How do I look for a private rented property?

If you are at risk of homelessness, then you should be looking for new private rental accommodation.

Most families choose to rent privately because:

  • it avoids spending years in single room temporary accommodation
  • it gives you a degree of choice over the location of your new home
  • it gives you more choice over the type of property, including in some areas of the country houses with gardens

When looking for a private rental there are several steps you should follow.

Step 1 – property size

If you require help with your housing costs from state benefits then you need to know the number of bedrooms which you are eligible for in your benefit claim. 

The property size you need is based on the age and gender of your household members. Find out how many bedrooms you need by entering your household details into the bedroom calculator:

Bedroom calculator

Please note this may be different to the number of bedrooms you currently have.

Step 2 – rent charge

You need to know how much rent will be eligible in your benefit claims. This is called the LHA rate. 

The local housing allowance rate (LHA) is set by the Government and is the maximum amount that you can claim towards your rent via housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit. 

You can find out the LHA rate by entering the postcode of the area you are looking at.

The LHA rates vary in different localities – so if you change your search area you will need to recheck the LHA rate. 

The rates are listed by number of bedrooms, so use the bedroom need rate that you looked up at step 1.

Step 3 – areas to look in

You can look in any area that you want to live in. However, it is extremely difficult to find properties at LHA rates in Hackney and Central London.

We recommend that you look at areas in outer London and outside London, as you will be able to find better quality and more affordable properties.  

Step 4 – finding a landlord / agent

A good starting point is to search for property rental websites on Google, or other search engines. 

It is also worth looking at:

  • shop window advertisements
  • high street agencies

Step 5 – arrange a viewing

It is important that you view the property to find out if it is suitable for you. Contact the landlord / agent and arrange a date and time to view the property.

There are many people looking for properties, so the quicker you can arrange the viewing the more chance you have of being successful.  

Step 6 – contact the Council 

The Council can negotiate with landlords / agents on your behalf, and may be able to help you secure the property. 

If you decide to look for privately rented accommodation, the Council may be able to provide the following assistance:

  • one month rent in advance
  • security deposit paid
  • landlord compliancy check
  • longest possible tenancy terms
  • pre-inspection of the property
  • practical and financial help with removals
  • transport costs for viewing and moving it outside of London
  • financial assistance to provide white goods if they are not provided by the landlord

Need help?

Found a property you can afford but need help to secure the letting? 

Fill out this form and we’ll get back to you. 

Ask for help

Please note

  • not all landlords/agents accept benefit claimants – you will need to check
  • if you can meet the landlord’s / agent’s requirements without the Council’s help you can go ahead without getting in contact with us
  • a landlord or agent shouldn’t ask you to pay any fees. If they do please contact the local Council’s trading standards team
  • if you are in any doubt get in touch with us
Page updated on: 10 August 2021