If you want to rent private accommodation, you'll need enough money for a deposit. If you don't have money for a deposit there may be a deposit scheme in your area which can help you. The way these schemes work varies from one scheme to another. Most schemes have a list of landlords with available properties.
How do deposit schemes work?
Each scheme has its own rules and may have limits on how much money the scheme can guarantee as a deposit. Some schemes in Northern Ireland operate by giving your landlord a guarantee. Instead of giving you the money to pay a deposit, the scheme guarantees that your landlord will be paid if you owe any money when you leave.
The scheme will look into any claims that you owe rent or have damaged the property. The scheme will pay your landlord if the claim is valid. No money actually changes hands unless there is a problem at the end of your tenancy. You will probably be asked to pay back the money if the scheme decides that your landlord is entitled to compensation.
Other schemes may allow you to pay the deposit over the course of your tenancy, so you pay a little extra in rent each month. This extra money will act as a deposit and will be returned to you at the end of the tenancy, as long as you haven’t caused any damage to the property and don’t owe the landlord any rent.
Finding a local deposit or rent guarantee scheme
SmartmoveNI is the only agency offering any kind of deposit scheme in Northern Ireland.
Smartmove NI helps landlords find tenants for their properties and helps people who are looking for somewhere to rent find an affordable rented home. Smartmove can also help you if you can't afford to pay a deposit on a rented property. Smartmove Housing may agree to pay the deposit for you and allow you to pay it back over a period of time, but this will only happen if
- Smartmove believes that you can afford to pay them back and
- the landlord or agent is willing to accept the deposit from Smartmove and
- you agree to have your details removed from the waiting list for social housing if you are already registered on this list.
Smartmove may also be able to help you find a rented home. Find out more about Smartmove's services.
Help from the Social Security Agency
You may be able to apply for a discretionary support loan to help pay your rent in advance, but not your deposit.
Negotiating with your landlord
If you are unable to get assistance from a rent guarantee scheme or the Social Security Agency, you could try to come to an agreement with your landlord. You could offer to pay your deposit off over a period of time, say the first three months of your tenancy. If your landlord agrees to this arrangement, it is important that you put the agreement in writing and get receipts for all your payments.
Any extra money paid to the landlord in this way should be treated as a deposit and may have to be protected in an approved scheme. This money should be returned to you at the end of your tenancy, as long as you haven’t damaged the property and don’t owe the landlord any rent.