Richmond.gov.uk

I’m a Ukrainian looking for private rented accommodation

We understand that looking for private rented accommodation can be challenging. It is important to be realistic about what you are prepared to accept and what is financially viable for you to be able to afford. 

If you are in receipt of benefits including housing benefit, it is possible to find private rented accommodation. With recent changes in the law, landlords and estate agents are no longer able to operate a blanket 'no benefits' policy in respect of prospective tenants who may be in receipt of all or part benefits. Landlords and estate agents are expected to look at each prospective tenant's circumstances on a case-by-case basis when deciding who to rent their property to.

On this page:

Benefits and financial support you can get

Find out what help is available for those that would like to rent a property:

If you are under 35 years old and eligible for benefits

If you are under 35 years old and eligible for benefits, you will only normally be eligible for housing benefit equivalent to the cost of a room rented in a shared house. You may be exempt from this if:

  • You are in receipt of PIP Daily Living or DLA Care
  • You require access to an extra bedroom for the use of a non-resident carer, providing overnight care
  • You are a care leaver between the ages 18-21 and you were in care at the age of 16
  • You are aged 25-34 and you have spent at least three months – which do not need to have been continuous – in a homeless hostel/hostels, specialising in rehabilitating and resettling within the community
  • You are an ex-offender who presents a risk of serious harm to the public and are subject to active multi-agency risk management under the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) to be rehabilitated back into the community

Local Assistance Scheme grant

You may be entitled to a local assistance scheme grant if you are a resident of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and you are in receipt of welfare benefits. This grant can be used for essential household items e.g. a cooker or bed or as a crisis payment. To see whether you meet the application criteria and then apply, visit Local Assistance Scheme grant.

Housing benefit

If you are a single person under the age of 35, it is likely that you will only be eligible to receive housing benefit to cover the average cost of a room in a shared property. 

When assessing your eligibility for housing benefits, the benefits agency will look at your circumstances.

Your personal and financial circumstances:

  • Money you and your partner have coming in – earnings, some benefits, tax credits and occupational pensions;
  • Your savings and any savings your partner has; and
  • Your circumstances (age, size of family, disability, whether anyone living with you should help with the rent)

The particulars of your home and the rent you pay:

  • Is the rent reasonable for your particular home if you rent privately?
  • Is your home a reasonable size for you and your family?
  • Is the amount of rent reasonable for the area where you live?

Housing benefit will not usually be paid if:

  • You have savings of over £16,000, unless you are aged 60 or over and getting the ‘guarantee credit’ of Pension Credit;
  • You live with a close relative in their home;
  • You are a full-time student (unless you are disabled or have children);
  • You are an asylum seeker or are sponsored to be in the UK; or
  • You do not meet the right to reside or the habitual residence test.

Housing benefit will not affect any other benefits you get.

Government changes to your benefits

As you may be aware, it is possible that your benefits may be capped once you start receiving housing benefit depending on your personal circumstances and how much you already receive in benefits from the government. It is important that you bear this in mind when looking for a property.

The cheaper the rent is on the property you find the less likely you will be affected by the cap.

Universal Credit 

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It is paid monthly. You may be able to get it if you are on a low income, out of work or you cannot work.

View Universal Credit for more information on how to claim and eligibility. 

Use a benefits calculator to see how much you could get.

Advance payments

You should ask for an advanced payment if you don't think you will have enough money to live on between when you apply and when you get your first payment.

If needed, you should ask for an advanced payment at your face-to-face Jobcentre Plus interview. If you have already had your interview you can call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 3289 344 or 08003281344 (calls are free).

You could receive up to 100% of your Universal Credit entitlement. Once DWP have agreed to an advance payment you should get the money within three working days.

The full amount of universal credit you will receive thereafter will be reduced until the advance payment has been fully paid off – this should take up to 12 months.

Benefit cap

The benefit cap limits the amount a working age person can get from welfare benefits.

These limits apply if you live in a Greater London Borough.

Couple (with or without children) or a single parent:

  • £442.31 per week (£1916.68 per month)

Single person without children or not living with your children:

  • £296.35 per week (£1284.18 per month)

The cap applies to the benefits you get as a household. It includes benefits received by you, your partner and any dependent children who live with you.

Exemptions if you are working

The benefit cap does not apply to you or your partner if:

  • You receive working tax credits
  • You work enough hours to claim working tax credits

Exemptions if you claim certain benefits

You are exempt from the benefit cap if you, your partner or children receive any of these benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • Support component of employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Industrial injuries benefits
  • War widows' or war widowers' pension
  • Carer's allowance
  • Carer’s element of universal credit
  • Guardian's allowance

What to do if you are benefit capped

If you have received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions stating you may be affected, you should follow the advice given within the letter detailing how you can gain further advice and support, in particular regarding assistance with job search.

Contact the Housing Benefit team 

The Housing Benefit team is able to give advice about how and why your household is affected by the cap and can discuss possible options for those suffering a loss in their benefit.

Email: benefits@richmond.gov.uk

Try to find work

Work with your Jobcentre work coach to find employment which pays £520 net per month (if on UC) or 16 hours per week if receiving JSA.

If you lose your job through no fault of your own, the benefit cap won't apply for the first 39 weeks of your claim. You must have been employed for 50 out of the last 52 weeks

If you are unable to work due to illness or disability:

  • Apply for DLA, PIP or ESA (you must be entitled to the Support component of ESA to be exempt from the benefit cap
  • Ask for GP to assess ability to work and if required provide ‘Not Fit to Work Certificate’

Cover your housing costs

If you are receiving Housing Benefit or housing element of Universal Credit apply for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to cover the shortfall between your capped benefit entitlement and your rent costs.

For more information contact the Housing Benefits team at benefits@richmond.gov.uk

Housing cost contributions (non-dependent charges)

For housing benefit recipients where a non-dependent is part of their household, a reduction to the housing benefit total would be made based on each non-dependent’s income.

Exemptions from non-dependent reductions include recipients of PIP, DLA and Carer’s Allowance.

Note: For Universal Credit recipients, a flat rate of £70.06 will be taken off the housing cost element per non-dependent in the household.

View further information on the benefit cap.

Searching for a property

You can find adverts for properties to rent in newspapers and in shop windows and on 'for rent' boards. Landlords also let their properties through letting agencies who will find a tenant on their behalf. You can find details of local letting agencies in the Yellow pages or Thompson Local directory.

Bear in mind that letting agencies are likely to charge a fee for their services when you have accepted a property with them which can add up to be quite costly. They cannot however make a charge to you for just registering with them.

Read the government's guide how to rent for more information on finding and renting a home.

Websites

You can find properties or rooms to rent by checking websites, such as:

Newspapers

A lot of people find accommodation through newspapers. Places go quickly so it is important to start early and follow up the advert as soon as possible.

You might want to try the following:

  • The Evening Standard: Daily paper with a London wide accommodation section. Wednesday in particular has a large section
  • London Lets: Wednesday only, for accommodation throughout London

Arranging to view properties

When you have found a property you are interested in, you will need to arrange to go and see if you like it. As a safety precaution, it is a good idea to get a friend to go with you on the viewing and to also let someone know where you are going. When you get to the property you should make sure the property is in a good state of repair, that it is secure and all of the heating, lighting and plumbing works. If you are going to be sharing a property with other people, it's a good idea to try to meet them to see if you will get along with them.

Usually private rented properties are available straight away, so try to be prepared to move in or start paying the rent quickly, or you might be able to get the landlord to hold the property for you for a short while. As some properties may be popular, it is always useful to be organised and if you like it, be ready to make a decision.

Remember, the viewing is not just for you to see if you like the property, the landlord will also be seeing if they think you will be a good tenant, so its important to make a good impression.

Also, do not part with money for fees, deposit or rent in advance without getting a signed and dated receipt with the name, address and telephone number of the owner or agent that you are dealing with.

How much it costs to rent

Rents can vary greatly depending on the type of property and its location. If you rent privately and are on a low income you may be able to claim housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit to help you pay your rent. In April 2008 a new way of calculating housing benefit was introduced called Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

LHA rates were set by the Valuation Office Agency in April 2012 and are normally increased each April by a percentage set by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

LHA rate that applies to you will depend on the size of the property you need and the area where you live.

You must check that a property is affordable before you arrange a viewing. You do this on the LHA website. Here you can check how much housing benefit would pay for a property based on postcode or borough. It is best to get the postcode to check as some boroughs will have more than one rent level. When using the website you enter the number of bedrooms you are entitled to (not the size of the property) and the post code or borough. 

If you have found a property and it is too expensive based on the figure you get then you must look for something cheaper. You will apply for housing benefit in the borough you are moving to so make sure you find out how to apply as each borough varies.

Find out the LHA rate for your property or a property you are thinking of renting.

If you are still unsure about how much housing benefit you would be entitled to you can speak to the Homelessness Prevention and Solutions Team on 0208 891 7409.

I do not have a deposit/rent in advance

Sometimes the greatest challenge in renting privately can be having the rent in advance and deposits needed. Most private landlords require a deposit, usually equivalent to one month's rent before letting a room or a property.

A deposit is returnable and will be given back to you when you leave the property, unless there is any damage other than the usual wear and tear. In addition to a deposit, landlords sometimes require rent in advance. You may be able to take out a short term loan from friends or family to help pay for rent in advance/deposit or contact the local benefits agency to find out what they may be able to offer in the form of a budgeting loan.

Budgeting loan

If you are receiving benefits and can't afford to pay the rent in advance, you may be able to apply for a loan to help you with this. The type of loan you can apply for will depend on what benefit you receive.

To qualify for a budgeting loan, you or your partner must have been receiving income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance for at least 26 weeks.

You can make an application for a budgeting loan at your local Jobcentre Plus.

Claim forms are available online on GOV.UK website.

Budgeting advance

To qualify for a budgeting advance, you need to be in receipt of universal credit, and you must have been receiving either universal credit or any of the following benefits continuously for at least six months: income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support or pension credit. You can make an application for a budgeting loan at your local Jobcentre Plus.

Guarantors

You may be asked to provide a guarantor who will sign an agreement that they will take responsibility on your behalf for any tenancy problems, including guaranteeing the rent if you fail to pay it.

Benefit of having a guarantor

A lot of agents will accept people on housing benefit if they have someone who will act as a guarantor. Not many people will have someone in a position to do this but if you do then let agents/landlords know straight away. 

Information you will need to provide

Most landlords or letting agents will want to make formal checks to see if you will be a good tenant. These may include asking for references, making a credit check and they may want to contact your previous landlord.

Your tenancy agreement

When you decide on the property you would like to rent, you will sign and be entering into a legal contract called a tenancy agreement with your landlord. Most private self-contained tenancies are assured shorthold tenancies, and usually last for six months or sometimes a year and can be renewed by you and your landlord at the end of this time.

Your tenancy agreement should give details of:

  • The tenancy start date
  • The length of the tenancy if it is for a fixed period
  • The amount of rent, when it is due and when it may be reviewed or increased
  • What notice is needed from you and the landlord to end the tenancy; and
  • Your and your landlord’s rights and responsibilities

What your new landlord must do

At the start of your new assured shorthold tenancy the landlord must give you:

If your landlord has not provided you with any of the above and is in the process of evicting you through the courts, this may make the notice you have been served invalid.

Your deposit

Your landlord must also protect your tenancy deposit with a UK government-approved deposit protection scheme and provide you with information about the scheme used.

If your deposit has not been protected in this way or you have not been provided with information about the scheme used this may make it harder for your landlord to evict you as any notice you have been served may be invalid.

There are three scheme providers:

Eviction notices

Private tenants are usually entitled to a written notice to leave their homes. How much notice you get depends on the type of tenancy you have and the reason you are being evicted.

Type of tenancy

Most private tenants are given assured shorthold tenancies, usually for 6 to 12 months. Your deposit must be protected, and you most likely have this kind of tenancy if you are renting a private property where your landlord doesn't live, even if your landlord did not give you a written agreement at any stage prior or during the tenancy. The landlord must give you at least 2 months' notice to leave.

But if you share living accommodation such as a kitchen or bathroom with your landlord, you most likely have a lodger agreement and have the legal status of an excluded occupier. The landlord only has to give you reasonable notice to leave.

If you are unsure about what kind of tenancy you have, or your legal rights as a tenant, please call the Homelessness Prevention and Solutions Team for advice on 0208 891 7409.

As assured shorthold tenancies or AST's are by far the most common type of private tenancy in the UK, the rest of this section will cover the legal rights of such tenants.

Assured shorthold tenants

There are three steps your landlord has to follow to evict you from your private rented home:

  • Step 1 – Valid notice,
  • Step 2 – Possession order from the courts, and
  • Step 3 – Bailiff warrant.

Step 1 – Valid notice

section 21 notice (also sometimes referred to as a Notice Requiring Possession) is the most commonly used way to begin the three-step eviction process for renters with an assured shorthold tenancy.

If you are given a section 21 notice, you do not have to leave immediately but your landlord does not have to give you a reason for wanting you to leave.

Note: Landlords may use the section 8 procedure if you have rent arrears exceeding two months or have broken the terms of your tenancy (for example anti-social behaviour, damage to the property or another form of breach of contract). 

When issued with a Section 21 notice it is recommended that you contact Citizens Advice where you will be able to find your local Citizens Advice branch for guidance or a solicitor who will be able to provide you with the relevant legal advice.

When a notice will be valid

There are different rules for how a Section 21 notice must be served depending on whether your tenancy started or was renewed before or after 1 October 2015.

If the section 21 notice isn't valid, your landlord won’t be successful in Step 2 of the eviction process as the court won't make an order for you to be evicted.

Note: You should inform the court if the notice is invalid. This is done by completing and returning the 'defence form' to the court. See Step 2.

Step 2 – Going to court

If you stay in the property after your two months' notice has ended, your landlord must apply to court for a possession order to get the property back.

If the section 21 notice is valid (see requirements in Step 1 above) your landlord will usually be granted the order by the court as they do not need to give a reason to evict you.

If the section 21 notice isn't valid you can challenge the eviction.

How to challenge the eviction

When your landlord applies to the court for a possession order the court will send you a defence form.

Use this form to reply to the court and explain why your landlord can't use the section 21 notice to evict you (see reasons for a notice to be invalid above in step 1).

You have 14 days to send your defence form to the court. If you don't, the case can be dealt with using the accelerated possession procedure. This allows the court to grant your landlord a possession order without a hearing.

You can delay the eviction by asking for an extension to stay up to 42 days longer. This is only granted in exceptional circumstances. Use the defence form to request this.

If you complete and return a defence from within the 14 days, the court will arrange a hearing. At the court hearing you will have the chance to put forward your case. The judge won't grant a possession order if, after considering your position and the law, you didn’t receive a section 21 notice or it is invalid. Otherwise the court will give you a date to leave.

Step 3 – Bailiffs

When a landlord is granted a possession order, the court sets a date for you to leave. This will be the expiry date on the possession order document granted by the court.

If you stay beyond this date, your landlord can ask the court to send a bailiff to evict you.

Even once the possession order has expired, your landlord cannot evict you himself. Only a court bailiff can evict you from your home.

The court will send you a letter to let you know that the bailiffs are coming. This letter will have a time and date where you will have to have left your property by.

If you remain in the property until this date, please ensure that you and your belongings are out of the property by this time. The bailiffs can remove you and your belongings from the property but must not use force.

Note: If you are unsure of any of the eviction steps, please don't hesitate to contact the Homelessness Prevention and Solutions Team on 0208 891 7409.

Up to: Ukraine

Updated: 14 October 2022

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