Guest blog – do you have concerns about housing?
Our latest guest blog comes from Rovarn Wickremasinghe, Chief Officer from Citizens Advice Bridport. He writes about the housing worries many people face as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis – and where they can go for help.
The pandemic has bought many problems including job uncertainty and financial worries. The consequences of this may result in many people struggling to pay their rent or mortgage. In October, Citizens Advice nationally helped 7,700 people with an issue about their private rented homes – 34% more people than the same time last year.
We have seen a large increase in people coming to see us because they are struggling to pay their rent, face eviction or have problems paying their mortgage. This can be extremely stressful and we encourage people to seek help early on to prevent further difficulties. Visit the Citizens Advice website for the latest housing advice.
If you are experiencing housing problems due to the pandemic, Citizens Advice can help with a wide range of rental issues including how to end a tenancy, get repairs done, deal with rent increases and steps to take if you’re struggling to pay your rent.
There are temporary new rules your landlord must follow if they want to get you to leave or evict you. We can also help if you can’t keep living in your home or if you’re facing potential homelessness. More information about these issues can be found here. Meanwhile, here are some of the key points to be aware of.
Keeping up with rent payments
If you’re having problems paying your rent, we encourage you to talk to your landlord as soon as possible. There aren’t any rules to make your landlord reduce your rent, but our advice is to talk to your landlord.
You may be able to come to an agreement with payments. If your income has reduced, you may be entitled to help with paying your housing costs. Speak to Citizens Advice to see what benefits you are entitled to.
If you are unable to pay your rent and are concerned about a possible eviction, there has been a pause to evictions in England.
This means that evictions won’t take place in England until 11 January 2021 unless a possession order was granted due to one or more of the following:
- illegal trespass or squatting by persons unknown,
- nuisance or antisocial behaviour,
- domestic abuse, fraud or deception
- properties unoccupied following the death of the defendant
- substantial rent arrears
In relation to substantial rent arrears, evictions can only go ahead where arrears were equivalent to at least nine months rent at the time the possession order was granted. Arrears that have accrued since the start of lockdown (23 March 2020) are not included.
Keeping up with mortgage repayments
If you are struggling to pay your mortgage, you must seek help early on to avoid getting into debt with your mortgage provider.
If you are facing difficulties repaying your mortgage it’s important to speak to your bank or building society as soon as possible. Citizens Advice can provide help with a range of mortgage related issues, including payment holidays, how to switch mortgage provider and what to do if you fall behind with repayments.
Dorset Council residents who are at risk of homelessness should contact Dorset County Council or if you live in Bournemouth, Christchurch or Poole, BCP Council has a range of support systems in place.
Citizens Advice can provide guidance and support if you are worried about potential homelessness, including help with housing applications and what to do if you want to challenge a council decision. There are also organisations like Refuge, Womens Aid, Shelter and Homeless Link who can provide critical support.
Citizens Advice in Dorset have regional offices covering BCP (Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole) Bridport, Central, East Dorset and Purbeck. For free, confidential advice, contact Citizens Advice Dorset on 0800 144 8848 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.