While it is up to a tenant to decide whether they are better off as a council tenant or as a private one, we will assess the pros and cons of private renting in comparison to being a  council tenant in this article to have a fair idea of both the options.

Is It Better To Be A Council Tenant Vs A Private Tenant?

The answer to whether it is better to be a council tenant versus a private tenant lies in the specific circumstances of individuals who are looking to rent a property.

Firstly, council housing is intended for individuals who are on a low income so that they may receive state support to meet their living costs. Therefore, there is an eligibility criterion regarding income and personal circumstances that council housing applicants need to meet to apply at their local council office with the intention to rent a council house. Private tenants on the other hand face no such assessment of their income and living conditions.

Council houses are much lower in rent as compared to private property and the initial deposit amount is usually little to none. When it comes to structural design, council houses are known to have more sturdy structures with a spacious yet conservative design. Even though private homes may not be as sturdy or spacious as council houses, their designs usually adapt to changing tastes and fashion.

The monetary value of council houses is placed much below the market rate. This benefits tenants with reduced council tax in comparison to a similar private property. Additionally, should a council housing tenant face an improvement in their income or savings and intend to purchase their council house, they will find it to be at a much lower rate than a private property of the same size and area.

If you are a council housing tenant on benefits, you will be able to find help from the council in terms of moving costs, rental deposit, as well as some basic white goods. Private landlords will not provide you with financial support for the purpose.

As a council tenant, you can swap your house with another council if it does not fulfil your needs or becomes too big or small due to a change in your living conditions. However, private tenants will have to go on the search for rented property from square one.

Is It Easier To Find A Council House Or Private Property To Rent?

The process of finding a council house starts with an applicant’s eligibility to be approved for council housing.

Once they are approved to be a council tenant, the applicants can move to the next stage of being allotted a band that assigns them a priority level based on which applicants will be placed in a queue that can place online bids on council houses being offered to them. There are times when the rent does not match an applicant’s budget or the council properties that are being offered are either too small or too big for their needs. 

After being shortlisted either by the council or a housing association, the process to attain a council house can progress. At the next level, shortlisted candidates are invited to view the council property that they have bid upon and if both parties agree on the tenancy terms, an agreement is drawn up. This process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. 

On the other hand, in the case of a privately rented property, interested applicants can view advertisements through newspapers or the internet or even hire a real estate broker to find them a house according to their needs and budget. Unlike council housing, there is no eligibility criterion to be met (in fact most private landlords don’t even check the applicant’s credit score).

The process of finding an appropriate property to the signing of a tenancy agreement in this case usually takes months if not weeks. 

What Are The Responsibilities Of A Council Tenant?

A council housing tenant is expected to fulfil the following responsibilities :

  • live in the council house as their main home
  • maintain their council house and take care of repairs
  • make rental payments on time
  • to seek permission from the council in case of alterations needed in the council house
  • to take care of communal areas
  • to inform the council in case major repair work is needed
  • to seek permission for keeping a dog (or a wild animal)
  • to inform the council in case of a long absence from the property (or even country)
  • to give 4 weeks’ notice before ending the tenancy agreement

What Are The Responsibilities Of A Private Tenant?

As a private tenant, you will be faced with the following responsibilities; most of which are also listed in your tenancy agreement:

  • pay your rent on time and of the amount agreed to in your tenancy agreement
  • continue paying rent as per the agreed schedule even if there is an ongoing dispute with your landlord or repairs are needed to the property
  • take care of the property and maintain it well
  • be responsible for the usage of utilities such as turning the water mains off if you are away from the property during cold weather
  • pay your utility bills and council tax on time
  • bear the expense for any damage caused to the property by you, a family member or friends
  • do not sublet the property unless you have written permission from your landlord to do so.

Conclusion:

The above discussion clearly outlines the advantages and disadvantages of being a council tenant versus a private tenant. While the former provides low-cost housing options; not everyone is eligible to be a council tenant. On the other hand, private tenants may be faced with higher rents but will find their homes to be more modern in design and amenities.

FAQs: Is It Better To Be A Council Tenant Vs A Private Tenant?

What does it mean by council tenant?

A council tenant is someone who rents council-owned property due to their personal circumstances or low income.

What is the difference between social housing and private rented housing?

Social housing is low-rent accommodation provided by social housing landlords who are registered with local councils while private rented housing includes properties listed on the open market for market competitive rent.

What is privately rented accommodation?

Privately rented accommodation includes houses or flats owned by individuals willing to rent out their property against a monthly payment by tenants.

Is it cheaper to rent privately?

No, it is not cheaper to rent privately in comparison with council houses or social housing projects.

Can I give up my council house and go private?

Yes, you can give your council authorities a four-week notice and start looking for privately rented homes.

References:

Private renting: Your rights and responsibilities – GOV.UK

Council housing: Apply for a council home – GOV.UK

Check your tenancy type if you rent from a private landlord – Citizens Advice

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