When looking for a new home you will improve your chances if you look over as wide an area as possible. Restricting your search to a few areas will mean that it will take longer to find somewhere to live.
Do I need a guarantor?
A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay your rent if you fail to pay. Having a guarantor is not essential, but some landlords and letting agents ask for a guarantor. Having a guarantor will give you access to more properties.
Who landlords will accept as a guarantor varies from landlord to landlord and letting agent to letting agent.
When agents/landlords do want a guarantor, they will often want the guarantor to be a homeowner who is in employment.
Ask friends and family if they can act as a guarantor for you.
There are rent guarantor schemes which will act as a guarantor, for a fee. An example is Rent Guarantor who can assist people on benefits and those in work.
Having pets may severely limit the number of landlords who will accept you as a tenant. Some landlords are happy to accept pets, some will ask you to sign an additional agreement, making you liable for paying for extra cleaning at the end of the tenancy and for the need to keep your pet under control.
LetswithPets gives advice on finding a property if you have a pet and a list of websites that allow you to filter for pet-friendly tenancies.
Do I need a reference?
Some landlords and letting agents will ask for a reference from a previous landlord and some will do credit checks before offering you a tenancy.
If you have a history of rent arrears or a poor credit history; for example, debts or County Court Judgements this may limit your choice of properties. However, private rented accommodation can still be found if you look in the right places. You will have a better chance of finding somewhere to live if you look for accommodation in places where landlords advertise directly rather than through letting agents.
Where to look for accommodation
Having internet access makes finding accommodation much easier but is not essential.
Many libraries offer free internet access. For computer access in libraries in East Sussex you need to book a session – tel: 0345 60 80 196
You can search for accommodation on the following websites:
To search for rooms in shared houses, there are a number of websites including:
The Councils’ companies have a number of private sector properties available to rent, these are advertised on Homes First Lettings.
Other places to search for somewhere to live include:
- Facebook Marketplace – properties to rent;
- Ask friends who are currently renting if their landlord or letting agent has places to rent;
- Ask friends and family if you can stay with them, or if they know somewhere you can stay.
There are a number of letting agents covering Eastbourne and Lewes district. They can be found by searching online.
Letting agents cannot refuse to consider someone just because they are on benefits.
What can a landlord or letting agent charge for?
The only payments that landlords or letting agents can charge for are:
- A refundable deposit equivalent to no more than 5 weeks’ rent.
- A refundable holding deposit of no more than 1 week’s rent
- Payment for ending the tenancy early
- Payments for utilities (gas, electricity and water), TV licence, phone, internet and Council Tax
- A charge (set out in the tenancy agreement) for late rent payments or replacing a key.
Landlords and letting agents cannot charge you for anything else such as:
- Registering with them
- Producing a tenancy agreement
Scam adverts – Beware!
Most adverts for properties to rent are genuine, but scams exist. Fraudulent landlords may post adverts for properties that look attractive and cheap. However, they may not own the property and ask for money before letting you see the property. Never pay money to a landlord or agent before seeing the property. Avoid making payments through money transfer companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram.
What to look for when considering renting a property
- Is the rent affordable?
- How long is the tenancy agreement for? Most are either six months or one year. If it is a one-year tenancy, will you have to pay if you want to leave before the end of the year?
- Is the property in good condition?
- How is the property heated? Make sure that you will be able to afford to heat the property in the winter.
- If you rely on public transport, is it near buses or a train station?
Before you move in:
There are a number of things that the landlord must give you before you move in:
- Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The EPC gives you information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs.
- Valid Gas safety certificate (if the property has gas)
- Valid electrical condition (EICR) certificate
- A copy of the How to Rent Guide
- Is the tenancy to be let furnished or unfurnished?
- Once you have signed up for the tenancy you will need to arrange to have the bills that are not included in the tenancy put into your name, for example, electricity, gas, water rates and Council Tax. Take meter readings for all the utilities.
- The landlord is required to carry out a ‘right to rent check’ they will need proof of your immigration status, showing that you have a right to live in this country. For more information and details of what documents are acceptable see Landlord's guide to right to rent checks.
- If the accommodation is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) your landlord may need to have a licence to let the accommodation.
Negotiating the amount of rent
You may be able to negotiate the amount of rent with the landlord and get a small reduction in the rent.
A tenancy agreement does not have to be in writing, but most landlords and agents will give you a written tenancy agreement to sign. Read the tenancy agreement and make sure you are happy with it.
When you sign up for a fixed-term tenancy (for example a 6-month or 1-year tenancy) you will normally be liable for the rent during the whole period of the tenancy, even if you leave early; unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise.
An inventory is a list of the items that are included with the tenancy, for example oven, washing machine and furniture. It will also usually include a description and/or photos to show the condition of the property and furniture.
Not all landlords use an inventory, but if there is an inventory, check that it is accurate. The landlord may deduct money from your deposit to pay for any items that are missing at the end of the tenancy, or for any damage.