Renting from a private landlord
For more information about renting and your rights, go to www.gov.uk and search for ‘how to rent’ for a guide to renting. Landlords must now give a copy of this booklet to new tenants.
See also A place of your own, which has information about bonds, bills and benefits, and who to go to if you have problems with where you live.
In York, accommodation is in high demand and therefore usually expensive. Lodging with someone (where you live with your landlord or share living space with them) can be more ‘friendly’, though as a lodger you have fewer rights than as a tenant.
You will usually have to pay rent in advance and a bond / deposit (money that you get back at the end of the tenancy if nothing is damaged or missing). The landlord must pay this into a ‘Tenancy Deposit Scheme‘ – although this doesn’t apply to resident landlords. If you cannot afford what they ask, try negotiating with what money you have. It’s probably better to do this face to face so they can meet you rather than on the phone.
The Council’s Housing Options Team at the Customer Centre have a Bond Guarantee Scheme. They can help people who are on benefits or a low income to get private rented accommodation by guaranteeing the bond/deposit to the landlord (this is not paid as cash, but is a written guarantee promising to pay if needed). They can also pay rent in advance to secure the tenancy. You will need to get housing advice first, and give proof of your income etc. See here for who can help with housing options advice.
If you rent a self contained flat/house, or room in a shared house (not as a lodger), you should be given an ‘Assured Shorthold Tenancy’ from your landlord. Even if you are not given anything in writing, you still have legal rights as well as responsibilities. See here.
Where to look for accommodation
Thursday’s The Press Property supplement carries adverts from letting agencies. Also at yorkpress.co.uk/homes/homes_for_rent. These include rooms in shared houses, flats and houses.
Adverts also on yorproperty.co.uk; where shared landlords must have Council accreditation to advertise.
For online ads try: gumtree.com/york or spareroom.co.uk or rightmove.co.uk and zoopla.co.uk/to-rent. They are free sites and can be used to look for rented property in York and elsewhere. Gumtree and spareroom are best for shared accommodation – look under ‘property/to share/offered’ on gumtree. Rightmove and zoopla advertise mostly flats and houses. Rightmove have several ‘rental guides‘ which can be useful for first time renters.
Letting agencies / estate agents – these are private companies, used by landlords to rent out property on their behalf. They will want to check references – e.g. a credit reference and job reference – and will charge you a non-refundable fee of approximately £100–130 per person to do this. Letting agents must advertise any fees. Some letting agencies also let rooms in shared houses – others just deal with tenancies for flats and houses. It is difficult (though not impossible) to rent through a letting agency if you are not in work and haven’t the money for a deposit and rent in advance. They will sometimes accept a ‘bond guarantee’ from the Council (see above).
You should also look for adverts in post offices, local shops etc. and ask friends and family to ask around for you.
There is always a danger with any advert for accommodation that it is a scam. Never hand over money for a place you have not seen in person, and without getting a receipt. If in doubt, don’t take it any further and report it to the police. When viewing any property, think about your safety; for example take someone with you, and if you can’t, make sure someone knows where you are going and what time to expect you to check back with them.