683 0012

James Chiltern

182 London Road Croydon CR0 2TE

020 8681 8133


41-43 Brighton Road Croydon CR2 6EB 020 8680 1414


83-85 High Street Croydon

020 8680 8585

Warren Hamilton

101 S End, Croydon CR0 1BG

020 8680 9846

Property Options

9 Station Road, South Norwood, SE25 5AH

0208 7719100