Housing Advice

Do you need housing advice, the following information may be useful

  • You are living with friends and being asked to leave?
  • You are overcrowded?
  • Your private landlord has given you notice to leave?
  • You have rental or mortgage arrears?
  • You are a victim of domestic violence?
  • You have debt?
  • Your accommodation is unsuitable due to medical needs?

We will provide free and confidential housing advice to you. We provide this service on behalf of Newcastle Borough Council.

Helping us deal with your initial inquiry

Please bring with you any documents that you have relating to your housing issue. For example:

  • A notice to quit, or notice seeking possession if you have been given one by your landlord;
  • copy of letter from mortgage lender, solicitor or court if you are a home owner and your property is being repossessed;
  • possession order or bailiff’s warrant if you have one;
  • any letter from relatives or friends stating you must leave;

Please also bring any Home Office documentation you have about your asylum/immigration status if this applies to you;

Private Rented – Can we help?  –  you may wish to visit our  Private rented page

For the up to date information please contact us or visit

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/464910/How_to_Rent_October_2015_FINAL.pdf

Local Housing Allowance rates can be found on the Newcastle under Lyme Borough council website and this will help you decide if the property you have found is affordable. Most private landlords require rent in advance and a deposit. Newcastle Housing Advice can, in certain circumstances provide help with both of these requirements, via the Rent Deposit Scheme.  In order to qualify for our help you must be homeless or threatened with homelessness, have a connection to Newcastle Borough and meet certain income requirements.  If you wish to discuss this scheme to see if we can help you further, please contact us on 0345 850 9698.

Your Landlord is harassing you

Whatever type of tenancy you have, your landlord does not have the right to harass you. For example, they should not call round whenever they wish, or disconnect your fuel supplies, or take your belongings, or threaten to harm you. Your landlord cannot evict you without obtaining an eviction warrant from a court. Harassment and illegal eviction are criminal offences and, if found guilty, your landlord could be fined, sent to jail, or both. NHA can intervene with your landlord to stop harassment or illegal eviction, and help get you back in your home.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and housing benefit claims

Most people who pay rent can apply for LHA if they are on a low income. Problems with LHA claims may put you in rent arrears and cause problems with your landlord. In these situations, we may be able to help prevent you from losing your home by contacting the council’s LHA team on your behalf and liaising with your landlord. An LHA claim is your responsibility and it is up to you to provide any requested documents to assist the claim.

What if you have a joint tenancy or licence?

You have a joint tenancy or licence if you share with a spouse, partner, family member or friend and both/all of your names are on the agreement. The actions of each individual person will affect all of your rights. For instance:

  • If one of you leaves without ending the tenancy correctly, the whole rent will still be due and the other(s) will have to pay the missing person’s share.
  • If one of you has caused damage, the landlord may be entitled to take money out of your shared deposit.

You can only end a fixed term joint tenancy if your landlord and all the other joint tenants agree or if there’s a break clause and the other tenants agree to use it. It is a good idea to get any permission given in writing so that you have proof of what was agreed. If any of the joint tenants want to stay they would have ensure the landlord would grant them a new tenancy, if the original agreement ends. If you are thinking about leaving, be sure to discuss it with the other joint tenant(s) before you take any action. It may be possible for someone else to take your place, and/or for the landlord to give a new agreement to those who are staying.

 What other options are there?

If the landlord will not allow you to leave early and will not allow a new tenant suggested by you to move in, you may be able to negotiate to only pay part of the rent you owe. For example, if there are four months left on a fixed term agreement, the landlord might agree to only two months’ rent instead while they look for a new tenant.

What if you just walk away?

Walking away or just posting the keys through the letterbox is called ‘abandonment’ and will not end your tenancy. Your agreement with the landlord will continue even though you have left and the landlord can continue to charge you rent, so you are likely to build up rent arrears until possession is granted. This may also make it harder for you to find a new home, as most housing associations and private landlords ask new tenants for references from previous landlords and are not keen to rent to anyone who has abandoned a tenancy. Similarly, it is important to make sure that you have somewhere to go when you leave. If you need to make a homeless application in the future, or after you have walked away from the tenancy, Newcastle Housing Advice may decide that you are intentionally homeless. This is because you left a home that you could have stayed in, but you chose to leave.  It is always best to seek advice before you make any decisions.

 Can you get someone else to move in?

This may be possible if you have no choice but to leave early and want to avoid paying rent on more than one home. However, you have to get the landlord’s agreement for the person you suggest to move into the property. The landlord may want to take up references for them. The landlord should give the new person their own tenancy or licence agreement – otherwise, you will still be legally responsible for the tenancy

 Can you give the landlord notice and if so, how much?

Many fixed term agreements (including some assured short hold tenancies with private landlords) contain a ‘break clause’, which allows you to end the agreement before the end of the fixed term. Check your agreement to see if it includes a clause like this. If it does include a break clause, it should also say how much notice you have to give and whether there are any special procedures you have to follow. If it does not include a break clause then you cannot end the tenancy early unless the landlord agrees to it. If you leave anyway you can still be liable for the rent to the end of the period.

 What happens when your agreement runs out?

If your agreement is for a fixed term (eg six months) you can leave on the last day of the fixed term without giving notice. You must ensure that you do not stay even one day over, or you will automatically become a periodic tenant and will have to give proper notice or come to an agreement with your landlord. If you intend to leave on the last day you are not legally required to give the landlord any notice, but it is usually a good idea to do so, to avoid any dispute about when you actually left. Good communication helps things to go smoothly. Remember that you may need a reference to get a new home and, if you have paid a deposit, you are more likely to get it back if you keep the landlord in formed. If you stay beyond the fixed term and your landlord does not give you a new fixed term agreement, your tenancy or licence will automatically become periodic, which means that it rolls from week to week or month to month.

 What if your landlord agrees that you can leave?

It is possible to get out of the agreement at any time if you can come to a mutual agreement with your landlord. This is called ‘surrender’. To be valid, both sides must agree, and it is always best to put what has been agreed in writing so everyone knows where they stand. If you have a joint tenancy all the joint tenants and the landlord must agree to the surrender. It is worth seeing if your landlord is willing to negotiate even if your tenancy agreement says you cannot leave early. It may be convenient for both of you!

 What if you want to end your tenancy?

It is possible to get out of the agreement at any time if you can come to a mutual agreement with your landlord. This is called ‘surrender’. To be valid, both sides must agree, and it is always best to put what has been agreed in writing so everyone knows where they stand. If you have a joint tenancy all the joint tenants and the landlord must agree to the surrender. It is worth seeing if your landlord is willing to negotiate even if your tenancy agreement says you cannot leave early. It may be convenient for both of you!

When can a Section 21 notice to quit be issued?

A section 21 notice can be issued at any time during the fixed tenancy or during the periodic tenancy, but a Section 21 notice to quit can only be used to regain possession of a property at the end of an assured shorthold tenancy. If a landlord wishes to regain possession before the end of the agreed term, this may be possible if he can show certain conditions have been met. In order to do this he must first issue the tenant with a valid section 8 notice to quit. Section 21 notices served during the fixed term of the tenancy Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 as amended by the Housing Act 1996 requires that the landlord provides tenants of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) with a minimum of two months’ notice in writing, stating that possession of the property is sought.  The two months starts when the tenant receives the notice not when the notice was written/posted. A Section 21 notice must be served before possession order will be issued by a court. Possession under this section of the Housing Act 1988 cannot take place during the fixed term of the tenancy, but the notice can be served at any time during the fixed term provided the tenant is given a minimum of two months’ notice. The tenant is not required to give up possession of a property until a minimum of two months after the Section 21 notice to quit was served. This includes Section 21 notices served up until the last day of the fixed term.   We recommend that if you are served with any type of notice from your landlord to contact us and seek advice immediately.

Ending Tenancies – The landlord wants you to leave

A ‘Section 21 Notice to Quit’, so called because it operates under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, is the notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property at the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST).  The landlord is able to issue the tenant with a section 21 notice without giving any reason for ending the tenancy agreement. A landlord has the legal right to retain possession at the end of a tenancy but must follow the correct legal procedure, which includes serving a section 21 notice. The Housing Act 1996 amended the section 21 of the 1988 Act by requiring this notice to be given in writing.-

If you already rent privately

If you already rent privately, we can help and advise you your right to stay in your home depends on the tenancy agreement you have. We need to see the agreement and the notice served before we can advise you correctly. If your landlord did not give you an agreement when you moved in, we can advise on your rights to remain in the property. Since 6 April 2007, when a landlord or letting agent issues a new or renews an assured short hold tenancy where a deposit is involved, such deposit must be protected by a government approved scheme.

 What if the tenants just leave?

Walking away or posting the keys through the letterbox is called ‘abandonment’ and will not end a tenancy agreement. The agreement will continue even though the tenants have left and the landlord has the right to continue to charge rent.  A landlord can apply for a court order to make tenants pay what is owed. It should be noted that if the property has since been let out rent can only be claimed for the period of time before a new tenant has moved in. The period of time that rent can be charged after a tenant leaves depends on the type of agreement.   In a fixed term agreement rent can continue to be charged up until when the term ends.   If the agreement is periodic, rent can be charged up until the time when the agreement would have ended had the tenant given the agreed period of notice.

 What if the tenants refuse to leave?

Walking away or posting the keys through the letterbox is called ‘abandonment’ and will not end a tenancy agreement. The agreement will continue even though the tenants have left and the landlord has the right to continue to charge rent.  A landlord can apply for a court order to make tenants pay what is owed. It should be noted that if the property has since been let out rent can only be claimed for the period of time before a new tenant has moved in. The period of time that rent can be charged after a tenant leaves depends on the type of agreement.   In a fixed term agreement rent can continue to be charged up until when the term ends.   If the agreement is periodic, rent can be charged up until the time when the agreement would have ended had the tenant given the agreed period of notice.

Ending a tenancy agreement early

If the agreement is periodic (rolling from week to week or month to month), a tenant will normally have to give at least four weeks’ notice to end it, or a calendar month if it is a monthly tenancy. The notice must be in writing and must end on the first or last day of the tenancy, unless the tenancy agreement allows it to be ended on a different day. If rent is paid less frequently a tenant has to give at least one rental period of notice. So if rent is paid every two months, two months notice would be required. A tenant may choose to end a periodic tenancy be issuing a valid notice to quit to the landlord. Once the notice expires then the tenant’s agreement will have ended.

Ending a periodic tenancy agreement

If the agreement is periodic (rolling from week to week or month to month), a tenant will normally have to give at least four weeks’ notice to end it, or a calendar month if it is a monthly tenancy. The notice must be in writing and must end on the first or last day of the tenancy, unless the tenancy agreement allows it to be ended on a different day. If rent is paid less frequently a tenant has to give at least one rental period of notice. So if rent is paid every two months, two months notice would be required. A tenant may choose to end a periodic tenancy be issuing a valid notice to quit to the landlord. Once the notice expires then the tenant’s agreement will have ended.

About private tenancies

If you are interested in finding your own rented accommodation and are threatened with homelessness, tell us and we can discuss this with you. The private sector might offer a quicker housing solution, and allow you a greater control in where you want to live, as well as the type of property. A landlord can end a tenancy at the end of the fixed term (usually 6 months, but sometimes more) provided that the tenant has been given two months written notice in the form of a section 21 “notice to quit”. It may be possible for a landlord to end a fixed tenancy early if certain grounds have been met.

Leaving home for the first time

Leaving home can give you more freedom, independence and space, but it is not guaranteed to be a positive experience. It is not always easy to find a suitable place and living on your own can be expensive.  There are many things to think about such as,

  • How will I pay the rent?
  • How will I pay bills?
  • Can I still afford to eat after the bills are paid?
  • How can I afford if I am not working?

Under the government’s benefit rules, a single person under the age of 35 and claiming benefits may only be eligible for a relatively low amount of assistance with their rent, which is approximately £45 per week.   Preparing properly makes the process easier and can help to avoid being homeless. Find out about your rights, talk to your family and friends, work out your finances and find a place to live before you leave. Call us on 0345 850 9698, or alternatively access Shelter’s website, or ring them on free phone 0808 8004444 to talk in confidence and receive housing advice.

Staying with friend, but they have asked you to leave

You will probably have to leave unless the person agrees to let you stay longer. It is usually worth asking if you could stay a little longer while you try to find somewhere else to live. We would usually ask the person evicting you to give you something called “reasonable notice”, which is about 28 days. If you require assistance Newcastle Housing Advice would be happy to contact your friend and discuss the issue if you are worried about asking them yourself.

Relationship breakdown

If you are going through a relationship breakdown, we can help and advise you on the best action to ensure a planned move to a new home. We can also make an appointment for you to speak to a solicitor, if needed for an hour’s free legal advice. Where you hold either a joint mortgage or tenancy we will give you advise on your rights to stay and the best ways to transfer this into your sole name, if applicable. We could also refer you to a local solicitor for an hour’s free legal advice on such issues. Counselling can provide a caring and supportive environment to help you find a way through any difficulties you may be facing.  We can refer you to Relate, who are a specialist counselling service to help you resolve your relationship/housing difficulties.

Couples at risk of homelessness

Couples experiencing the breakdown of a relationship can approach organisations such as Relate to help with relationship difficulties. Mediation can produce an amicable arrangement about the family home.  Newcastle Housing Advice is able to refer customers to relate to receive their expert help.  Please contact us on 0345 850 9698 for more details.

 Young person and have been asked to leave home, what can you do?

Mediation may help in this situation. Contact Newcastle Housing Advice on 0345 850 9698, particularly if you are under 18. We may be able to get in touch with your parents to arrange a meeting where you can discuss your difficulties and come to a mutually satisfactory solution to enable you to stay or return home.

What if you cannot stay in your home?

We can refer you to a place of safety, such as a refuge. Refuges are safe houses run for women suffering domestic violence. Refuges provide somewhere safe for you to stay. Staff at refuges specialise in dealing with domestic violence, and so can give a lot of emotional and practical support. We will always try to get you into a refuge as locally as possible, however due to the nature of this type of accommodation, this is not always possible.

Domestic violence and want to stay in your own home

We can refer you to the police domestic violence unit, to report the crime and they can also help and advise you with injunctions against your partner.   We can also help to refer you to local agencies that will be able to offer you advice and support.

What is classed as abuse?

Physical attacks are the most obvious sign of domestic abuse. They do not need to leave visible marks to be damaging.   Sexual abuse can include rape or forced participation in sexual acts you are uncomfortable with.   Mental or emotional abusive acts attack your personality and emotional and well-being rather than your body. Mental abuse is not as obvious as physical abuse, but it can be just as harmful.

Financial abuse is where one partner controls all of the finance, often depriving the other partner of their financial independence or security. An example of this is where one partner does not give the other enough money to meet everyone’s needs in the household.

Newcastle Housing Advice works on a culture of belief.  Your concerns will be believed and everything you share with us is done in the strictest of confidence.  No actions will be taken without your agreement and permission. Women and men officers are available to conduct interviews, if you have a preference, please let us know.

Domestic Violence

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, considering your housing options is a vital way of getting protection for yourself and your family and moving on with your life. Your safety is an important aspect of the choices you make. Domestic Abuse could be from a partner or family member. Domestic abuse can include acts that, while not physically violent, enable a person to exercise control and power over another. Domestic abuse can be shouting and rows, constantly being insulted or belittled, or being deprived of money. If your partner does anything that frightens or controls you, it could be domestic abuse. Remember also that violence is a criminal offence and against the law.

Mortgage/rent arrears, debt issues

If you have problems paying the mortgage, or have debts you find difficult to meet, you may lose your home as a result. We may be able to help you to sort these out and prevent you losing your home.  Newcastle Housing Advice has access to specialist debt advisors which we can refer you to. The service  can

  • check whether you are getting the correct benefits
  • draw up a financial statement to see what money is available, if any, to pay creditors
  • check liability for debts owed
  • advise on what to pay first
  • negotiate with creditors
  • make applications to various trust funds for additional grants
  • signpost to other advice agencies/information sources where necessary

 

I am in debt, what can I do?

It is really important that you attend  a drop in session  or make contact with Newcastle Housing Advice on 0345 850 9698

What sort of advice is available?

Our free, confidential and impartial advice covers a range of issues:

  • help with finding accommodation
  • help with housing and welfare benefits
  • Help to understand your legal rights.

We can also advise on:

  • rent and mortgage arrears
  • what to do if you are threatened with eviction or repossession
  • what to do if your present accommodation is unsuitable due to medical needs

In addition we publish a number of advice leaflets, related to some of the above topics.