What to do if you can’t get a guarantor?

You may be one of those students or young people living in England who find it impossible to get a guarantor, perhaps because you don't have a relative or friend who is willing or able to act as guarantor, or you are a care leaver, or you no longer have any kind of relationship with your parents, or you are an international student who can’t provide a UK-based guarantor. Here we provide information about possible solutions.
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University Guarantor schemes

If you are a student, your university or college may operate a rent guarantor scheme. Typically, if your university or college accepts your application to join their scheme, it acts as your guarantor to help you become a private renter.

This is one of a series of four short guides for young people and students providing information about guarantors. The other three in this series are:

Guarantors - who they are and what they do

Information for guarantors

Tips to help you show a landlord that you will be a good tenant

The university or college will usually only accept you if, for example, you are not in debt to them, you have a satisfactory academic record, you have enough income to be able to pay the rent and a satisfactory reference from your previous landlord or hall of residence.

Find out if your university or college offers something similar by asking the students’ union or university or college accommodation service or searching their website.

If a guarantor scheme doesn’t already exist at your university or college or currently only covers international students you could talk to your students’ union about campaigning to set one up or extending the cover to include care leavers, students who no longer have any kind of relationship with their parents (universities and colleges often refer to these students as ‘estranged students’) and people whose parents can’t be a guarantor (perhaps because they don’t have a job or aren't home owners).

Bursaries, scholarships and other support offered by universities and colleges

If you’re a student who can’t get a guarantor, ask your university or college if they provide bursaries or scholarships or any other practical support specifically for students in your situation. For example, some universities and colleges offer bursaries to help care leavers avoid becoming homeless in the summer holidays or to help you pay a larger deposit or extra rent in advance to help you reassure your landlord that they can accept you as a tenant with confidence.

Find out if your university or college offers something similar by asking the students’ union or university or college accommodation service or searching their website.

Unite Foundation Scholarship Scheme

The Unite Foundation is a charity that provides care leavers and students who no longer have any relationship with their parents with the opportunity to apply for free accommodation for 3 years of undergraduate study at some universities. You can find more information about eligibility and the benefits and responsibilities of receiving a Unite scholarship at Get a scholarship.

The responsibilities of Children’s Services to care leavers

If you have been in care, you can contact Help at Hand (see More help for care leavers below) to find out what Children’s Services should be doing to help you and whether they can act as a guarantor for you.

Private Guarantor schemes

There are some private companies that offer to act as a guarantor for young people in work or students in return for a fee, such as Housing Hand and UK Guarantor. So, it’s the private company that enters into a guarantee contract with the landlord. But they have the right to get their money back from you if they have to make payments to the landlord.

These private schemes typically ask for a co-signer. A co-signer is someone who signs the same agreement as you. As a result, they will be liable to repay any money the company has to pay on your behalf to the landlord.

The difference between being a co-signer and a guarantor isn’t so much to do with the legal responsibilities each takes on – these are very similar. It’s to do with the fact that these private companies don’t usually credit check a co-signer, so they may accept people who would not be able to act as a guarantor.

If you’re having difficulty finding someone who meets the landlord’s requirements to be a guarantor (see Guarantors - who they are and what they do for details) then you may want to think about whether you can find someone who might be acceptable as a co-signer instead. For example, someone who isn’t a home owner.

You can find more information at Housing Hand and UK Guarantor.

Other options

You may be able to persuade your landlord to waive the need for a guarantor by offering them a larger deposit or 6 months’ rent in advance. This may give them the greater sense of security they are looking for. However, neither option is ideal and you may not have the money to make such a suggestion. While the landlord is required to keep any deposit money in a deposit protection scheme, you could still be at risk of losing all or some of your deposit money if you are a joint tenant and one or more of the other tenants doesn’t pay what they owe to the landlord. Paying a large amount of rent in advance can leave you open to fraud or problems getting the money back if the tenancy ends early for any reason.

Some councils offer rent deposit schemes to help people who don’t have enough money to pay a deposit. It may be worth contacting your local council to see if they can help you.

There are tenant referencing and insurance companies that offer rent guarantee and legal expense insurance to landlords. Typically, landlords can buy 6-month or 12-month policies for premiums between about £50-£60 and £100 to safeguard their rental income up to a fixed monthly maximum, for example, £2,500. If your landlord carries such insurance they will be protected if you don’t pay your rent. You could offer to pay the premium for this type of insurance in return for your landlord waiving their requirement for a guarantor. However, it is probably a condition of any rent guarantee insurance that you, as the prospective tenant, are reference checked. The company providing the insurance may insist on you having a guarantor, irrespective of what the landlord thinks. But it may be worth investigating this possibility.

You should get some advice about the best suggestion to make to a landlord in your situation. For information about where to go for more help and legal advice, see Advicenow's Help Directory.

Alternatives to renting privately

You could consider renting from a resident landlord – so you would share living room and kitchen accommodation with them but have your own bedroom, possibly ensuite. Although this will restrict your legal rights, (if you rent from a resident landlord that you share some accommodation with, they do not have to go to court to evict you) the upside is that resident landlords are often more flexible and typically don’t require a UK-based guarantor. It’s not easy finding a resident landlord but you could try asking around among your friends and family to see if they know of anyone.

If you’re a student, have you thought of seeing if your university or college can offer you a 52-week accommodation option? Some institutions offer this to care leavers already. If you’re not a care leaver, but instead are estranged from your parents or have parents who can’t act as a guarantor, there’s no harm in asking if you could benefit from this option as well.

More help for young people

Youth Access is the national membership organisation for young people's information, advice and counselling services. You can find services local to you here.

See also Advicenow’s Help Directory for information about where to go for legal advice about housing problems.

More help for care leavers

Help at Hand is a free advice, assistance and representation service open to all children and young people in care, leaving care, and those living away from home (for example, in a boarding school). 

Coram Voice is a charity that helps young people actively participate in shaping their own lives. They can help you find out exactly what support you should be getting from Children’s Services. You can find more information at Am I a care leaver?

Propel is a service provided by Become, the charity for children in care and young care leavers, to support care leavers into higher education. 

Rees – The Care Leavers Foundation offers advice and information to care leavers. They may be able to help you get services you didn’t know you were entitled to and advocate on your behalf. They also provide small grants to help young people get out of a fix and move towards their goals. They also have an emergency fund to cover things like a food shop or travel to and from education. 

See also Advicenow’s Help Directory for information about where to go for legal advice about housing problems.

More help for students and young people who are estranged from their parents

Stand Alone is charity that works to support people who no longer have any kind of relationship with their parents or members of their wider family, whether they have been cut off or walked away. 

See also Advicenow’s Help Directory for information about where to go for legal advice about housing problems.

More help for international students

If you are currently a student in the UK your university, college or students’ union may have an International Student Advisor based in the International Office, Student Services or Advice Centre.

If you are not yet in the UK you could contact your local British Council office or the International Office at the university or college you want to apply to.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs provides advice to international students. They run a very busy advice line, open from Monday to Friday, 1300 - 1600 hours (UK time). You may not get through when you first call but keep trying.

  • Outside the UK: +44 20 7788 9214
  • Inside the UK: 020 7788 9214

Standard national/international call charges apply.

See also Advicenow’s Help Directory for information about where to go for legal advice about housing problems.

January 2018

This guide was written and produced by Advicenow thanks to funding from the TDS Charitable Foundation.

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