Landlords / agents usually ask for the equivalent of one month's rent in advance. If you are on income support you may be able to get money from the Social Fund by applying to Jobcentre Plus for a Crisis Loan, although they will need definite confirmation that you have the deposit covered. However, you should realise that these loans are often hard to obtain.
Some agents may also require fees for referencing, to draft a tenancy agreement and general administration. These fees can only be charged if the agents have found accommodation for you. It is illegal for agencies to charge for registration only.
Housing Benefit and the Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
Housing benefit is given to people to help pay their rent. It is a means tested benefit so the more income or savings that you have, the less benefit you will be entitled to receive. If you are working, but in receipt of a low income, you can still claim housing benefit and your claim will be assessed on your total income. You need to be aware, however, that even the maximum amount of benefit may not be the same as the rent you pay to your landlord. In these cases and in those where you are not entitled to the maximum amount due to your income, you will need to ensure that you "top up" your housing benefit payments from your own money or else you will fall into rent arrears and face eviction. You can calculate what benefit you would be entitled to here www.walsall.gov.uk/benefits_calculator
. Those in receipt of means tested benefits (Income Support or Job Seeker's Allowance) are generally entitled to the maximum amount of housing benefit.
From April 2008, the Government changed the way that it assessed the maximum amount of any housing benefit entitlement. From this date, the maximum amount of benefit will be based strictly on your family size and not on the property that you rent. You will need to work out your own family's Local Housing Allowance www.walsall.gov.uk/index/community_and_living/benefits.htm
and use this to find a property with a similar rental figure on the open market. The LHA figures are advertised on the Council's website www.walsall.gov.uk/index/community_and_living/benefits/local_housing_allowance.htm
and are updated monthly to take account of market trends. The amount you will receive will be based on the date that you claim.
To work out your individual LHA, you need to calculate how many bedrooms you and your family need under the housing benefit rules. One bedroom is required for each of the following:
Someone who is 16 or over
Two children of the same sex until they are 16
Two children, regardless of their gender, if they are under 10
A child (someone under 16)
Each person is only counted once, in the first group that they would come into.
If you live in one room and share some facilities (eg kitchen or bathroom) with other people, there is a special LHA rate. If you are under 25 and live on your own, you will also receive this rate.
If you are unsure about which rate applies to you, please ask as it is vitally important that you understand how much your LHA rate is so that you can assess whether a tenancy is affordable for you. Remember, before you take on a tenancy you need to be sure that you can meet your rent commitment.
When viewing, check that it is secure and that heating, lighting and plumbing are all working. Check the terms of the tenancy agreement and read it carefully before signing. You may want to get advice before taking up accommodation try to get as much information as possible before viewing it.
Check the terms of the tenancy agreement and read it carefully before signing. You may want to get advice before signing it. Depending on the accommodation, verbal agreements may be as legally binding as written ones. Get an inventory of the contents and condition of the property. Both the landlord / agent and tenant should sign this. Check who is responsible for paying the bills and repairs.
Housing Advisors 01922 653405