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FAQs about private renting | Sandwell Council

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FAQs about private renting

If you are renting (or thinking about renting) from a private landlord this page details frequently asked questions about renting privately.

What is a private landlord?

Some properties are owned by private individuals who then rent (or let) them out to people who are looking for somewhere to live. These are called private landlords and their properties are privately rented properties.

How does renting from a private landlord differ from renting council or housing association properties?

These properties differ from council or housing association properties in that they are usually individual houses or flats, or houses turned into flats, not whole blocks or rows of houses.

The rents may be higher than council or housing association rents and are often requested on a monthly basis. If you are claiming Housing Benefit you may need to top up your benefit to meet the rent.

The private landlord may also ask for a deposit (usually one months rent) to guard against breakages and he/she may also ask for rent in advance. Any deposit the landlord takes must be registered with a government approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Some landlords may also ask for a reference fee as well.

What type of tenancy will a private landlord grant?

Private tenancies are usually let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) which last for six months. At the end of six months the tenancy can either be renewed or ended. At the end of the tenancy if the landlord wants to terminate the agreement he/she must give the tenant two months notice by serving a 'Section 21 notice'. If the tenant wants to leave the property they have to give one months notice.

As a private tenant who will I contact about any issues regarding my tenancy?

Sometimes private landlords use letting or managing agents to either let and/or look after their properties. Depending upon the arrangements in place tenants may either contact the managing agent or the individual private landlord.

If you do use an agent remember they can charge you for services such as writing letters or drawing up agreements on your behalf.

What should I be looking out for when I viewing a property?

Always view as many properties as possible so you can check the quality and suitability. These are some things you should look for and ask when viewing:

Outside the property:

  • Look at the roof to see if it is sound
  • Check that drains and guttering are clear and safe
  • Is the woodwork rotting or unsafe?

Gas and electricity:

  • Are there enough electrical sockets for your use?
  • What type of heating is provided and is it right for you?
  • Is there a cooker and does it work?
  • Ask the Landlord to provide a current, dated Gas and Electric Safety Certificate.

Plumbing:

  • Check if the plumbing works
  • Try the thermostats
  • Flush the toilet to check for leaks
  • Run the hot tap to see how hot the water is.

Safety:

  • Can you get out of the property easy if there was a fire?
  • Do windows open and close properly?
  • Ensure all doors shut secure.

Do I need a tenancy agreement?

Always insist on a written tenancy agreement as this will detail the landlord and your responsibilities. However, landlords are not legally required to provide one.

Most tenancies are now assured short hold for a minimum of six months; if the landlord wants you to move out then he must give you two months written notice.  He can give you notice during the fixed term but the notice period cannot end before the end of the fixed term ie. six months.

How often will I pay rent?

A written agreement will specify the amount of rent you must pay and whether you will need to pay weekly or monthly. 

If weekly your landlord must provide you with a rent book. If you do not have a formal agreement it is advisable to keep a record of the amount of rent agreed.

Can I get financial help with my rent?

If you are on a low income or benefits you may qualify for housing benefit. In the private rented sector it is called Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and no matter what rent the landlord charges the rent that Housing Benefit will pay you will be based on the LHA rate and the number of rooms your family need.

Who can I contact if things go wrong?

If you are already a private tenant and having difficulties getting the landlord to do essential repairs we may be able to help.

How do I make a complaint about housing conditions where I live?

We investigate and assess poor housing conditions in privately owned or privately rented accommodation.

We can inspect the property and where necessary enforce Housing Law to ensure that the landlord will put things right.  

Complain about housing conditions

Is there any other help and advice available?

The Midlands Landlord Accreditation Scheme (MLAS) recognises reputable landlords and agents who provide tenants with high quality, safe accommodation, you can email them contact@MLAS-online.co.uk.

Homestamp is a partnership giving important advice to tenants and lodgers on finding the right accommodation and how landlords can provide it. "Read This First" is a must read to all new tenants.

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