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Desperate housing situation

(25 Posts)
whethergirl Tue 04-Oct-11 11:48:25

I just don't know what to do. My landlord wants to put the rent up by £150 pm (and that's after much negotiation). I am currently getting housing benefit for which there is a shortfall already. This has been me and my son's home for the last 6 years (he is 6.5 yrs old).

I have just been to the housing benefit office for advice, and have told them I can't afford to move out (no deposit, cost of removal vans etc.), and I can't afford to stay but there is nothing they can do to help. Also, it is quite difficult to find somewhere around here (near my son's school) that accepts benefits (and a cat).

I can apply for discretionary housing benefit (an extra top up) but there is no guarantee and I can only do that after I sign a new tenancy agreement for the new amount.

I am a part time student and I don't get any CSA. I am currently on income support and was about to start work 16hrs pw, which would still entitle me to housing benefit. However, housing benefit have told me that I start working (which would mean I would be only very slightly better off anyway) then this could affect my claim for discretionary housing benefit.

If I break my contract for a week, then I will be under the new scheme of housing benefit awards (local housing allowance) which would be more than what I'm getting now and would be a shortfall that I could perhaps manage. However, it would mean having to pay a week's rent out of my own pocket, which again, I don't have.

I have tried getting advice from Shelter and CAB, but they act as nothing more than information givers, and seeing as I am quite competent on google, is of no use to me.

What the hell am I supposed to do?!

Rhymenoseros Tue 04-Oct-11 12:01:25

I'm so sorry about your housing situation, have you spoken to the councils Homelessness team or the landlord/tenant dispute team? I am shocked that your landlord is increasing the rent by so much. Are you on the housing list in your area? Also I think you should go and see your M.P. sorry I am not more helpful.

I have to find £180 per month rent top up out of my income support and DLA. life is very difficult as private rents are so high, yet the local housing allowance is so low.

cestlavielife Tue 04-Oct-11 12:11:10

could you take in a lodger? maybe a mon to fri one?
and tell landlord that is what you have to do?

ballroomblitz Tue 04-Oct-11 12:12:02

As rhymenoseros asks are you on the housing list? There are certain loans you can apply for - crisis (authorised that day) or budget (can take about 3/4 to come through) through the dhss. This could help if you need removal costs or having to pay the week's rent.

ballroomblitz Tue 04-Oct-11 12:13:42

sorry I meant 3/4 weeks for the budget loans to come through

JohnniesBitch Tue 04-Oct-11 12:18:05

Housing benefit should backdate your claim to the date you handed the forms in at the offices, so you may be in arrears with your landlord for a while but he will get paid as long as your claim is successful.
Alternatively if you have to leve as the difference between hb and what you pay is too much to manage then the council will have a deposit guarantee scheme whereby they will either gurantor the rent or pay the agent/landlord a cheque to cover the deposit/first month rent.
I had a simialr situation last year and luckily managed to borrow money from my parents, but this was the advice from housing needs.
They have no obligation to keep you in the house that you quite like living in, only to house you in a house that you can afford. so it may be worth you looking for other options, as you have references for the last 6 years to show prompt payment of rent and good tenant, then some agencies will take that into consideration.

chelen Tue 04-Oct-11 12:55:20

If you turn down the rent increase and the landlord ends your tenancy does this mean you are classed as intentionally or unintentionally homeless?

Sorry to hear about this stressful situation. Agree I would go to a local Councillor and MP about this as they usually get to the answers quicker than the bureaucrats will answer you.

SoftKittyWarmKitty Tue 04-Oct-11 13:09:46

£150 seems a massive rise in one go - has he told you why the rise is so steep? I can't understand a landlord who has a great, stable, regular-paying tenant jeopardising this, as his next tenant might not be quite as reliable.

Is there anything else to let in your area that's a similar price, even if it's a flat? As someone else said, after 6.5 years in the same house, you should get great references - have you asked your LL for a reference?

Will you still get the same amount of LHA when you're working? I work 22 hours pw and only get a fraction of the full LHA rate, so have to supplement it with over £370 from my wages (which is about half my take home pay!).

Could you see your MP at their regular session, or maybe the CAB? I'd also post on the House Letting and Renting board on Money Saving Expert, because there are some really knowledgeable people on there.

Not sure what else to say but I really feel for you, and hope you manage to sort it out ASAP.

BlobChob Tue 04-Oct-11 13:11:30

whethergirl, I wish I could offer you some sterling advice but I'm in a mess myself at the moment with no help forthcoming and no one to lean on for support. I'm still trying to make sense of it all and find some way forward. It's absolutely soul destroying. I just wanted to let you know you're not the only one!

If at all possible get Shelter to assign you one of their caseworkers or get then to refer you to a local law centre that specialises in housing issues.

I've also written to David Cameron (ha!) and my local Conservative MP. Local MP has written to the Head of Housing at my Council but not holding my breath that anything will come of it. With very little open to me and my 4 DC, I felt I had to do something. I am pretty much powerless otherwise.

I have less than 4 weeks to get out of my private rental after a very happy 2 years here. It is the Landlord's main home and they need it back after falling on hard times themselves. I'm not considered a priority for social housing until my notice to quit expires and private rentals in this area (in which I really need and want to stay) are around £300 pcm above the LHA. I have no other income outside of Benefits and no one to ask for a loan. And people say it's easy to get social housing when you're a lone parent with kids...they couldn't be more wrong! I'm so sick of being demonised and all because I had to leave my 'former' life for reasons of domestic violence!

I wish you all the best OP and please do update on your situation as things progress.

SoftKittyWarmKitty Tue 04-Oct-11 13:12:08

Oh, and maybe post this in Chat too, because it's not specifically a single parent issue and someone who doesn't come on here at all might have advice about what to do.

GypsyMoth Tue 04-Oct-11 13:14:18

Do council run the rent assist scheme?

BlobChob Tue 04-Oct-11 13:14:56

Inside Housing forum is also good on occasion. Many of the posters actually work in the housing sector.

whethergirl Tue 04-Oct-11 14:09:46

Thank you all so much for your advice and support, you've been loads more helpful than CAB!

Rhymenoseros - I was on the list but since then the system has changed. As it stands the proceedure is: I can't afford the rent, landlord evicts me, council will put me in temporary accommadation. This may be a b&b and in a different area. My concerns (among many) for that are, I don't want to take my son out of his school - he is getting extra educational support which has been brilliant for him, we have a cat (part of the family), and it is risking my college studies - which are hard enough to fit around my son as it is, without the possiblity of having to travel a long distance to his school.

cestlavielife - I'm not allowed to take in a lodger, and no-where to put them anyway!

ballroomblitz - thank you, I was going to look into any grants/loans that might be able to help me with the weeks rent.

JohnniesBitch - the deposit guarantee scheme no longer exists! I asked about it today. I told them that in that case, I couldn't afford to move out, and I just got shrugged shoulders.

chelen - it's a bit sketchy - but I'm pretty sure that would make me intentionally homelsess. When I asked about it today, I was told I would need to sign the new tenancy agreement for the new amount, then when I fall behind with the rent and the landlord evicts me, I would need to prove that there was no way I could have paid it. I wondered about contacting my local M.P - how do I go about this, do I write to them and just explain my situation?

SoftKittyWarmKitty - it was initially £250 but I bargained her down!! Basically they tried to put the rent up before and I challenged it and it stayed the same. Then my landlord gave the property to his daughter who is a bit more on the ball and rents have increased quite a bit since then. It does seem very odd though - I have never once been late with my rent or caused any problems or even asked for much. If I left, they would have to completely re-decorate the place (they've not done so once in the 6 yrs I've been here), replace bathroom sink, rebuild the outside wall, replace the garden fence, etc. I even replaced the bedroom carpet out of my own pocket because the landlord spilt a bottle of white spirit all over it.

Also SoftKittyWarmKitty - I'm pretty sure that if you work 16 hours you are entitled to full housing benefit. Which makes your situation all the more ludicrous! Can't beleive you have to pay that much extra for only working 6 hours more. I wasn't aware that my M.P had "regular sessions" so will look into that. The CAB have been no help, I think they are really understaffed, I can't even talk to anyone, can only email them my enquiry. Good idea about Moneysaving Expert - although they are a bit scary on there sometimes and I get the feeling that people on benefits are frowned upon on there.

BlobChob - I really hope you get some help with your situation. It is really disheartening, a home is a very basic need and when threatened, especially with kids, it becomes an all consuming stressful situation. You sound like you've come a long way so I hope that you are given the support to keep going. After several years of suffering from depression and as a struggling single parent, I've picked myself up, started college and want to start work. I don't want to stay on benefits, I'm trying my best to find a path out. So it is soul destroying when you're really trying to make a go of things but are offered little support. Btw, have you applied for discretionary?

ILoveTIFFANY - never heard of the rent assist scheme, but there is discretionary housing benefit. There is no guarantee and is only temporary (would need to keep applying) and I wouldn't be able to apply until I've agreed to the new rent.

BlobChob - nice one, will try that forum.

WibblyBibble Tue 04-Oct-11 14:30:17

Can you get someone from the council to assess the property to see what counts as a 'fair rent'- they are supposed to be able to do this. If they say it isn't, then I think you could refuse to sign a new agreement and just wait for landlord to evict you, which can take quite a long time as they have to go through legal proceedings, they can't just say 'out now'. During this time you'd count as 'at risk of homelessness' to most councils so shold get priority for housing. I know b&b housing is unpleasant, but you might get something before it came to that? Really, all the people you've contacted should be trying to help yo uand it sounds like they're being a bit useless- sometimes you really do have to keep pestering them until they pay attention as otherwise they will pretend the problem doesn't exist.

chelen Tue 04-Oct-11 16:41:51

Hi, on contacting your MP you just need to know their name, the constituency or even the town. Your local council should have their details on the council website. Then I would call their office first thing.

chelen Tue 04-Oct-11 17:01:03

Hi, in addition you could try your local council's lead member for housing. Councillors have the power to ask for info from council officers so if the Cllr is helpful you could at least get some clear advice that way. Don't worry about calling them direct - they should have a phone number listed on the website too. And they don't work normal office hours so phone them now! (But don't call them at midnight as some people do, that annoys them wink )

whethergirl Tue 04-Oct-11 17:12:08

Wibbly - there's no point doing that, because the landlord doesn't need a reason to evict me. Fair rent can not be imposed on a landlord. I am tempted to go for council housing, but the council try to put you off and I am so nervous about where we would actually end up and if it would disrupt my son's schooling and my college.

chelen - thanks, will have a look now.

whethergirl Tue 04-Oct-11 17:15:19

chelen, when you say councillor, isn't that just the same as going to housing benefit? Sorry, just not sure who they are.

whethergirl Tue 04-Oct-11 17:40:35

Ok, I've got the name of my local councillors and am going to email them. Just want to check, what should the tone of my letter be? That I need their help or support? Should I include all details of my situation?

chelen Tue 04-Oct-11 21:05:15

Hi, no your Councillor is the elected local politician either for your area of town or, I suggest, the one responsible for housing in your council area. The people at housing benefit just work for a government agency.

They can pursue things on your behalf and have a responsibility to their electorate (i.e. you) to help them out.

You could email but I still recommend phoning first then follow up with email (or vice versa) as you need to know fairly soon if they will help or not. I would basically say you really need help, and hope they are the type of Councillor genuinely motivated by wanting to help people!

They can't work miracles or anything but they can get info you can't get and they can get people to answer questions faster than a normal person in the street.

whethergirl Tue 04-Oct-11 21:15:46

Thanks chelen, I have already emailed the three joint councillors in my area and will follow up with a phone call. I looked up my MP but on her website there was a list of things she could help with, and housing wasn't one of them.

It's such a shame, CAB used to be brilliant with stuff like this, they were really for the people and knew what they were doing. But now they are just turning into a helpline with automated advice.

whethergirl Tue 04-Oct-11 21:21:09

I've been so stressed out with this - especially as it's taken up so much of my time lateley and now I'm rushing to get an important college assignment done which needs to be in by the end of the week for grading. Along with all the usual everyday problems...ds being sick, being let down with childcare, falling out with my mum etc.

I feel a bit embarassed as I must have had such a miserable expression, a few of my parent friends at ds school asked me what was the matter, and I just went into one about my housing. Just really hope I didn't come across as 'poor me' or as that single parent mum who can never quite get her life together.

whethergirl Wed 05-Oct-11 14:01:42

Just a little update, I just received a voicemail message from a newspaper reported wanting to interview for a story he is doing about the current housing situation! Think he got my details from Shelter. I'm so happy to do this, at the very least to raise awareness and who knows, someone somewhere that might be able to help could read it.

chelen Wed 05-Oct-11 14:08:07

Hi, glad to hear you've made contact with the Councillors.

Please don't feel bad about getting stressed about this - its a big deal. When my OH was at risk of redundancy we had to seriously consider homelessness, it is horrible. This isn't a single parent issue, it affects families of all types.

Good luck with the media interview - they will want you to pull a sad face for the photo so get practising!

whethergirl Wed 05-Oct-11 14:22:39

sad - it's the best I can do!

Thanks chelen, it is a big issue, it's one of the basic essential needs in life. When our home is at risk, it makes our whole life seem insecure. I hope things improved for your family.

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