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8 Major Keys to Sustaining Your New Council/Housing Association Tenancy

1) Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent…

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The need to pay rent is a no-brainer when you’re moving into a property. However, how you pay takes a little more thought.  Options usually include direct debit, standing order, the Allpay App, online, telephone, text message, or by using a prepayment card. Most landlords will encourage you to set up a direct debit. This comes with the benefit of peace of mind, as you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment, all you’ll need to do is ensure that you have sufficient funds in your account on the elected date. However, the reality is that many tenants will have unstable income, so if money is debited when there are insufficient funds in your account, this could lead to bank charges, which would compound any existing financial issues. Be sure to explore the various payment options that are available to you, so that you can choose the method which is most suitable. Bear in mind that you are obligated to commit to it every week/fortnight/4 weeks/month, as per your tenancy agreement.

 

2) …And The Council Tax

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Council tax is a priority bill, and failure to pay could result in a visit from bailiffs, money taken from your wages or benefits, bankruptcy or imprisonment. While those who do not count as adults are exempt from paying council tax, most tenants will have to pay something towards it, but may be entitled to a discount. Eligibility for a discount on council tax includes those who count as an adult and live on their own, or those who are the only adults in their home (e.g. single parents).

To find out how much council tax you must pay, you can contact your local council, or visit the government website and enter your postcode to find out which council tax band your property is in. You will then need to contact your local council (for social housing residents, your housing association cannot set up/take your council tax payments) to set up a payment method. The options will include direct debit, cheque, standing order, online, telephone or paypoints etc.

 

3) Get Your Priorities In Checkque

Rent and council tax, which we’ve just covered, are priority bills.  The difference between priority and non-priority bills is the severity of the consequences for non-payment, with harsher outcomes imposed for priority debts. The following tables from Citizen’s Advice Bureau indicate which category different bills fall under and the corresponding consequences of non-payment.

priority billsnon priority bills

4) Bills, Bills, Bills

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Energy – If you are moving into a block of flats, you will need to check with your landlord to see if they are under a contract for communal energy supplies. If so, there isn’t much you can do with regards to checking for energy deals, you’ll just need to set up a payment method, if it is not already covered under your service charge. Otherwise, there are a number of sites that you can go to for energy switching to ensure you get the best deal on your electricity and/or gas, even if you use a prepayment meter. Websites include:

U Switch

Money Supermarket

Compare The Market

Which?

Simply Switch

Money Saving Expert

It may seem like more hassle than its worth, but all you have to do is call your new and current energy suppliers to tell them which plan you want to switch to. Give them your meter readings (which will you also need to do when you first move in) and they will do the rest. In some cases, your current supplier may offer you a deal to ensure you stay with them.

 

Water – Yes, we do all have to pay for the water that we use in our properties. You may however, be entitled to a Watersure discount if you’re:

  • on a water meter or have applied for one and be waiting for it to be installed, or paying an assessed charge because it’s not possible to fit a meter at your property;
  • on certain benefits and;
  • have a high essential use of water (because of a medical condition or because there are 3 or more children under 19 in the property)

 

Alternatively, you may be entitled to a Watersure Plus discount if:

  • your bill costs at least three per cent of your net household income;
  • you receive a specific means-tested benefit or tax credit from the Government OR;
  • you have a gross household income of £16,105 or less and someone living in your property is 62 years of age or older, has parental responsibility for a child aged five years or younger or is registered disabled

Find out who your water supplier is, then you can apply for a discount online by simply typing Watersure/Watersure Plus in online and going to the appropriate suppliers website. Alternatively, give your water supplier a call.

 

TV licence – TV licences payment is now applicable to any and everyone that has a TV, computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet or any other device that they can watch or record programmes on as they’re broadcast.

  • You can get a free licence if you’re 75 or older.
  • You can get a discounted licence if you have a severe vision impairment.
  • If you live in a residential care home, the person who is in charge of the home can apply for a licence for you.

Otherwise, you’ll need to fork out £150.50 per annum for a TV Licence, though you can pay in instalments.

 

5) Increase Your Income

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It is estimated that households in the UK are missing out on a total of £20 billion in means-tested benefits. Finding out how much you’re entitled to has never been easier. Just enter your details into a benefits calculator on the Entitled To or Turn2Us website, and they’ll let you know what you should be claiming in either benefits or Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is a  means-tested benefit for people of working-age who are on a low income. It replaces six existing means-tested benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

Whether you should apply for Universal Credit instead of one of these benefits, depends on where you live and your circumstances. The main differences being introduced by this benefit are:

  • You can claim Universal Credit whether you’re unemployed or working
  • You’ll get a single payment each month, rather than weekly or fortnightly
  • Similarly to claiming jobseeker’s allowance, you’ll need to sign a claimant commitment after being allocated to a ‘work-related activity group’ (aka ‘conditionality group’). Each group contains types of activities that you’ll have to do to prepare for work or look for a job. In some cases (e.g. those who are unable to work because of medical conditions), you might not have to do any activities.
  • Instead of getting a separate housing benefit, your housing costs will be paid directly to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment, and you’ll be responsible for paying your landlord. During the claimant commitment interview Job Centre Plus will decide if an Alternative Payment Arrangement would be more suitable, however, you can get an Alternative Payment Arrangement at any time, you will need to speak to your landlord if you think you need this arrangement. If you do, your options include receiving Universal Credit more often than monthly, the payment being split between you and your partner, or your housing costs being paid directly to your landlord from your Universal Credit payment (aka direct payment).

 

6) DHP

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Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are short-term payments to help people with their rent if they are experiencing financial hardship. They can be awarded as a one-off payment or as a series of payments.

DHPs are not Housing Benefit. However, to receive a DHP you must be paying rent and be receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit with eligibility for support towards housing costs.

DHPs are paid from a limited budget and each request is considered on its own merits. To apply for DHP, visit your council’s website to apply online, or contact your landlord/support worker for support completing the form.

 

7) Furniture Grants/Freecycle

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If you’re moving into an unfurnished property, you may be able to apply for support to purchase one or two home essentials. Some avenues worth exploring are:

  • Glasspool – this charity support individuals who are experiencing a short-term crisis (e.g. no furniture). The application must be made on the individuals behalf by an eligible organisation
  • Buttle UK – this charity can provide grants for young people up to the age of 20 who are living in crisis e.g. care leavers, young parents or orphans – applications must be made my support workers, which can include officers from your housing association, jobcentre, local authority, school or college
  • Turn2Us – this website offers a grant search tool, showing the local support that is available in your area for your circumstances
  • Freecycle – whether you’re looking for a lion, a witch or a wardrobe, there are plenty of offers for free items on this website. You can filter it to your local area, or any other area that you are able to collect from
  • Your housing association – your housing association may offer support grants or home essentials grants. Have a chat with them to find out if there is any additional support available to you

 

8) (Major) Key Contacts

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It is important to know who you can contact for different types of support. The main people that you should endeavour to know and have in your contacts list are your:

  • Income officer – engages with residents to ensure barriers for rent payment are addressed
  • Financial Inclusion Officer/Money and Debt Adviser/Welfare Benefits Adviser/ Tenancy Sustainment Officer – supports residents to sustain their tenancy while encouraging and facilitating their independence, quality of life, health and well-being. They ensure that tenants are not digitally or financially excluded and that they are aware of all support that is available to them, including welfare benefits advice
  • Housing Officer – keeps in regular contact with residents, looks after rental income and deals with repairs and neighbour nuisance issues
  • Maintenance Officer – provides support, advice and interventions to ensure that properties are effectively maintained and all repairs are undertaken promptly and to high standards

 

You may not have access to all of these avenues of support, but the key message from this guidance is that support is available to you. Make those calls or get online to get in the know about the help that is accessible to you, so that you can achieve a successful and stress-free

 

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