Paying your rent
Your tenancy agreement will include how much rent you have to pay and how often. If you do not pay your rent you will be in danger of losing your home
Your rent is payable in advance and your tenancy agreement will tell you how much you need to pay
This section is based on real experiences of tenants who lost their homes and wished that they had known more in advance
Help with rent
If you are on a low income or do not work you may be able to get help – either housing benefit or housing costs element in Universal Credit
If you are on one of the old style benefits, such as Jobseekers or Employment Support Allowance, you will need to make a claim for housing benefit at your local council .You will be eligible for the maximum housing benefit if you receive:
- income support
- income-based jobseekers allowance
- income-related employment and support allowance or
- the guarantee credit of pension credit
BUT – the amount you actually receive will be affected by who lives with you and what savings you have so it is always important to check with the Housing Benefits team first and let them know immediately about any change in your circumstances.
If you are a new tenant and making your first claim for housing benefit you can apply before you take on a tenancy – usually up to 4 weeks in advance. Don’t delay in applying – the housing benefit won’t be paid until you move in but you will be more prepared. Don’t forget to advise the housing benefits team in writing that you have moved in as they won’t start making payments till they have this confirmation.
Know your rental payment
Even if you are on full housing benefit paying the rent is ultimately your responsibility. Any delays in benefits or changes in circumstances that affect rent payments could result in rent arrears and you will be expected to cover these.
For people on Universal Credit, if you are on housing benefit the amount towards your rent will be paid to you and you will be responsible for paying your landlord. Any delays or underpayment are likely to result in Court action to recover your home unless you agree a payment plan and stick to it. If this is likely to cause difficulties for you, for example if you are in debt, rent arrears, or struggling with money, you might be able to get additional help. Have a look on the Citizens Advice website for more information.
You can feel in control by keeping a record of all correspondence relating to your rent payments, how much is due, when and how to pay. When you move to Universal Credit you will need to take an up to date rent statement and your tenancy agreement to the Job Centre, so keep them safe. Any errors can result in a delay in payments and rent arrears may occur so make sure you keep accurate information.
Making a payment
There are a number of ways you can pay your rent
- The easiest is by Direct Debit. This is an automatic payment from your bank account and can be set up for any date in the month.
- If you would prefer to pay in cash or by debit card you can request a swipe card to use at Payzone, e-pay or PayPoint facilities. These can be found in supermarkets, petrol stations and convenience stores. If you use this method it can take up to three days for the payment to show on your rent account
- Some, but not all, housing associations allow you to make payments by phone, through their website or at their offices. When you sign your tenancy agreement you will be given information on how to make payments by these methods if they are available
Moving between properties
If you move house, you need to be careful that you don’t become responsible for rent on two homes. Make sure you plan your moving dates carefully.
If you are on housing benefit there can be allowance of up to 4 weeks for rent to paid on both properties where a delay is unavoidable. This does not happen under Universal Credit.
If you are on Universal Credit you will not get help with rent costs on two properties at the same time. The only exceptions are for a person fleeing domestic violence or a disabled person waiting for adaptations in a new home – even then the overlap must be shown to be essential.
Changes in circumstances
It is often changes that can cause problems with covering rent. Not all of these can be prepared for but here are the two main ones that may affect you:
Non-dependent deductions – Anyone aged 18 and over who lives with you can be classified as a non-dependent and a deduction may be taken from your benefits. This includes grown up children and relatives. This deduction is made because it is assumed that they can also help towards the rent and Council tax. There are exceptions linked to age and the benefits they receive. There is more guidance on the entitled to website here
Loss of income – this could be due to a change in working hours, a benefit sanction or health problems. Whatever the reason make contact with your landlord immediately and let them know what has happened. This can be very hard to prioritise as you are likely to have a lot of other things to worry about but it is important. If you don’t feel able to talk to your landlord talk to an independent advice organisation such as Citizens Advice or your local council. There may be temporary help available either through grants or Council schemes such as discretionary housing payments. Don’t ignore the problem – once rent arrears build up they are very hard to tackle.
Someone moves out – if you live in a property that is larger than your needs as defined by the government, the amount of housing benefit you receive will be reduced, often known as the Bedroom Tax. To find out what you are eligible for check this calculator from the Citizens Advice
New baby –If you have two children already you will not receive additional benefits for any third or subsequent children.
However difficult the circumstances you find yourself in keep talking to people – advice agencies and the people you owe money to. There are always solutions but keeping problems hidden can affect your health as well as the roof over your head