- What is the local housing allowance / the bedroom tax?
If you are in private rented accommodation, the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can be paid depends on the number of bedrooms you need and the area where you are renting. You can find the local housing allowance for your area by putting the postcode in here, and you can work out the number of bedrooms you are entitled to here.
If you are only allowed one bedroom, then you will receive the lower shared accommodation rate if you are living in shared accommodation (which means not having exclusive use of at least two rooms), or if you are single and under 35.
Note that you will never receive more Housing Benefit than the amount of rent you owe, and the amount will then be reduced if you have more income or savings than are permitted.
The local housing allowance does not apply to Council and Housing Association properties. Instead, the “removal of the spare room subsidy” or bedroom tax is applied. This means that, if your property has more bedrooms than you are entitled to, your Housing Benefit will be reduced:
- by 14%, if you have one extra bedroom, or
- by 25% if you have two or more extra bedrooms.
This does not apply to people of pension age, and there are a number of ways the bedroom allowance can be increased (such as for a disabled child or carer who needs an additional room). If you think that your bedroom entitlement has been incorrectly calculated, please call us for advice.
- What is the benefit cap?
The benefit cap is a limit imposed on the total weekly benefit a family can receive. This includes Universal Credit and the benefits it is replacing (see above), as well as Child Benefit. It does not include PIPs, DLA, Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance and a few others (see the full list).
For people living in Greater London (including Ealing Borough), the cap is £442.31 for couples and single parents, and £296.35 for single people with no children. It is lower in the rest of the country.
The benefit cap does not apply if you:
- are not getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit,
- are working enough to be entitled to Working Tax Credit (or the Universal Credit equivalent),
- are in a nine-month “grace period” after finishing at least a year of work,
- are receiving ESA with the support component (or the Universal Credit equivalent),
- are receiving PIPs, DLA, Attendance Allowance or Carer’s Allowance,
- have reached pensionable age.
What is the two child limit?
The amount you are paid for various benefits depends on the number of children you have. However, under new rules Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Universal Credit will only be assessed for the first two children. Third (or further) children born on or after 6 April 2017 will not be taken into account, unless they fall into a limited exception (including multiple births or conception by rape).
Ongoing claims, or claims involving children born before that date, should not be affected. However when making a new claim for Housing Benefit, you will need to show that you are receiving a Child Tax Credit award covering any additional children.
- I am having difficulty with my housing costs. What help is available?
If you are renting, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit, which is administered by the Council. If you claim means-tested JSA, means-tested ESA or Income Support, Housing Benefit can be added onto it (“passported”) automatically, without needing to go through a separate application process. If you meet certain conditions, you may be directed to apply for Universal Credit (see below) instead of Housing Benefit (as well as the passporting benefits listed above).
If you own your home and you receive means-tested JSA, means-tested ESA, Income Support or Pension Credit, you may be entitled to help with mortgage payments as part of the payment.
In any case, you may be entitled to Council Tax Support, which is also administered by the Council.
It may be that you find that you need temporary extra help with housing costs. If this is the case, and you receive Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support, then it is possible to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) or Discretionary Council Tax Discounts (DCTD). These are extra payments that can be made by Council, and because they are discretionary, there is usually no right to appeal a refusal.
- My home is in disrepair but and afraid to report it in case I am evicted
Tenants are often afraid to report disrepair for fear that landlords will service notice and evict them asap when their tenancy ends.
This month the Retaliatory Eviction and the Deregulation Act 2015 came into affect.
Assured tenants enjoy the protection from eviction – ie a landlord must go through the correct procedure: They must have grounds for possession for wanting possession , for which they give notice , get a court order and then instruct a bailiff to enforce a warrant. to physically evict a tenant : otherwise they could be committing a criminal offence.
However as most tenancies are assured short hold fixed tenancies , a ground for possession can be that the tenancy’s fixed period has expired. In such cases landlord’s can apply for accelerated possession proceedings.
If you have an outstanding repair ( must not be minor) the new legalislation can offer protection from eviction for up to 6 months
1. If you have made a disrepair compliant the landlord (ideally in writing)
2. landlords must respond with action to be taken within 14 days otherwise
3. tenants can ask the local authority to verify the need for a repair and serve a notice which will prevent landlords being able o evict the tenant for 6 months
For leaflet on the new legislation click here
- I am in arrears with my rent. What are my rights?
If you are in arrears with your rent, you should first try talking to your landlord about the arrears and see if you can come to an agreement about repayment.
If the situation is caused by a delay to your housing benefit, you should write to your local Housing Benefit Office and request a payment within 14 days. If your Housing Benefit Office cannot process your claim quickly, you should ask for an interim payment. You should try and give the Benefit Office any information it requests.
If your rent arrears are caused by a difference between your housing benefit and the amount of rent you have to pay, you should apply to your Housing Benefit Office for a discretionary hardship payment. If your council rejects your claim or you disagree about the amount, you should write to the Housing Benefit Office within one month of the date of receiving your decision letter. Your claim will then be reconsidered.
Losing your tenancy
The normal way for a landlord to end an assured tenancy is to send you a document called a ‘Section 8 Notice’.
However, if you are in rent arrears and:
- you live in an Assured Tenancy;
- your tenancy is still in the fixed term; and
- your tenancy agreement doesn’t contain a clause to the contrary
then your landlord cannot end your tenancy even if they send you a Section 8 notice.
If you are in rent arrears and you live in a secure tenancy your landlord must send you a Section 83 notice warning you of their intention to end your tenancy.
- I’m being evicted because of my rent arrears. What can I do?
If you are getting behind with your rent, it’s important to act quickly to avoid the risk of being evicted. However, you cannot be evicted from your home until:
- your landlord has obtained a court order to repossess the property; and
- the court has issued a court bailiff with a warrant to evict you.
Your first step should be to check your rent book, payment statement and receipts to make sure that your landlord is asking for the correct amount in arrears. You should then discuss the rent arrears with your landlord, and try to come to an agreement about repayment with them. If you cannot pay the full amount you should try to pay some of the rent arrears back regularly. If you get housing benefit, the rent arrears may have arisen through a delay in the processing of payments.
If the arrears are due to recent welfare reforms ie the benefit cap or bedroom tax or another issue you may be able to claim Discretionary housing payments. DHPs are not payments of housing benefit. They are separate payments made at the council’s discretion in cases where it considers that extra help with housing costs is needed.
To improve your chances you should explain your position. You are most likely to get help if you are taking steps to improve your circumstances. IE for benefit caps you could show that you are looking for work. In the case of the bedroom tax you may be trying to tackle the problem by looking for a move or take on a lodger. You should check any correspondence from your local council carefully, and speak to their Benefits Department to check your entitlement to housing benefit. If you are still unable to pay your rent arrears and think you will be evicted, you have the right to make a homeless application to your local council.
- I’m being evicted because of mortgage arrears. What can I do?
If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, it’s important to act quickly to avoid the risk of your home being repossessed.
However, your home cannot be repossessed until:
- your mortgage lender has obtained a Court Order to repossess the property; and
- the Court has issued a Court Bailiff with a warrant to evict you.
Your first step should be to discuss the mortgage arrears with your bank, building society or other lender. Most lenders will be very happy to discuss any arrears with you, so that they can try to resolve the problem quickly. You should look at your income and your outgoings, and try to come to an agreement with your lender on the arrears. It may be possible for you to agree more realistic payments on your mortgage, to avoid losing your home.
- I am homeless. What can I do?
If you have nowhere to live, then you are homeless and you have the legal right to seek help from your local council. They must look into your claim of homelessness and provide help if they think you are eligible.
As soon as you think you may become homeless, you should contact your local council immediately. You will need to fill in a homelessness application form, and may be interviewed at the council’s offices. It is important to tell the council the truth in your application otherwise you may be committing a criminal offence. At this point you may also apply to join the council’s waiting list for housing.
If you are homeless and in ‘priority need’, the council should try and provide you with emergency accommodation until they have made a decision on your homelessness application. You are considered to be in ‘priority need’ if:
- you are pregnant;
- you have children;
- you are elderly; or
- you are otherwise vulnerable.
The council should investigate why you became homeless. They may do this straight away, or ask you to return to their office at a later date. The council normally has 33 working days to make a decision.
The council must tell you their decision in writing. If you think that the council have got it wrong you have the right to ask for this decision to be reviewed. Even if the council decides you are not eligible for assistance, they have a legal duty to give you advice to try to help you to resolve your homelessness.
- My landlord won’t return my damage deposit. What are my rights?
Your landlord should return your damage deposit if they have checked your property and agreed that no damage had been caused.
Your landlord must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007.
You landlord must let you know the schemed the deposit is registered with. Gov.uk is great site which highlights step by step how the scheme works and how to complain if the landlord fails to return the deposit promptly and in full.
If your landlord claims that you are responsible for damage, you should make sure that they prepared an initial inventory. It i also a good idea to , before you leave , take photos of the flat to help show the state you left the property in.
If your landlord decides that there is some slight wear and tear, you should argue that your landlord should expect a reasonable level of wear and tear (unless the tenancy agreement states that any wear and tear could endanger the return of your deposit).
If your landlord continues to keep your deposit, you should write to them asking for the return of your deposit within 14 days. You should also say that if your landlord does not return your deposit, you will recover it in the Small Claims Court. You either sue money claims on line or use the guidance at gov.uk
If you don’t agree with the landlord’s description of the condition of your property, you should look over your tenancy agreement and check that:
- there is a clause that allows your landlord to keep your damage deposit; and
- the items that your landlord is keeping the deposit for are specifically mentioned.
Unless the agreement includes one or other of these your landlord does not have the right to keep your deposit. However, you must not withhold a month’s rent in place of the damage deposit – this would be illegal. You should seek legal advice if you are planning to do this.
- My house is part of a Council Stock Transfer. How does this affect me?
A ‘council stock transfer’ means that you change from being a secure tenant of the council to an assured tenant of a registered social landlord. Before a transfer can take place your new landlord must agree to offer a new assured tenancy agreement.
Your new tenancy agreement specifies your rights and sets out details of the rent and any other charges, how often they will increase, and how much notice you must get of any change. It should make clear the obligations of the landlord and explain your obligations on the use of the property and its state of decoration and repair.
If you have the ‘Right to Buy’ with the council you will still have the right to buy your home after the transfer. This is called ‘Preserved Right to Buy’. Even if you do not have the ‘Preserved Right to Buy’, you may be eligible for the ‘Right to Acquire’. The ‘Right to Acquire’ gives registered social landlords’ tenants a statutory right to purchase their home with the benefit of a discount, generally between £9,000 and £16,000, depending on the local authority area.
The scheme applies to properties transferred from local authorities to registered social landlords after 1 April 1997, with certain exceptions such as homes in small rural settlements. You must have spent at least two years as a public sector tenant to qualify for the scheme.
- I am having serious problems with my landlord. What can I do?
If you think your landlord is acting unfairly, or you feel you are being harassed or illegally evicted, you should seek legal advice. Harassment and illegal eviction are serious offences but the law relating to this is complex and you should seek legal advice
- What is sheltered housing?
Sheltered housing schemes enable people to live independently but with the added security of having an alarm system and warden. Sheltered housing can be bought or rented. Further information can be obtained from the Local Authority or Age Concern(www.ageconcern.org.uk).
- What is a Disabled Facilities Grant?
This is a mandatory entitlement to provide funds for adaptations to enable people with disabilities to live independently in their own homes, regardless of tenure. It is administered by the Local Authority and there will be an assessment of both the need for the adaptation and your income. www.adkc.org.uk can advise.
- When do I need planning permission?
Planning permission is always needed for:
- Building works (build, demolish, extend)
- Changing the use of the land
Always check with the Local Authority before starting any works as failure to get the required permission will prove expensive.
- What is mediation?
Mediation is a form of negotiation, used in neighbour disputes amongst others, with an independent trained mediator. It is best to try to avoid neighbour disputes by:-
- Behaving reasonably (eg don’t be an anti-social neighbour)
- Trying to discuss any dispute with your neighbourhood to see if it can be resolved amicably
- Contact the Local Authority for details of mediation schemes in the area
- Does it matter what my tenancy agreement says about repairs?
This depends on what is included in the agreement. Your landlord can not get out of their legal responsibilities no matter what is written in the agreement. You can get advice on the agreement from a housing adviser.
- I rent privately. What repairs should my landlord do?
Landlords are responsible for:
- Structure and exterior of the building
- Sinks, baths, toilets, pipes, drains
- Heating/hot water
- Gas appliances, flues, ventilation
- Electrical wiring
- I am moving into a new home. Can I get financial help to furnish it?
Check if you are eligible for payments from the Social Fund (www.dwp.org uk)
You can find details of furniture projects in your area by checking out Furniture Re-Use Network(www.frn.org.uk). There will be criteria that you will need to fit into and also a charge, but it is a cheaper option.
- I have rent arrears and have received a notice to quit from my landlord. What do I do?
You are at risk of losing your home if you owe rent. Rent arrears must be treated as a top priority debt. You can check entitlement to housing benefit. Negotiate an affordable repayment plan with your landlord. Seek legal advice from a housing adviser. Do not ignore the problem because you could become homeless.
- How can I get a hostel place?
There is usually more demand for a hostel place than space available. Some hostels only accept referrals made by statutory or voluntary organisations and some accept self-referrals. Get details of local hostels or shelters from the Local Authority, Shelter’s helpline 0808 800 4444 or www.homelessuk.org.uk