Renting privately

This page has technical information about the possibilities and limitations when renting to a relative.
Private landlords are commercial organisations or individuals, who are in business for a profit. This distinguishes them from which are local authorities and Registered Social Landlords who are social landlords.

Private landlords come in various forms including:

  • Companies with a large portfolio of properties
  • Individuals or families with one or two properties only
  • Individuals or families who buy a property specifically to rent to a disabled relative (there is a separate factsheet on this).

Charitable organisations letting out properties often to a particular needs group are, for rent and housing benefit purposes, also considered as private landlords despite the fact they are not trading for profit.

How to access

Private landlords compete in a market place for tenants and in principle any one can rent a property from them.If it is on the market, in principle, it is available to a disabled person who can meet the terms of the letting.

The usual ways of finding a property are:

  • Through a letting agency in the area
  • An estate agent who deals in rental property Advertisement in local papers
  • To let board on a property
  • Web search
  • Shop notice boards.

Pros and cons


  • 14% of Englandís housing stock is in the private sector – extends choice
  • Sometimes the only way of getting the right type of property in the right place
  • If available, can move in quickly, do not have to be on a waiting list for years
  • Some landlords will buy to order and have developed good relationships with councils who regularly use the private rented sector to obtain housing for disabled people.

Cons - there are some serious disadvantages for people with learning disabilities:

  • Lack of security of tenure. Private landlords normally let on an assured shorthold tenancy. This lasts for an initial 6 months, thereafter the tenant can be asked to leave, with no rights of appeal, on what works out as 2 monthsí notice. Note however it is possible for landlords to grant a longer initial tenancy
  • The amount of rent eligible for housing benefit is limited by a ìLocal Housing Allowanceî. Often this is too little for the landlord so the tenant is faced with topping up the rent from other benefits.
  • There are additional problems when the tenant needs a second bedroom perhaps for an occasional carer as Housing Benefit will only meet the rent for a one bedroom flat if it is for one person
  • Adaptations where required may be difficult to get as the landlord may be very reluctant to agree major changes to their property which does not add value
  • Legislation which in the past allowed people who need some care and support to get a higher level of housing benefit to pay a commercial rent cannot be relied on following a series of legal decisions referred to as the Turnbull judgement
  • Quality of management and maintenance service may be poor or unreliable and service is not regulated and inspected as it is in social housing.

It is common for the landlord to require a deposit equivalent to several monthsí rent. Private landlords may often require a working person to stand as guarantor before they let to someone on benefits. Local
Authority may run a scheme to help pay for these deposits. A list of schemes to help with rent deposit
can be found at

How the money works

Rent eligible for housing benefit is restricted by the local housing allowance (see the DirectGov website for more information) and subject to determination by a rent officer.

Housing benefit departments have a small budget to make discretionary payments to cover higher rents in exceptional circumstances. It would however be risky to rely on this for long term housing.

Other issues

Despite reservations renting in the private sector can sometimes be a good option particularly when someone wants a short term let, for example to try out living more independently, and where long term security of tenure is less of an issue.

There are examples of commercial landlords buying property to order for disabled people and offering an excellent service. There are also mechanisms where RSLs lease properties from private landlords and sub-let them. This provides better security of tenure and some assurance of quality.
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Learning Disability England
Birmingham Research Park
97 Vincent Drive
Birmingham, B15 2SQ, England
Tel. 0300 2010455
Learning Disability England
Registered company: 4233275
Registered Charity No. 1092587