Get a privately rented home

How to get a privately rented home

Renting a home privately is the most realistic option for most people.

If you rent privately you can:

  • choose where you want to live
  • find a home with a garden
  • find a ground floor home
  • move into a home quickly

Follow our step-by-step guide to help you to find a good affordable home for you and your family.

  • You have more choice when renting privately. 

    Think about what is important to you such as being near transport or having outside space.

    Work out the size of property suitable for your household. 

    If you intend to claim benefits to support you to pay your rent then check the GOV.UK bedroom calculator to find out how many bedrooms are suitable for your household.

    Bedroom calculator

  • Working out how much you can afford to pay towards your rent will help you to search for the right property.

    Support is available to help you to pay your rent. Working age people can claim Universal Credit to help them to pay their rent. Pensioners are able to claim Housing Benefit to help them to pay their rent.

    The amount of support you receive through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit depends on the area that you choose to live. The maximum amount that you can receive is known as the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate.

    You can check the LHA rate for different areas using the GOV.UK – LHA rate calculator. The LHA rate is designed to reflect the cost of renting in an area so the rate is different in different places. We recommend looking at different areas to learn how much the rate is in different areas. See Local Housing Allowance.

    To understand the costs associated with renting a home we recommend using MoneyHelper’s budget planner to better understand the costs.

    Our online module can help you to find out more about affordability: Private renting affordability – choose “Log in as a guest” to access the module.

  • In Hackney, it’s difficult to find properties priced below the Hackney LHA rate

    In other boroughs and outside of London there are more likely to be properties available at or below the LHA rate for that area. 

    The quickest way to find a property is online via property search websites. You can easily search the area you want and arrange viewings.

    If it’s hard for you to look for a property online you could visit local estate agents. It’s also worth asking friends and family and checking local noticeboards and newspapers.

    Online property search websites:

    (We do not endorse any of these websites. There are other websites available.)

    Our online module can help you to find out more about renting privately: Finding a property – choose “Log in as a guest” to access the module.

  • If you have found a property you want then you should arrange to view the property. 

    There are likely to be other people interested in the same property, so try and arrange a viewing quickly if you can.

    When viewing a property take care of your safety. For example, let a friend or relative know where you are or take someone along with you.

    At a viewing you may want to ask:

    • if the property comes furnished or unfurnished
    • if you are allowed to decorate
    • if there have been any problems with the property in the past such as damp or mould

    GOV.UK has produced a useful guide which gives a lot of information about what to check before signing a tenancy: GOV.UK – How to rent: the checklist for renting in England.

    If you decide that you would like to rent the property then let the landlord or agent know. 

    If you like the property but you think the rent is too high you can try to negotiate a lower price with the landlord or agent. Landlords will sometimes reduce the rent if they think you will make a good tenant.

    Some landlords may ask you to pay a holding deposit before you sign the tenancy to reserve the property. Be aware that you may lose a deposit if you later decide that you do not want to rent the property or that it is not suitable or affordable for you. 

    See the housing charity Shelter – guide to holding deposits

  • Before you can sign the tenancy most landlords will insist that you provide them with a deposit and some amount of rent in advance.

    If you have found somewhere with affordable rent, but need help paying a deposit or rent in advance then the following options may be helpful:

    • if you are currently in receipt of Housing Benefit or the Housing element of Universal Credit then you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help you to pay for your deposit and rent in advance. This support is not guaranteed and is at the discretion of the council. You can ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment by applying to the Hackney MoneyHub.
    • if we’ve told you that we owe you a duty as a homeless person or as someone who is threatened with homelessness then you may be able to get help from our Benefits and Homeless Prevention service. The service may be able to help you with:
      • any rent in advance or deposit that you need to obtain the property
      • negotiating the rent with the landlord
      • getting a longer tenancy
      • peace of mind through pre-inspection checks and landlord compliance checks
      • practical and financial help with removals
      • paying for transport costs to view property outside of London
      • obtaining white goods if a property is let unfurnished

    You can speak to your Housing caseworker, or send us your details using the below link and we’ll get back to you.

    Get help to secure the letting of a property

    Before you hand over any money, always ensure the landlord is genuine and never hand over money without a receipt.

  • If you are on a low income and claim benefits then make a claim when you move in, so you get them as quickly as possible.

    If you are working age then claim the Housing element of Universal Credit

    If you are a pensioner make a claim for Housing Benefit.

    If you need help to pay for moving costs and you get Housing Benefit or the Housing element of Universal Credit then you may be able to get help by applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment. This support is not guaranteed. You can ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment by applying to the Hackney Money Hub.

    If you want to decorate your property the Forest Recycling Project sells affordable recycled paint to the public.

Get accommodation as a property guardian

Becoming a property guardian can be an affordable way of living in London.

A property guardian lives in an empty building to protect it. Guardians are responsible for looking after the property by living in it and reporting any maintenance issues.

Buildings can be flats and houses, but are often commercial spaces such as offices, retail units or empty public buildings.

Property guardian companies are mostly aimed at working professionals. We’ve listed a few of the main ones below.

We don’t endorse these companies, or encourage the use of Guardian schemes if other affordable housing options are available. 

It’s important that anyone becoming a property guardian fully understands their rights and responsibilities. See SHELTER – renting rights of property guardians.

Advice for single people under 35

If you’re under 35 and intend to claim Universal Credit to support you to pay your rent then finding an affordable home can be difficult. If you’re single the maximum amount that you can receive towards your rent is restricted. The maximum amount of support you can receive towards your rent more closely matches the cost of a room in a shared property rather than a self-contained property. See local housing allowance explained

We advise, if you’re on a low income and intend to claim Universal Credit to support you, you search for shared accommodation.

If you are homeless or at risk of homelessness, see apply for homeless help

Advice for the LGBT community

If you’re a member of the LGBT community the following organisations can provide specialised support on a range of issues including housing:

  • Albert Kennedy Trust – supports LGBTIQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment to access emergency housing and support
  • The Outside Project – London based organisation supporting the LGBTIQ+ community by providing housing, domestic abuse refuge and support to those in need
  • Tonic Housing – the UK’s first provider of LGBT+ affirmative retirement housing
  • Stonewall Housing – supports thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people in the UK every year who are facing or experiencing homelessness, or living in an unsafe home
  • Micro Rainbow – provides housing to LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers and refugees

Some property searching sites, such as Spareroom, have filters that allow you to search specifically for rooms in LGBT households.

Page updated on: 5 January 2024

Homeless Prevention and Advice


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