Social housing - Rent calculation issues
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Your rent should always be your top financial priority: wherever possible, always budget to ensure that you can pay it on time. If you do get into difficulties, contact your housing association immediately, even if you have other debts. Ensure that you explain your difficulties to the housing association.
If you are claiming benefits or are on a low income, you might be eligible for housing benefit to help you pay the rent. You should contact Shelter for advice and guidance: they are focused on helping you when you need it most.
The housing association should only evict you as a last resort. To evict you from an assured tenancy, the housing association must:
- Send you a document giving you notice to leave;
- Apply to the court for a possession order;
- Ask the court to send bailiffs to evict you.
For rent arrears, the housing association must follow the rent-arrears protocol which sets out steps the housing association has to take. It must:
- Write to you about your arrears;
- Help you with your housing benefit;
- Offer other support if you are vulnerable.
The housing association must try to reach an agreement with you to repay the arrears so that taking you to court can be avoided.You should know
- All social housing landlords have a formal complaints process. Resolver will get you in touch with your landlord to help you raise your issue.
- If you cannot resolve the issue, you may be able to go to the Housing Ombudsman.
- If there is a danger to your home or the estate, you can raise the issue with your local council’s Environmental Health department.
- There are two key tenancy types: starter and assured tenancies. Your rights depend on the type of tenancy that you are in.
If you have a complaint you should use Resolver to officially raise the issue with your landlord.
There are several different types of housing association tenancy agreements, and you need to work out what type of agreement you have. Find your agreement and read it carefully: you can find out more about tenancy types at: gov.uk/housing-association-homes/types-of-tenancy
This is a trial tenancy; it is similar to an assured short tenancy and gives you the same rights. You have fewer rights from eviction, and after an initial period your contract should become an assured tenancy, unless the Housing Association tries to evict you.
If you have spent any time as a starter tenant with another housing association, you might be able to carry this over.
If you have a joint tenancy, and the trial period ends for one of you, the trial period is then over.
After 12 months you will probably become an assured tenant. An assured tenancy gives you better rights, for example the ability to sub-let part of your home (with the housing association’s prior consent).
You are likely to be an introductory tenant if you have been with the housing association for less than 12 months. During this first year, you cannot buy your home, exchange your home or apply for a transfer.
Key reasons that a landlord could try to evict you from your home are if you have not paid your rent, or are causing a disturbance to the local environment. They will apply to a court to get an eviction notice.
Other potential causes for evictions are if you have not kept the property in good condition, your application was not truthful, or if you or a member of your household has been involved in anti-social behaviour.
If your landlord wants to evict you, they will need to go to court to obtain a court order for possession of your property. You will have had to receive two months’ notice before going to court. Reasons for eviction include:
- Not paying the rent;
- Causing a nuisance;
- Undertaking illegal activities;
- Living in another property or subletting without consent.
Your tenancy agreement should state the process for rent increases, and you must be given at least four weeks’ notice of any such increase. If you think your rent has been increased unfairly, you can go to a Residential Property Tribunal.
Speak with a specialist, such as Shelter, beforehand to ensure that it is reasonable for you to appeal.
Your rent cannot be increased during a starter tenancy unless you have agreed to it, such as when you signed the agreement.
Most assured housing association tenants pay what is called a social rent or an affordable rent, which is usually set by the landlord annually. It should be lower than you would pay a private landlord for the same kind of property.
Check your tenancy agreement, as there are rules on how much your rent can be increased by. Your landlord normally gives you written notice first, at least four weeks in advance.
The amount of rent that you pay should not go up more than once a year, unless by mutual agreement. You should always be given at least four weeks' written notice. You might also have to pay a service charge for the maintenance of communal areas.
Repairs & maintenance
Your landlord should give you information about the repairs that you are responsible for; these usually include internal decoration and putting right any damage that you cause. The landlord is usually responsible for most of the other repairs to your home, such as work on the roof, guttering, windows, doors and brickwork.
Inside the property, they should also ensure that the plumbing, gas and electricity are working safely, including periodic checks (annually for gas). If your home requires repairs, or there is an emergency, report your issue to the landlord; you can do this via Resolver.
If the landlord plans to do any significant work, it should also consult you before the work begins. If you have to move out while the work is done, the landlord might have to rehouse you (temporarily or permanently).
Can I have a lodger?
You may have a right to take in a lodger. However you cannot sub-let your home unless you have written permission from your landlord. Citizen's Advice have a useful guide to your rights to take in a lodger: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/subletting-and-lodging/lodging/rights-of-tenants-to-take-in-a-lodger/
Right to improve
Secure tenants can carry out improvements to the property as long as they receive the landlord’s permission first. Introductory tenants are not allowed to carry out any improvements.
Your landlord should only refuse permission for the improvements if he or she is worried that the work will make the property less safe, reduce the value of the property or make it difficult to let in the future. You will become responsible for future repairs and maintenance of any new improvements you make to the house; so, for example, if you install a new shower and it leaks, it’s your responsibility to fix it.
Right to acquire
Right to Acquire allows most housing association tenants to buy their home at a discount. You can find out more at: gov.uk/right-to-acquire-buying-housing-association-home
If a complaint cannot be resolved by your landlord, or eight weeks have passed after the time that the you completed the formal complaints process, you can take your complaint to the Housing Ombudsman.
The Housing Ombudsman is the final stage of the escalation process: it can only deal with your case once it has been through your landlord’s complaints process.
If you have started legal or court action, the ombudsman will be unlikely to take your case forward. The ombudsman will then gather information from the landlord and you about your case. Your Resolver case file will contain all of your relevant communications and supporting documents, which will help the ombudsman assess your case.
Your landlord must act on the decision of the Housing Ombudsman.
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