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If you are renting and have been issued with a S.21 (eviction notice), you should seek advice from your local authority. Most local authorities will ask that a tenant/ occupier stay in the properly until bailiffs physically evict them, as at this point the you will become statutorily homeless and have a right to be given temporary accommodation by your local authority. If a tenant leaves before this time, they may be classed as ‘voluntarily homeless’ and not be entitled to support from their local authority.
If you have a court date for eviction/ repossession proceedings, you may be able to get representation and/ or advice from a number of agencies, including:
Local Law Centre – Local law centres provide legal representation to those who cannot afford a lawyer. You can search for one at http://www.lawcentres.org.uk/
Shelter – Housing and Homelessness advice charity. Provides in depth advice on most housing and homelessness issues, and often have representatives available at courts. Information available at http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice. Shelter Housing Advice Helpline – 0808 800 4444. Open 8am – 8pm Mon – Fri and 9am – 5pm weekends, 365 days a year.
Tenants on a low or nil income may be able to get help with their rent through Universal Credit. This is normally paid to the claimant not to a landlord. For more information on Universal Credit and rent, including the effect of the benefit cap, and to apply online please visit gov.uk/universal-credit and to apply online please visit gov.uk/apply-universal-credit
You may also be able to get help with your council tax payments. You would need to apply directly to your local authority for this help. To find your local authority, use the search tool available on the Gov.uk website here.
If you are renting from a private landlord, you will be subject to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, which is the maximum rental a local authority will pay for a household of your size. Any shortfall would need to be made up yourself. You can find out your LHA rate on the Gov.uk website here.
It is worth noting that people under 35 would only be eligible to receive the ‘shared accommodation rate’, which is based on the LHA rate for a room in shared accommodation, which may be significantly lower that your actual rent if you are under 35 and renting a whole property.
If you are renting from a social landlord (e.g. your landlord is a local authority or a housing association), the amount of help you can receive with your rent will be reduced if you are deemed to have more bedrooms than the rules allow. This is known as the under-occupation charge or ‘bedroom tax’. The bedroom tax does not apply once you reach state pension age.
If making up a LHA shortfall or the bedroom tax is preventing you from paying your rent, you may be able to ask your Local Authority to provide you with a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
Local authorities have a set fund available each year that can be accessed by tenants who are having difficulties paying their rent, perhaps due to the impact of the bedroom tax or LHA rate, although other extenuating circumstances are taken into account. Local authorities only have limited funds to administer DHPs, which are renewed annually; once the fund is used up, no more DHPs can be paid.
Further information from Shelter, including an online tool to access your local authority’s DHP claim form, can be found here.
It is worth contacting your mortgage lender as soon as possible to advise them of a change in circumstance and to negotiate a new way of meeting your payments. If approached before arrears are incurred, lenders are often able to be flexible and may agree to a repayment holiday, a period of nil payment, switching to interest only or to add any arrears on to the total outstanding on your mortgage.
If you are facing repossession by your lender, you should seek specialist advice as soon as possible on your rights and responsibilities. Your lender should only pursue repossession as a last resort, and must consider all reasonable options that you propose to pay off your arrears.
You may be able to get free and confidential advice from Civil Legal Advice, dependent on your income. More information is available on the government's website: www.gov.uk/civil-legal-advice
Shelter can also provide specialist advice on next steps. Their helpline is 0808 800 4444 and you may find their information on repossession helpful.
There is relatively limited support for homeowners who are having difficulty meeting their mortgage payment. It is worth checking whether you have mortgage protection insurance which will cover your mortgage payments for a period if your income drops. Some critical illness policies may help cover your mortgage payments if you become ill and your income drops.
If you are entitled to an income-based benefit -such as Universal Credit, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-based Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Pensions Credit- you may be eligible for Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI). This is a payment administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to assist those on low incomes with the interest portion of their mortgage. However, SMI only becomes payable 39 weeks after you become eligible for an income-based benefit. More information is available on the government's website here: gov.uk/support-for-mortgage-interest
SMI is paid as a loan, which must be repaid when you die or sell your home.
Before contacting the service, we encourage you to view the advice guides located above, as these may answer your query without the need to wait for an appointment.
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