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Your Housing Options

 

Mutual Exchange

A mutual exchange is when a Council tenant or a Housing Association 'swap' properties with the prior consent of their landlord. Two or possibly multi tenants will exchange their homes anywhere in the country, you are not restricted to properties in Hillingdon. Probationary tenants are not permitted to do a mutual exchange during the lifetime of their probation.
It is important to make sure you understand all the implications, before going ahead with a mutual exchange.
 
Homeswapper
This scheme helps council and housing association tenants to move by putting them in touch with other tenants throughout the UK, who wish to exchange their properties.
Tenants can register for the scheme online via the homeswapper website, and subscription is free of charge for Housing Solutions and Radian Tenants.

 

Private Rented Sector

Given the limited number and availability of social housing, generally it is possible to find a private rented property more quickly than getting a property via Kent Homechoice.
The private rented sector provides you with more choice in selecting the type, size and location of property you would like. Considering the private sector as an option may well be your best way of finding a suitable home for you and for your family.
The following websites are useful for sourcing properties to rent:

We would also recommend searching the small ads in the property pages of the local press, in particular the Kentish Gazette. You could also look at the notices in shop windows and on supermarket notice boards. You may find properties here that are not advertised through letting agents and they sometimes have lower access costs for deposit and rent in advance.
The following website can be used to find out which additional benefits and tax credits you may be eligible for: click herewww.entitledto.co.uk
Benefit entitlements are based on the amount of Local Housing Allowance that you are entitled to. Local Housing Allowance is calculated according to the number of bedrooms that your family needs and you may find the following information helpful as a guide to work out how many bedrooms you are entitled to.
You are entitled to one bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child.

There are, however extra rules if you are:

  • aged 25 or over, single and do not live with any dependants
  • aged under 25, single and do not live with any dependants
  • a couple and do not live with any dependants
  • a care leaver aged under 22
  • severely disabled

What is Local Housing Allowance?
Local Housing Allowance or LHA is the way of calculating Housing Benefit (HB) and is based on the area you live in, the number of occupiers in the property and household size. LHA ensures that tenants in similar circumstances in the same area receive the same amount of financial support for their housing costs.
How is Local Housing Allowance Calculated?


The LHA rates are calculated for individual areas, known as Broad Rental Market Areas, each year. The amount payable will be based on the ‘30th percentile’ rental figure for the area, which the property is in and will take account of the size of the property.

How is LHA paid?

LHA is normally paid straight into a bank or building society account. Payment is not normally made directly to a landlord.
How is my entitlement to LHA calculated
To work out entitlement to the allowance, the following is looked at:

  • money the household has coming in, including earnings, some benefits and tax credits and things like occupational pensions
  • savings and partner's savings
  • circumstances such as age, the ages and size of family, whether anyone in the household is disabled, and whether anyone who lives in the property could help with the rent

The following is also considered:

  • whether the amount of rent is reasonable
  • whether the home is of a reasonable size for the family

Remember the Local Housing Allowance is the maximum that can be paid towards your rent.
To find out an exact benefit entitlement a claim form should be completed which will tell you how much benefit you will get. To make a claim for housing benefit it is necessary to fill in a claim form online and provide all the information needed about income and savings.

Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age. It will eventually replace the following benefits that people claim when out of work or when working and living on a low income.

  • housing benefit
  • income support (IS)
  • income-based jobseekers allowance (JSA)
  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • child tax credit working tax credit

A claim for universal credit can be made whether you are working or out of work. Your claim continues if you move in and out of work as long as your income and savings don't go above certain limits.
For more information see link

Before accepting and signing a Tenancy Agreement there are a few checks you need to do first:

  • If you are claiming Housing Benefit, make sure that the rent is within the Local Housing Allowance rate (LHA)
  • Make sure the condition and size of the property is suitable to avoid living in substandard accommodation which is too large or too small for your needs.
  • You should request to see a valid Gas Safety Certificate, which ensures the gas fittings in the property are safe and there are no leaks. This needs to be done yearly.
  • All properties are now required to have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). This gives information on the energy homes use and carbon dioxide emissions. This also contains a recommendation report which gives suggestions on how to reduce the energy use and carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Ensure that the Landlord or Estate Agents accept the current Local Housing Allowance rate as the rent. If the Landlord or Estate Agent insists on a higher rate then we would suggest that their request is unreasonable as the Local Housing Allowance rates are very generous. We would also advise not to accept the property as you may encounter financial difficulties when paying the rent.
  • Please make sure your deposit is protected in a 'Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme'. This is a legal requirement.

Tenancy deposit protection (TDP) schemes guarantee that you will get your deposit back at the end of the tenancy, if you meet the terms of the tenancy agreement and do not damage the property. Landlords must protect their tenants' deposits using a TDP scheme if they have let the property on an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) which started after 6 April 2007.
If your landlord/agent does not protect your deposit when required to and in the required amount of time, you can take your landlord to court and he/she may have to repay your deposit plus three times the amount of the deposit. They will also be unable to seek possession of your property in certain circumstances.

 

Help to buy and Shared Ownership

We have a local Help to Buy Agent which is BPHA (Bedford Pilgrims Housing Association) who have been appointed by the Homes & Communities Agency as a one stop shop and point of contact for people looking for affordable homes to buy or rent in their area. Further information is available on their website

Affordable home ownership and HomeBuy
If you can't afford to buy a flat or house, you may be able to get financial help to buy a home.
There are two types of 'HomeBuy' schemes to help people buy newly built homes:

  • Equity Loan - these are open to both first time buyers and home movers on new build homes worth up to £600,000
  • Shared Ownership - these are provided through Housing Associations. You buy a share of your home (between 25% and 75% of the home's value) and pay rent on the remaining share. You will need to take out a mortgage to pay for your share of the home's purchase price

HomeBuy schemes are a first step to fully owning your home. When you can afford it, you can pay more money, for example through savings or your mortgage, to own your home outright.
You can find out more information on affordable home ownership schemes on the government's website.

 

Tenancy Advice
The Government provides lots of useful advice about being a good landlord. To visit their website, click on this link. Further information is also available on the CRISIS private rented sector website.
The Association for Residential Letting Agents has an extensive question and answer section about common queries: www.arla.co.uk/.
The Residential Landlord’s Association website also offers advice for its members: www.rla.org.uk/.