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Housing Advice

The Council offers free, impartial and confidential advice regarding housing related issues.

The Council can:

  • Assess your housing needs and offer advice on a range of housing options
  • Give advice and support to people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness
  • Support you in finding a solution to your housing problem
  • Work with landlords and tenants to prevent eviction

The housing problems that the Council can help with include:

  • Homelessness
  • Affordability and debt problems
  • Difficulties paying a mortgage or rent
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Disrepair and poor property conditions

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness please visit Homeless or threatened with homelessness?

For help with other housing problems please refer to the information below. To contact Housing Options please email housing.options@torridge.gov.uk or telephone 01237 428700 and select Housing Options, or register on Client Self-Referral Portal - Housing Jigsaw.

Tenants' rights and rights of occupation

You have certain rights and responsibilities if you are a tenant in privately rented property. For more information please visit GOV.UK Guide to Private Renting.

Section 21 or Section 8 notice

There are rules that a landlord must follow if they wish to evict a tenant, and these rules will depend on the type of tenancy that is held. For information on the rules for tenancies in the private rented sector, please visit GOV.UK Private renting evictions.

If you are a private rented landlord wishing to evict a tenant you will find useful information at GOV.UK Evicting tenants.

If you are renting from a social landlord and facing eviction you can find information on Citizens Advice website Citizens Advice Renting from council or housing association.

If you are facing eviction there are a number of ways in which the Council can help you to try and keep your home, or find a new home if that is not possible. For more information please visit Homeless or threatened with homelessness?

Disrepair

Your landlord must keep the property you live in safe and free from health hazards.

It is advisable to tell your landlord in writing if repairs are needed to your property. You should keep a copy of any letters, emails or texts you send and receive from the landlord.

Your landlord should tell you when you can expect the repairs to be done. You should carry on paying rent while you are waiting for repairs to be undertaken. You must give your landlord access to the property to inspect it or carry out repairs. Your landlord has to give you at least 24 hours notice and visit at a reasonable time of day, unless it's an emergency and they need immediate access.

For more details on the process for reporting repairs please visit GOV.UK Private renting repairs

Sometimes a landlord may not undertake repairs, or they may disagree that repairs need to be carried out or dispute who is responsible for undertaking the repairs. You can find useful information on what you can do if you are a tenant and find yourself in this situation on the Citizens Advice website. You can also find useful information on Housing Standards and Disrepair.

If you are a landlord wishing to know more about your responsibilities please visit GOV.UK Renting out your property

Landlord harassment and illegal eviction

A landlord does not have the right to harass a tenant and must not, for example, call round to the tenant's home whenever they wish, contact the tenant excessively, disconnect utilities, take the tenant's belongings or threatened to harm the tenant. A landlord cannot evict a tenant without obtaining an eviction warrant from a court. Harassment and illegal eviction are criminal offences and if found guilty a landlord can be fined and/or sent to prison.

For more information on harassment you can visit Shelter's website.

The Housing Options team can intervene and mediate to stop harassment and prevent or get a tenant back in their home after an illegal eviction. You can telephone Housing Options on 01237 428700 or email housing.options@torridge.gov.uk.

Family or friends exclusion or being evicted by a resident landlord

Where a tenant shares a kitchen, bathroom or other living accommodation with their landlord, the landlord is referred to as a resident landlord and it is easier for them to evict. For more information visit Shelter's website.

The Housing Options team can help and advise on the best course of action if there are problems with a lodging arrangement. You can telephone Housing Options on 01237 428700 or email housing.options@torridge.gov.uk. If you have been asked to leave your lodgings please visit Homeless or threatened with homelessness?

Disputes with a social landlord

Torridge District Council can act as a 'designated person' and assist social housing tenants and their landlord to resolve their disputes.

For more information please visit Complaint about your Social Landlord?

Rights to benefits including assistance with making claims as required

If you are on benefits or a low income you may be entitled to help with your rent and council tax. For information on council tax support, universal credit and housing benefit and how to apply for them please visit Housing Benefit & Council Tax Support.

Mortgage arrears

Getting into difficulties with your mortgage payments can happen easily, and is often the result of a change in circumstances. Your home can be repossessed if you fall behind on your mortgage, so it is important that you act quickly to address any problems as soon as possible.

If you are struggling to meet mortgage repayments it is better to contact your lender to explain the difficulties you are having. A good lender will want to work with you to find a solution before the situation gets worse.

Your lender will need go to court if they wish to repossess your home, and there are certain steps that they must take before you can be brought to court. You will get letters about the arrears from your lender and your lender's solicitor or from the court, and can negotiate with your lender to try and save your home from being repossessed. If the case goes to court you will be invited to attend, and will have a further opportunity to save your home from being repossessed.

For more detailed information of this process and rights visit GOV.UK Repossession. You can also find further information at Citizens Advice.

Rent arrears

If you fall behind in paying your rent, you will get into rent arrears and your home may become at risk.

If you are going to be late in paying your rent, or cannot pay your rent in full it is better that you explain this to the landlord. If you have a good reason the landlord may be sympathetic. It is better that you pay what you can towards your rent. This will show that you are making an effort and will keep the arrear as small as possible.

Maximising your income

If you are struggling to pay your rent because you do not have enough money coming in you may be eligible for additional welfare benefits. Depending on your circumstances, there are a variety of benefits that you may be entitled to and you should contact Citizens Advice for help, search for your local Citizens Advice

Negotiate a payment plan

Your landlord does not have to accept a repayment plan, but they may be willing to agree to a repayment plan if you have been a good tenant or your proposal seems realistic and will allow you to pay off the rent arrears.

To negotiate a repayment plan, you should first work out your full monthly income and your necessary monthly expenditure. Be realistic and make sure you allocate enough money to essentials, such as food, travel costs, heating and electricity bills. Citizens Advice has an online budgeting tool that may help you.

Once you've worked out your monthly income and expenditure, you should be able to see what is left over at the end of the month. Decide how much of this you can put towards clearing your rent arrears and contact your landlord to see if the proposal is acceptable.

If a money or debt adviser is working with you, they might be able to negotiate with the landlord on your behalf.

Discretionary Housing Payment

Tenants who receive housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit can apply for a short-term top-up payment, known as a Discretionary Housing Payment, if they are having difficulty paying rent in full each month. These payments are discretionary, so there is no guarantee that your application will be successful, and if you are awarded Discretionary Housing Payment it will only be for a short period until you can take steps to pay the shortfall yourself or secure more affordable accommodation.

For more information on Discretionary Housing Payments please visit Discretionary Payment Scheme.

Served notice due to rent arrears

There are rules that a landlord must follow if they wish to evict you for rent arrears. If you have an assured shorthold tenancy and you have not previously received notice, your landlord may choose to serve one or two notices on you.

The most likely is a Notice Seeking Possession (S21 Notice). This is a two month notice asking you to leave your home.

Your landlord can issue a Section 8 notice at any time during your tenancy. When using this notice your landlord must give a legal reason to end your tenancy, such as you have:

  • rent arrears
  • broken the terms of your tenancy agreement

Your landlord must follow the correct legal process and apply to a court to evict you.

Your landlord will need to serve a minimum of 14 days written notice advising you they intend to apply for accelerated possession. If this is due to rent arrears, the arrears must be 8 weeks or 2 months in arrears at the time it goes to court to be valid. Therefore, even if you cannot make full payment to clear your rent account, if you can reduce the amount owing to less than 2 months arrears the notice will not be granted in court.

For more detailed information on the rules for eviction visit GOV.UK.

If you are served notice you should contact the Housing Options Team as soon as you can, as contacting the Council early usually means that you can be offered more help. For more information please visit Homeless or threatened with homelessness?

If you have been served notice the Housing Options Team can:

  • check your notice is valid
  • contact your landlord to see if anything can be done to save your tenancy
  • refer you for debt/money advice
  • make representation to the court on your behalf if appropriate
  • look at options to try and clear your rent arrears or get a payment plan in place; this includes providing you with financial assistance to clear the arrears if you can afford the rent and the landlord is willing to allow you to remain in the property
  • if your tenancy can not be saved, look at options to find you a new home before you are made homeless

If a payment plan can be agreed with your landlord and you fail to maintain those payments you are likely to lose your home.

Help with debt

The consequences of not paying some debts can be more serious than others. Priority debts, such as your rent or mortgage and council tax have the most serious consequence if not paid.

If you have money troubles you can work out the best option for you through a Money Advice Service debt health check.

It is advisable to complete an income and expenditure form to look at your budget in detail. You can use bank statements and any letters relating to your debts to work out your outgoings and prioritise your payments. A useful online budgeting tool is available from Citizens Advice.

Seeking debt advice from a specialist advisor can help you to budget, ensure you have the maximum income you are entitled to and help you to manage your debts.

You can seek more information from Citizens Advice debt and money. You can also approach Citizens Advice locally at search in your area.

Further help and support on managing your money and debts is available at National Debtline or Money Advice Service.