Finding a place to live

Finding a place to live

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Emergency shelters and hostels

If you have nowhere to stay and are not eligible for assistance by the council, emergency accommodation provided by the voluntary sector may be your only option. 

Not all emergency hostels and nightshelters are the same. Some are of a very high standard but some are not. Many hostels and nightshelters have strict rules. Some close during the day and you might have to be in quite early at night. You may not be able to have visitors and alcohol and drugs are usually banned. If you break the rules of the hostel, you can be evicted very easily. 

Nightshelters 

Most nightshelters are free. These are usually very basic but can provide a place to stay for a few nights and often some food. Some areas only have nightshelters that are open during the winter, usually from December to March. They are sometimes called cold weather shelters. Many nightshelters are set up temporarily in churches, offices or schools that are not being used. 

Hostels 

Hostels are usually less basic and will ask you to pay. In some places you may get your own room but in most you will have to share a bedroom with someone of the same sex. Most hostels don't accept couples. They may have shared facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms. Some hostels provide meals but you usually have to pay for them.

How much does it cost?
Nightshelters are usually free but hostels are not. The rent in hostels can be quite high and you may also have to pay extra for things like laundry or meals. 

However, some hostels will accept people without any money as long as you can claim benefits to pay for the accommodation. They can check what you are entitled to and help you with the claim forms. Housing benefit may not cover all the rent and won't cover any extra services such as cleaning or meals. So you may have to use part of your income support, jobseekers allowance or training allowance to pay for anything that isn't covered. 

How long can you stay?
The length of time you will be able to stay can vary. Some hostels can house you for a few nights but some may let you stay for a few months. Some hostels will try to help you find somewhere more permanent before you have to leave. 

Who can stay?
Most hostels assist if you have no fixed address and are in immediate need of accommodation. None will accept you if you have a history of arson or recent violence. Some hostels for under 26 year olds offer support. Some hostels for working people accept students or if you are unemployed and actively seeking work. All require a deposit in advance. Most are fully used. 

To find out about available hostel spaces visit www.homelesslondon.org (opens new window).

Read more about searching for accommodation on net.

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Nightstop schemes for under 26 year olds

Although there are no Nightstops in this borough, some parts of the country have special 'Nightstop' schemes for young people aged 6 to 25. These schemes can arrange emergency accommodation for the night with someone who has a spare room. 

How does Nightstop work?
Not all areas have Nightstops. Nightstop schemes provide emergency accommodation for young people in the homes of ordinary people who have volunteered to help. You can usually only stay for one night at a time with each host, where you will get: a room to yourself the chance to have a bath or shower a meal in the evening and breakfast the following morning. You will probably be asked to go back to the Nightstop scheme each morning, or to the organisation that found you a place through Nightstop. They can help you look for longer term accommodation or arrange another Nightstop. 

Who can use Nightstop?
Nightstop schemes can help most young people aged 16 to 25 who are not currently using drugs or alcohol or have mental health problems that can't be controlled by medication have a recent history of violence, arson or sexual offences, or a serious criminal record. This is because people who offer their spare rooms to Nightstop schemes wouldn't be able to provide the extra support you may need. 

How do I get a place?
Not all areas have Nightstop schemes. For London and the south east of England the following schemes currently operate in these regions:

  • Aylesbury Nightstop
  • Greenwich & Lewisham Nightstop
  • Guildford Nightstop
  • Hackney AKT Nightstop
  • Maidstone SOS Nightstop
  • New Forest Nightstop
  • Redhill and Reigate Nightstop
  • Sittingbourne Nightstop
  • West Kent Youth Nightstop                

For more information visit the www.shelter.org.uk Nightstop web page (opens new window) and click on any of the scheme names for further information.

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Lodgings schemes for under 26 year olds

You may be able to find a place to live through a local lodgings scheme. These schemes are usually run by a local advice centre and can put you in contact with someone who has a spare room that they are willing to rent out. 

If you are 16 to 25, there may be a special “Nightstop” scheme in your area. These operate in a very similar way to lodging schemes and can often find you a place the same day. 

How does it work?
Lodgings schemes put people who need a place to stay in contact with people who have a room to rent out. They can often find a place the same day. In most areas, it is much cheaper than staying in a hostel or bed and breakfast. You usually get a room to yourself and access to a bathroom or shower. Some householders also provide meals. 

You may be able to stay for a few days, a few weeks, or until you are ready to move into your own place. It usually depends on how long the room is free for and how well you and the householder get on. The scheme's staff will usually keep in touch and help you sort out benefits or other problems. They can also help you to find a more permanent place to live and may be able to help you raise money for a deposit and/or rent in advance. 

How do I get a place?
Most lodgings schemes are run by the council or a local advice centre. Contact your local housing advice centre or citizens advice bureau. They should be able to give you details of any lodgings schemes in your area. 

You will normally meet the householder before you move in, to talk about basic ground rules and to see if the arrangement suits you. You and the householder can then decide whether you think you will get on. 

What rights would I have?
You can be evicted very easily if you live in someone else's home rather than having your own place. In most cases, you will be classed as an “excluded occupier” or an “occupier with basic protection”. This means you have limited rights if the landlord wants you to leave. 

How much will it cost?
Lodgings schemes usually work out cheaper than renting privately or staying in a hostel or bed and breakfast. If you are on benefits or have a low income, you may be able to claim housing benefit to help pay the rent. But bear in mind that it won't cover the cost of things like meals, cleaning or bills, even if these services are included in the rent. 

For more information visit www.shelter.org.uk (opens new window).

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Jobs that provide accommodation

Some employers provide accommodation for their workers (this is known as 'tied' accommodation). 

Benefits: 

  • Getting a job that provides accommodation can be a cheap way to live as it is often rent free or the employer takes the accommodation cost out of the workers wages.
  • It is therefore a good option if you are unemployed or can switch jobs easily.            

Disadvantages: 

  • In most cases if you lose your job you will have to leave your accommodation.            

Searching for live-in jobs: 

Job centres 

For the catering trade visit:
1 Denmark Street 
St Giles 
London WC2
Online: www.caterer.com (opens new window)

Live-in jobs

The following lists types of job that may offer accommodation:

  • Hospitality trade (pubs, clubs, bars, hotels and some restaurants)
  • Domestic service (nannies, au pairs, mothers’ helps, wardens, matrons, butlers)
  • Personal care (washing / bathing / changing / dressing / helping in and out of bed / wheelchair / help with going to toilet / help with personal grooming)
  • Domestic work (laundry / washing and ironing / shopping/  cooking & serving meals / dusting /vacuuming)
  • Housekeeping (making drinks / assistance with correspondence / paying bills / moving things / driving / assistance in and out of car / escort assistance / care of pets)               

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Residential volunteering

Residential volunteering offers the chance to try things for a week or two or up to a year or longer, working with an organisation and living away from home. 

Opportunities exist in environmental and conservation groups, care organisations and animal welfare. Below are links to such organisations (all open in new windows):

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Flatshares

If you are unable to rent your own flat you could consider a flatshare. Details of flatshares and rooms for rent can be found in newspapers and on websites. See search for private accommodation on the net.

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Housing co-ops

What are housing co-ops?
Housing co-ops are groups of people who live in and collectively manage their accommodation. This involves taking responsibility for arranging repairs, making decisions about rent and who joins or leaves the co-op. Living in housing co-operative can be a good way to get affordable housing and may give you more control over where you live. It is usually most suitable for single people.  

London service agencies: 

In London there are a number of service agencies that hold central waiting lists from which they send people to the co-ops that they service. These are: 

Co-op Homes 
191 High Street, Brentford
Middlesex, TW8 8LB
Tel: 020 8568 4112 

CDS Co-operatives 
3 Marshalsea Road
London, SE1 1EP
Tel: 020 7397 5700 

CHISEL 
188a Brockley Road 
London, SE4 2RN
Tel: 020 8692 5258

Coin Street Secondary 
Upper Ground, Waterloo 
London, SE1 9PP 
Tel: 020 7620 0544 

South London Family Housing Association: 
Adminster House
38-40 Sydenham Road
Croydon, CR0 2EF
Tel: 020 8296 5837 

Co-ops that are not serviced by the above agencies on the whole take referrals from the following agencies:

Brent Irish Advisory Service 
Tel: 020 8459 6655 
(Target group Irish) 

Threshold Housing Advice 
Tel: 020 8749 2925 
(Target group single homeless) 

Frontline 
Tel: 020 7407 0660 
(Target group Black & Minority Ethnic)

Piccadilly 
Tel: 020 7734 2533 
(Target group single homeless) 

Stonewall Housing Association 
Tel: 020 7359 5767 
(Target group lesbians & gay men) 

Homelink 
Tel: 020 7729 7573 
(Target group non-statutory homeless people) 

Latin American Women's Advice Service 
Tel: 020 7336 0888 

Centrepoint 
Tel: 020 7544 5000 
(Target group single homeless) 

Direct applications: 

Co-ops that take applications direct from people: 

Brockley Housing Co-op Ltd 
249 Lewisham Way 
London, SE4 1XF 
Tel: 020 8691 5898 

Deptford Housing Co-op Ltd 
16 Rochdale Way 
London, SE8 4EY 
Tel: 020 8692 4141 

Mace Housing Co-op 
The Print House 
18 Ashwin Street 
London, E8 3DL
Tel: 020 7254 9560 

Phoenix Housing Co-op Ltd 
119 Roman Road 
London, E2 0QN 
Tel: 020 8980 1069 

Sandford Housing Co-op Ltd 
The Offices 
11 Sandford Walk 
London, SE14 6NB 
Tel: 020 8692 7316

For more information visit the London Housing Co-op Directory on www.cch.coop (opens new window).

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Private renting

Renting from private landlords and hostels may be the only option available to you. 

Rents in this borough are very high and if you are unemployed or on a low income you are unlikely to find accommodation to rent here or in central London. 

Do not restrict yourself to one area. To succeed in finding accommodation you will need to look further out to the outskirts of London. 


Letting agents 

Going through a letting agent will save you a lot of time if you have a deposit and references. 

Letting agents may charge you once you have accepted a property but they cannot charge you for registering you on their books. Most will ask you to pay a returnable deposit (usually one month’s rent and one month’s rent value for the deposit in advance) 

Always telephone or contact the agency first. Ask about fees before looking for property. Never give money to an agent until you have accepted a flat. 

Letting agents are listed in local papers telephone directories and on the web. 


Quality assurance

If possible, use an agency (all links below open new windows) which is a member of the

or 

as all of these organisations have professional codes of conduct for their members. 

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Free or cheap internet access

There are many places in Hammersmith and Fulham where you can get free or cheap access to the internet, including libraries, advice and community centres, community and voluntary groups and internet cafes. 

UK Online Centres aims to enable everyone in the UK who wants it, to have access to the internet and email near to where they live. To find out where your nearest centre is visit their website www.ukonlinecentres.com (opens new window) or call 0800 771 234. 


Libraries with free internet access

Become a member of the library as the council offers free internet access in all of its libraries listed at www.lbhf.gov.uk/libraries

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Searching the internet

The internet is a useful tool for finding property. There are many easy-to-use community based, government-sponsored and also commercial local lettings websites with information on properties to rent. Below are some useful websites to assist you in finding private rental accommodation in London. 

www.easylondonaccommodation.com  
Online accommodation finder by type, private landlord and letting agent. 

http://uk.easyroommate.com/south-east/london-flatshare 
Flatshare lists updated daily. 

www.gumtree.com 
Online community based website lists flat shares, homeswops plus flats and rooms for rent. 

www.homelesslondon.org 
Replaces hostels-online - offers immediate help and assistance.

www.londonrenting.co.uk
Search engine for short and long term accommodation by postcode, borough, street name and accommodation type.

www.moveflat.com 
Searches flatshares by zone, price and availability. 

www.net-lettings.co.uk 
Lists by price bands to areas and agents.

www.openrent.co.uk
Online portal for finding rental accomodation

www.propertywide.co.uk
Searches for buy, rent and estate agents in your area. 

www.reallymoving.com 
Accommodation matters searcher featuring instant quotes. 

www.rightmove.co.uk 
Accommodation searcher by postcode, area and price. 

www.roomsforlet.co.uk
Subscription-free online agency for all forms of rented accommodation by area and price. 

www.shelter.org.uk 
Offers advice by email and mobile phone, including emergency placements via lodging and night stop schemes and for asylum seekers. 

www.spareroom.co.uk 
Offers online "speed flatmating"

www.zoopla.co.uk/to-rent/property/hammersmith-and-fulham/
Commercial site listing properties for rent and agents details by postcode and area.

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Further information

Local services support

The following pages detail local and specialist agencies, walk-in and day centres that offer advice and support on housing. Some can refer you to housing schemes or assist you in helping you find a place to live. You can contact them directly. 

Threshold Housing Advice Centre

Works in partnership with the council to provide in-depth housing advice and information for people in housing need without dependent children.

Threshold Housing Advice Centre
126 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London W12 
Tube: Shepherds Bush
Tel: 020 8749 2925 for an appointment. 
Open: Mon 9.30am to 1.00pm, Tues 2.00pm to 5.00pm, Weds closed, Thurs 2.00pm to 5.00pm, Fri 9.30am to 1.00pm.

Contact Threshold Housing Advice Centre if you cannot find the information you are looking for in these pages. 

General advice 

Shepherds Bush Advice Centre is based in the borough and offers free legal advice to all residents. Their main areas of work are employment, debt, welfare and benefits and they will direct you to a more appropriate agency if they are unable to help. 

Shepherds Bush Advice Centre 

338 Uxbridge Road 
Shepherds Bush 
London, W12 7LL 
Tube: Shepherds Bush
Tel: 020 8753 5910 

Telephone for details of drop-in advice. 

Reception open: Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm, closed Wed


Useful website addresses

The following offer advice and support including information for you to find and keep accommodation (all links open in new windows): 

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Financial help to rent private accommodation

Housing Benefit 

You can claim this benefit from the council to help pay the rent if you are on a low income or getting state benefit. 

Housing benefit, because of the Rent Service will not always meet the full rent the landlord is asking for. The Rent Service (telephone 0845 803 1020) sets a reasonable market rent for the type of property and takes into account your household’s needs, personal circumstances and income. 

Under 25 year olds
For people under 25, the amount of housing benefit paid is limited to the general amount of rent charged locally for a room with shared facilities. This means it is unlikely to cover the cost of self-contained accommodation. 

How much housing benefit will be paid?
If you want to check before you move into a property how much rent could be covered by housing benefits, you can find out by requesting a Pre-Tenancy Determination (PTD). 

You can get a PTD form from the local council for the area your accommodation is in. It normally takes a week to get a decision but can take up to two.

For a rough idea of how much Housing Benefit you may qualify for contact the Housing Benefits service
Tel: 020 8753 1521
Email: Benefits@lbhf.gov.uk
Web: »  Online benefits calculator

What if it does not cover all the rent?
If the amount of housing benefit does not cover all the rent your landlord is asking for, you may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) after you move in. This is to make up the difference. Otherwise, you will have to make up the difference yourself. To receive a DHP form contact the benefits service on 020 8753 1356. 

Please note housing benefit is not payable for service charges such as those for heating, lighting and water. You are expected to pay these in addition to any shortfall between the rent you pay and the amount of benefit you receive. 

www.benefithousing.co.uk (opens new window) - provides lists of landlords and agents who accept tenants on housing benefits.

When should I pay rent in advance?
Most landlords ask for the first period's rent to be paid before you move in. Always ask the landlord (or agency)

  • for a receipt to show the amount you have paid, and
  • check when the next rent payment is due.          

Tenancy deposits 

All deposits taken by landlords for Assured Shorthold Tenancies (most tenancies) in England and Wales must be protected by a tenancy deposit protection scheme. When you sign a new tenancy agreement ask the landlord to provide you with details of the scheme your deposit will be protected by. Your landlord is required by law to give you these details within 14 days of you handing your deposit over. Once you have these details then contact the scheme to confirm your deposit is protected. 

What if I am claiming housing benefit?
If you are claiming housing benefit (or local housing allowance), it will be paid four weeks in arrears. This means that you will be behind with your rent from the start, unless you can raise the money yourself to pay the rent until your housing benefit comes through. There may also be a delay while your claim is assessed. 

If you have made a new claim and you have given the council all the information it needs you can ask for a payment on account after 14 days. This is likely to be less than the rent you owe but your landlord may be more likely to wait if s/he can see that you are doing everything you can to get the claim processed quickly. 

Sometimes landlords are willing to wait but if not you will need to find the money elsewhere. If you are on benefits and you can't afford to pay rent in advance you could apply for a crisis loan or budgeting loan from the social fund. Whether you can get one or not will depend on your circumstances. 

How much housing benefits can I receive?
The council’s online benefits calculator is available on our website - » Online benefits calculator

Customers are able to fill in details about their housing circumstances and get an instant online estimate of the housing or council tax benefits they may be entitled to. This can be used by anyone claimants, landlords, advisers or other staff to work out potential entitlement. 

Can’t afford the rent?
If you can't afford to pay rent in advance there are two types of loan that you may be able to get from the social fund.

  • budgeting loans, or;
  • crisis loans   

If you get one (which isn't guaranteed) you will have to pay it back. 

Who can get a budgeting loan?
To get a budgeting loan, either you or your spouse/partner must have been on income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance for at least 26 weeks. 

Your chances of getting a loan and how much you might get will depend on how long you have been on benefits and your personal circumstances. 

Who can get a crisis loan?
You may be able to get a crisis loan if you need money because of an emergency or disaster (for example if there has been a fire in your home). You don't have to be claiming benefits to apply but you will have to be able to pay the loan back. Crisis loans are meant to cover essential things that you need to protect the health and safety of your household, which includes rent in advance. You have to be at least 16 to apply. 

How can I increase my chances of getting a loan?
There is a limited amount of money available for loans, so it isn't easy to get one. Get advice if you need a loan to pay rent in advance. An adviser may be able to help you convince the Benefits Agency or Jobcentre Plus that you should be a priority.

Check whether you qualify for a community care grant instead. (If so, you would not have to pay this back) explain the forms and help you work out how much you need to ask for help you to appeal if the council says it can't help you. 

How much can I borrow?
This will depend on your circumstances. If you have more than £500 in savings (or £1,000 if you or your partner is over 60), the amount you get will be reduced. If you have already borrowed from the social fund and haven't paid back what you borrowed last time, it will affect what you can get now. 

How do I apply?
Both crisis loans and budgeting loans are paid by the social fund. You can make an application at your local Benefits Agency or Jobcentre Plus. 

Where is my local agency?
View www.dwp.gov.uk (opens new window) to find out your nearest office, where claim forms are available online.

How is the loan paid back?
You will have to be able to pay back the loan within a maximum of 78 weeks from your regular income. If you are on benefits, a fixed amount will be taken out of your income support or jobseeker's allowance until the loan has been repaid. You won't get a loan at all if you will not be able to repay it.


Local housing allowance

A new way of calculating housing benefits for private tenants.

» Local housing allowance

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Page last updated: 11/04/2014