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Renting and social housing

You may already be renting and are looking to move somewhere new, or perhaps you’re considering renting a property for the first time.

I’d like to start renting privately – what do I need to consider?

If you want to rent privately, remember that rents are often high and can increase every year. You’ll probably also have to pay a deposit and rent in advance. It’s important to budget for this.

Most private rented property is let on an assured shorthold tenancy, meaning the landlord has the right to end your tenancy after six months or at the end of a longer fixed term.

You can find housing to rent using local newspapers, websites or a letting agency. Letting agencies may charge fees, but they can’t charge just for registering your name or giving you a list of properties. 

What is social housing?

Social housing is lower-cost rented housing provided by landlords registered with the social housing regulator, known as a social landlord. Social landlords could be a council or a housing association.

Social housing is likely to be cheaper and can offer greater security from eviction than private rented housing. It may be a good option if you need an accessible or adapted property.

Who qualifies for social housing?

In many areas, all social housing is allocated by the council, which means they have a waiting list of people who are interested.

Your local council will have a policy on who qualifies for social housing and who gets priority, called its housing allocation policy. You can ask to see this free of charge.

People who are seen to have the greatest need will be given highest priority. Some councils also say that you must have lived in their area for a certain number of years to qualify.

The housing allocation policy will also apply to people who want to rent sheltered housing.

Find out about renting sheltered housing from your local council

How do I make an application for social housing?

To apply to join the waiting list for social housing, you will have to provide information such as where you live now, your health, your savings and your income. The council will use this information to decide your level of priority. Ask them what priority you are likely to get and how long you might have to wait.

Many councils operate choice-based lettings. This means that the council publishes all available accommodation through local newspapers, newsletters or websites. You then express your interest in a home that looks suitable.

How do I rent from a housing association?

Many housing associations have an agreement with the local council that they will offer housing to people already on the council’s waiting list, although some associations accept direct applications. Ask your council if they have a list of housing associations that accept direct applications in your area.

If you want to rent directly from a housing association, check what type of tenancy you would get. You may find it’s less secure than the tenancy you would get through the council’s waiting list.

What are my rights as a tenant?

Your rights as a tenant will depend on what sort of tenancy you have.

Get advice or use the interactive tenancy checker tool on the Shelter website if you’re not sure what type of tenancy you have

Your right to stay

Your right to stay in a rented property depends on the type of tenancy you have. However, in most cases you cannot be evicted by your landlord unless they get a possession order from the court.

If your landlord says they want you to leave, seek advice immediately. You may be able to challenge this or get help to find a new home.

For more information on your rights to stay in a property, download our factsheet Tenancy rights - security of tenure (PDF 791KB)

Your right to challenge your rent

Depending on the type of tenancy you have, you may have rights about what your landlord can charge you, when your rent can be increased and by how much.

For example, if you have an assured tenancy of a fixed period of time, your landlord can’t increase your rent during the fixed period unless you agree to it.

For more information, see our factsheet: Tenancy rights - rents (PDF 464 KB)

Your right to repairs

As a tenant, you have certain rights to have repairs carried out. This may be spelled out in your tenancy agreement but, even if your tenancy agreement doesn't mention it, the law says that the landlord is responsible for certain repairs.

These include repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, and some installations inside, such as the boiler.

Find out more information, see our factsheet – Home improvements and repairs

Age NI Advice Service

Every year our Advice Service deals with thousands of calls from older people in need. Call us today to make sure that you are receiving all the help and support available to you.

Call freephone 0808 808 7575
Monday - Friday 9am – 5pm 


Last updated: May 05 2020

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