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					The Crisis SmartMove guide to finding somewhere to live
Finding somewhere to live in the private rented sector can be a long, painful process. If you follow a few basic rules, it is both easier and more likely to be successful.

Ask yourself:
   Where do I want to live? What kind of accommodation do I want? How much can I afford?

If you intend to apply for Local Housing Allowance (LHA) you must be aware that LHA is based on the number of rooms people are allowed, not how much the rent is. The number of rooms allowed depends on who lives with you. If you are single and under 25 LHA will be restricted to ‘single room rent’ levels intended only to cover the rent for a room in a shared house. To find out how much LHA will pay according to the size of your accommodation you can check your local council’s website.

Where to look
Some advice agencies produce weekly accommodation lists compiled from adverts in shop windows and from information phoned in by landlords. If you go round the local noticeboards you will get to hear of properties first. Local newspapers carry adverts, often from private landlords who will not ask you for agency fees. Accommodation agencies have the greatest range of properties but you need to be certain that they are willing to accept LHA. Some agencies will have nothing to do with LHA whilst others accept it on some properties, and from some tenants, and not from others. Agencies will often ask for fees, usually ask for references and might require a personal guarantor. Ask your friends or your workmates if they know of any properties. Some of the best places are handed down in this way and never get advertised.

Making an appointment
When you see something you are interested in telephone and make an appointment:  Explain where you got the number from  Give your name and ask for the landlord’s name  Ask how much the rent is (do not mention at this stage that you will be on LHA unless the landlord specifically asks)  Ask when the property will be available and how long for  Make an appointment, asking for directions and transport details. It might be sensible to take a friend with you and/or let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.

At the interview:
  Be on time Be clean, smart and tidy (you need to impress on the landlord that you will conform to their expectations)

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Be polite, respectful and assertive – know what you want and hold out for it (or for the best possible alternative) Be prepared to answer questions.

Questions the landlord might ask you:
  What and where was your previous accommodation? Why did you want to leave it? Can you get a reference from your previous landlord? What are your financial circumstances? Are you on benefits? Are you likely to find work? (Landlords are generally conventional and sometimes they prefer that their tenants are looking for work even if not in work at the time) How old are you? Do you have any personal references? How long do you intend to stay? (Normally you will be offered the shortest possible term – six months – but landlords prefer tenants who want to stay longer if possible).

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You need to ask:
       How much is the rent? What does the rent include? (such as bills, service charges and so on) How do you pay for gas and electricity? Are you or the landlord responsible for the water rates? Are you or the landlord responsible for council tax? Is the landlord giving you a written tenancy agreement? Is a deposit required and if so, how much? (Traditionally, the landlord might want a damages deposit, a deposit against unpaid rent and bills, rent in advance or a combination of these. Often they just want some money as an assurance which they can set against losses. Accommodation agencies may also require fees).

It is often possible to get a landlord to waive or reduce these demands. You need to negotiate, knowing that you can offer:    Yourself as a suitable tenant Local Housing Allowance to cover the rent Whatever money you can come up with.

The following are some of the things to check in a property. If it is a shared house:
    How many other people live in the house? (Find out a little bit about them.) Does the landlord live on the premises? (If they do you have a few rights.) Are there any rules about visitors, pets, smoking, alcohol, friends to stay, children? What facilities are there? (kitchen, cooker, fridge, washing machine, telephone, heating and so on)

Furniture:
 Has the house got enough furniture? (Is all the furniture in good condition and does it meet current fire regulations?)

Gas and electricity:
  Does the landlord have an up-to-date gas safety certificate? Do the electric/gas fires work? Does the cooker work?

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Is there staining, sooting or discolouration around the gas fire? Does it burn with a yellow or orange flame? (If so there may be problems) Are there enough electric sockets? Are there any bare wires; worn, perished or broken insulation; broken or damaged sockets or light switches; old type round plug pins? Do lights flicker or switches spark? Is the heating in the house adequate? Are draughts likely to come in through windows and doors? (Unless these can be easily stopped it will be expensive to heat the house during the winter.)

Sanitation and hygiene:
     Have you tried all the taps? Is there hot and cold water? Does the toilet flush or leak? Are there any signs of pests (mouse droppings, slug trails, fleas) in the house? Is there any evidence of mould, damp or dry-rot? Has the landlord painted over the walls?

Decoration:
 Does any decorating need doing? If so, have you agreed anything with the landlord?

Repairs:
    Is any of the woodwork rotting or unsafe? Does the roof look sound? (Have the gutters got plants growing out of them?) Are the drains blocked? If any repairs need doing, has the landlord agreed to do any repairs? Have you got it in writing? (Landlords are less likely to do repairs once you have moved in.)

Safety:
       In the event of a fire, could you escape? Is the escape route ever obstructed by furniture, rubbish, bicycles, for example? Are smoke detectors fitted? (If battery-operated, do they work?) Are there fire extinguishers/fire blankets? Are the fire doors well-fitting and have they got self-closing devices which pull them tightly shut? Are the hall/stair carpets worn or torn? Are the handrails/bannisters loose or unsafe? Are there any missing balustrades? Do you have portable electric, paraffin or calor gas heaters that can be moved near to any material that could catch fire?

Security:
   How secure are the front and back doors and the windows? Do all the ground floor windows have security catches? How secure is your own room’s door?

Finally:
   See if your landlord knows what the neighbours are like Is there access to the garden, if so who’s responsibility is it? Do you like the area the house is in?

Check all of these things. You want a safe, secure and practical place to live.

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