Assistance for private tenants and leaseholders

Finding a place to live can be hard in London - it is expensive and there can be lots of competition for flats. Below are some tips on where to find accommodation and also what do to if you are having problems with your landlord.

1. Accommodation agencies and letting agents

Before accepting a flat or handing over any money, ask the agency if it charges for:

  • finding a place, tenancy agreements and inventories
  • collecting the rent
  • renewing your tenancy agreement when the initial contract ends
  • administration costs

It's illegal for letting agents to charge for taking your details or giving you a list of properties that are available for rent. They can only charge you once you are offered a place and formally agree to take it.

2. Financial assistance

The cost of living in central London is outside most budgets. You should be flexible and consider accommodation in the outer parts of London, which is often cheaper.

The Social Fund

Most landlords ask for a deposit plus one month's rent in advance. If you have been claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) for at least 26 weeks, then you could apply for a loan from the Social Fund to help you raise this money. Each loan assessment is calculated according to your current circumstances, and is not guaranteed. You have to pay the money back out of your benefits. For more information on the Social Fund, contact your local benefits office and ask for an SF500 form.

Crisis SmartMove

Crisis SmartMove helps homeless or vulnerably housed people to access homes in the private rented sector by offering landlords a guarantee in place of a cash deposit. Tenants are offered ongoing support, including befriending support, and advice.

Crisis Loan

You must be at least 16 years old to apply for a crisis loan. You don't have to be claiming benefits, but must show that your health and safety would be at risk if you don't get a loan. If you have more than £500 in savings, or £1,000 if you or your partner is over 60, you are less likely to get a loan. If you have already borrowed from the social fund and have not paid back what you borrowed last time, it will affect the amount you can get now.

Charitable assistance

Charities offering financial assistance

3. Rent

Housing Benefit is available to help people who are struggling with their rent. It is very likely that you are eligible for Housing Benefit if you are on other benefits or on low income, and your rent is within the market value. However, you may not be eligible if:

  • you have more than £16,000 in savings
  • you are a full time student
  • you are 16 or 17 years old
  • you pay rent to a friend or relative that you live with
  • you are only allowed to live in the UK on condition that you have 'no recourse to public funds'

Check roughly how much Housing Benefit can pay towards your rent.

Housing Benefit can be paid directly to the person applying as long as they are not in past/current rent arrears. It can also be paid straight to your landlord.

4. Local Housing Allowance

The best way to check whether the amount of rent amount the landlord wants is reasonable, is to find out what the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) amount is. The LHA amount that applies to you is the maximum Housing Benefit you will be allowed to have for the property size you need.

Use the check button below - you'll be offered a search box from which you should select "City of Westminster" ("Westminster" is not listed). The site also explains the number of rooms that are used to decide LHA.

Check your Local Housing Allowance

Find out about shared accommodation rates for single people aged from 25 to 34

You will need to find out the LHA rate for the area in which you are looking for a property. The rates will be available from Housing Benefit offices.

You need to work out how many bedrooms you and the people living with you need.

Number of rooms

One bedroom for each of the following:

  • a couple
  • someone who is 16 or over
  • two children of the same sex until they are 16
  • a child (someone under 16)

Each person is only counted once, in the first group that they would come into.

For people living in one room and sharing facilities (ie kitchen/bathroom) there is a special LHA rate. If you are under 35 and live on your own, you will also receive this rate.

To get more information on LHA, telephone us on 0800 072 0042, or you can download a leaflet. 

Safeguard Policy

The Council has developed a policy to safeguard the position of LHA recipients who may have difficulty in handling their own financial affairs. In some limited circumstances payment of LHA can be made to the landlord. The policy document attached below will tell you more.

Publications

Payment of LHA

As mentioned LHA will normally be paid to the claimant. This will mean that you must have a bank account. For more information on basic bank accounts visit the Financial Services Authority website or you can pick up a leaflet from one of the Council's Benefit offices.

5. Landlord problems

We have specialist officers who can help you if:

  • your landlord wants to end your tenancy or lease
  • your landlord claims you owe rent or wants to put your rent up
  • your landlord will not do repairs or refuses to give you your deposit back
  • you are behind with your payments
  • your landlord wants you to move out of your home for a while so that it can be repaired or refurbished

We enforce certain laws protecting Westminster residents and can take action if:

  • you are unlawfully harassed or evicted from your home
  • your landlord or the agent refuses to give you your landlord's name and address
  • you pay a variable service charge and your landlord fails, when asked, to supply you with a summary of costs in relation to service charges or a details of the insurance cover for the building, or fails to let you inspect any documents used to produce the summary of costs
  • your rent is payable weekly and your landlord refuses to give you a rent book
  • an accommodation agency asks you for money before finding you a home

​Contact the Housing Options team for an informal chat.


Last updated: 31 March 2016
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