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

​If you are looking for a place to live from an agency consider what charges are being asked of you. It can be difficult to find a good deal so before accepting a property 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 is a good idea to shop around in order to find the best deal.

It is 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. For more information, please contact the Housing Solutions team.

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.

Local Support payments

Local support payments can help with costs associated with moving home. For example to cover rent in advance and deposit or to pay for furniture and white goods. Cash payments are not available. Rent in advance and deposit would be made direct to the landlord and either good quality second hand furniture and white goods or store vouchers for specific goods are provided. To be eligible for local support payment you must either be moving to new accommodation in Westminster or to accommodation outside the borough that Westminster Council has arranged. You must also be receiving a qualifying welfare benefit. Applications for local support payments are made online and there is more information on the Council’s Apply for local support payments page

3. Local Housing Allowance

Local housing allowance (LHA) sets the maximum amount of rent that can be paid through housing benefit and universal credit. The best way to check whether the amount of rent the landlord wants is reasonable, is to find out what the LHA rate is. The LHA amount that applies to you is the maximum you can receive as housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit. The rate depends on the location of the property you are renting and the number of bedrooms 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). If you are looking for accommodation outside of Westminster then select a different local authority and if you are looking at a specific property use the postcode search facility.

The site also has a LHA Bedroom Calculator to explain the number of rooms that are used to decide LHA. The number of bedrooms depends on how many people live in your household and the age and sex of any children. For example, one bedroom is allowed for two children of the same sex up to the age of 16 but two children of the opposite sex are eligible for their own room from the age of 10.

For single people and couples without children the shared accommodation rate of LHA can apply. This is a lower rate based on the cost of a single room in shared accommodation. If you are single and aged under 35 the shared accommodation rate will apply regardless of the type of accommodation you live in. If you are either single and aged 35 and over or a couple with no children, the LHA rate depends on the type of accommodation you have: if you live in self-contained accommodation the one-bedroom LHA applies but if you live in a single room with shared kitchen and bathroom the shared accommodation LHA rate applies.

Check your Local Housing Allowance

Housing benefit and the housing element of universal credit will normally be paid to the tenant making the claim. This will mean that you must have a bank account. For more information on basic bank accounts visit the Financial Services Authority website. If you think you will have difficulty managing rent payments you must make this clear when making a claim for either housing benefit or universal credit.

4. 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 require information about your service charges
  • 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 Solutions team for an informal chat.

Last updated: 1 February 2019