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Finding a home to rent

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You’II need to consider a number of things when you’re looking for a home to rent. For example whether to rent from a landlord or letting agent and the best way to search for a property.

You also need to think about what questions to ask your landlord or letting agent so you don’t lose money.

Different steps will need to be followed if you want to rent from the Housing Executive or housing association.

It can be difficult to get the money needed to rent a property. If you’re on a low income you might be able to get help with renting costs.

Deciding whether to rent from a landlord or letting agent

Whether it's better for you to rent from a landlord or letting agent will depend on your budget and needs. Each option has pros and cons.

If you rent directly from a landlord:

  • you might pay less upfront costs - you won't have to pay fees which letting agents charge
  • you might not have to give so many references
  • your landlord might not insist on doing a credit check

If you rent from a letting agent you can:

  • tell the letting agent if repairs need doing (if they manage the property) - they'll speak to the landlord and arrange the repairs for you
  • complain to an independent complaints body if you're not happy with their service
  • get advice about the local area 

Searching for a property

The quickest way to find a property is online, on property search websites. You can easily search for the exact area you want and arrange viewings on websites.

If it’s hard for you to look for a property online you could visit local estate agents. It’s also worth asking friends and family and checking local noticeboards and newspapers.

When you’re looking for a home don’t pay any money without seeing the property first.

Don't rent a property directly from an existing tenant. This is called ‘subletting’ - the tenant might not have the landlord’s permission to rent to you.

If a tenant is just showing you the property on behalf of the landlord they should give you the landlord's details.

Get more subletting advice to help you avoid problems on the Housing Rights website. 

Take someone with you when visiting properties, if you can. It’s safer and they can help you make a decision.

If you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit

Not all landlords and letting agents will let you rent from them if you get Housing Benefit or housing costs payments through Universal Credit.

You only need to tell your landlord or letting agent you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit if they ask.

You might be able to get a landlord or letting agent to accept you by giving extra references. You could ask more than one of your previous landlords to give you a reference that says your rent was always paid on time.

You could also get a guarantor to help you get accepted. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay the rent if you don’t.

Questions to ask your landlord or letting agent

To make sure the property you're going to rent is safe and affordable you should ask:

  • how much rent you'll have to pay and how it should be paid
  • if your rent includes any bills
  • how long you can rent for - including whether you'll be able to renew your tenancy or end it early
  • if you need to make payments before you move in - for example if you need to pay rent in advance or fees if you rent from a letting agent
  • how your tenancy deposit will be protected

You might have to agree to meet certain conditions or rules when you rent a property. For example you might not be allowed to smoke or keep pets. Make sure you ask about any conditions before you agree to take a property.

Ask if the property is registered

Your landlord must be registered with the Landlord Registration Scheme. You should check if they’re registered - the best way to do this is to use the nidirect registration search.

Find out more about safety conditions for shared houses on the nidirect website.

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