PROTECT – YOUR RENT PAYMENTS!

What should I do if I can’t afford my rent?

  1. Contact your landlord

If you are struggling to make rent payments you can download the letter below by clicking here

[Name of your landlord or agent

Their Address

and their e-mail address]

 

[Date]

Dear                                                      [landlord/ agent]

Re:                                                          [address of your property]

 

I hope you are keeping well and safe.

 

I am writing to let you know that as a result of the COVID-19 crisis I am having additional difficulties making rent payments and I wanted to let you know as soon as possible so that you can take steps to minimise any loss or problems this may cause for you.

 

[Explain problems you are having for example:

Unfortunately

as I have lost employment and I am having to make new claim for benefits

as I can no longer work and my earnings have reduced significantly

as a result of lock down, my children being at home, increased costs and shortages]

 

I am struggling to pay for food, bill and other essential living costs.

 

I am doing all I can to try to improve my financial circumstances.

 

[Explain any steps you are taking for example:

I have 

made a claim for benefits

been looking for work

applied for Discretionary Housing Payments

tried to get advice about managing my income and my debts]

 

I don’t want to just fall behind on my payments and so I am writing to see whether, in view of the crisis, you would be willing to show some flexibility with my payments for the next few weeks

For example by agreeing a rent payment holiday, a temporary reduced rent, or for me to differ my payments and agreeing an affordable repayment plan when the crisis is over. [you can keep in all options, or chose just one or make a specific proposal to your landlord here]

 

You probably already know, but in case not, I understand that if you have a mortgage for the property then you can ask your lender for a repayment holiday. https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/mortgages-coronavirus-consumers

 

I know that the government and the courts have given some protection for tenants, meaning that no new possession claims can be issued and existing possession claims are suspended at least until 25 June 2020, but I don’t want to just wait until the emergency protection ends and I want to do all I can to try keep you informed, reach an agreement and avoid the risk of eviction in the future.

 

Please contact me by e-mail                                                     

[e-mail is best as you then have a record of your landlord’s response, but alternatively you can invite a response by telephone and confirm the agreement by text]

Take care and keep well.

 

Yours sincerely

 

[your name]

 

 Can I get extra help with my rent can I get if I receive Universal Credit or Housing Benefit?:

If your income has dropped as a result of losing your employment or reduced hours make sure that you report the change to Universal Credit or the Housing Benefit Department as soon as possible as the help you receive towards your rent should increase.

You may also be able to get extra rent by applying for Discretionary Housing Payments:

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs)

DHPs provide additional help for people who are struggling with their rent and receive either Universal Credit or Housing Benefit because they are unemployed or on a low income.

Central government gives money to local councils to make the payments and councils can also add in money for DHPs from their own budget.

If you receive some help with your rent from Universal Credit or Housing Benefit but don’t receive the full amount you can apply for regular extra payments.

This can help if:

  • you have a spare room and are affected by the Bed Room Tax
  • you have a larger family and are affected by the Benefit Cap
  • you have adult children or other “non-dependents” living with you and your payments are reduced
  • your rent is above the Local Housing Allowance (the maximum that Universal Credit or Housing Benefit will pay.

 

You can also claim DHPs to help with a lump sum payment for arrears (so long as you were receiving some Universal Credit or Housing Benefit at the time your arrears built up).

A lot of the reasons the government used to justified the Bedroom Tax, Benefit Cap, and other cuts to low income families do not apply during the COVID-19 crisis (if they ever did) this is because:

  • you cannot move to a smaller home to escape the Bedroom Tax,
  • you cannot move to a cheaper home to reduce your rent to within the Local Housing Allowance,
  • you are less likely to be able to find work to escape the Benefit Cap;

 

However the government has not suspended these measures for renters during COVID-19.

So far the only assistance they have given to people claiming Universal Credit or Housing Benefit is:

  1. to increase the Universal Credit personal allowance by £20 per week from 6th April (there has been no increase to the rate of housing payments);
  2. a small increase the Local Housing Allowance (the maximum Universal Credit or Housing Benefit will pay).

 

If these changes are not enough to help you cover your rent payments in full then claiming a DHP (even if you have been refused before) may be your best option for avoiding rent arrears and avoiding the risk of eviction in the future.

How to Claim:

Whether to make an award of DHP,or how much to award, is left to the Council. It is therefore important that you give them as much information as possible to show why you need help and why a DHP is the only option.

  1. Check on your Council’s website for how to claim. Some have a paper form that they ask you to send or e-mail to them, others have an online form. Here are the links to the Council DHP web pages.

Bolton : https://selfserve.bolton.gov.uk/citizenportal/form.aspx?form=HB_DHP_FORM

Bury : https://www.bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10992

Manchester: https://secure.manchester.gov.uk/info/200008/benefits_and_support/1342/discretionary_housing_payments/3

Oldham: https://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/100001/benefits_and_money/1780/claim_benefit_to_help_pay_rent/6

Rochdale: http://www.rochdale.gov.uk/council-tax-benefits-and-money/Pages/help-with-housing-costs.aspx

Salford: https://www.salford.gov.uk/benefits/discretionary-housing-payments/

Stockport: https://www.stockport.gov.uk/start/discretionary-payments-application-form

Tameside:https://www.tameside.gov.uk/Benefits/Discretionary-Housing-Payments

Trafford:https://trafford-framework.egovhub.net/DISCRETIONARYPAYMENTS/launch

Wigan:https://finforms.wigan.gov.uk/Viewer-VicForms.asp?user=anon&Form=Wigan%20New%20Discretionary%20Housing%20Payments%20(1.0).wdf

  1. Get all your financial information together:

You will need:

  1. Your National Insurance Number
  2. Rent statements and copies of any letters sent from your landlord, Notices, or possession proceedings (if you have them)
  3. Your bank details for all your accounts
  4. Details of any savings you have and all of your income (wages, benefits, maintenance payments)
  5. Details of the money you spend including:
  • Rent
  • Regular bills (gas, electricity, water, TV licence, Council Tax, mobile phones, internet/ media packages)
  • Debts and fines and how much you are repaying
  • Maintenance payments for a child
  • Transport costs (car, bike, public transport)
  • Food
  • Toiletries
  • Cleaning products and household maintenance
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Any additional costs you have because of any illnesses or disabilities
  1. Be ready to explain on the form how difficult your life is now in terms of your money or lack of it, the stresses you and your family are facing, and health problems or additional risks, the reasons why you cannot move to a smaller or cheaper home, find work or increase your hours, and any difficulties you have had with your benefits or finding help and advice. Councils only have so much money they can set aside for DHPs and you need to give them enough information to understand why you really need the help at this time.

Get legal advice as soon as possible if you apply for a DHP and are refused.

Contact housing@gmlaw.org.uk or call 0161 749 2244 

To download the full COVID19 Survival kit click here