To apply for council housing, candidates are required to apply to their local council (mostly online), who will then consider it based on the criteria for awarding eligibility first and priority next to those from certain demographics and or social classes. 

Even if the local council accepts and prioritizes the application, it does not mean that the applicant will be provided with occupancy rights immediately. They will simply be confirmed to be eligible and added to a waiting list. The time between application and occupancy varies from council to council and may also depend upon the size of the waiting list.

However, once council housing is made available to claimants, not only does it relieve them of the financial pressure of a privately rented house but councils are very helpful in terms of their payments plans for rent and sometimes even assistance with household equipment and furniture.

Can Council Help With Rent Arrears?

Yes, the council can help with rent arrears by offering tenants in social housing convenient options such as a payment plan to clear their dues and make future payments easier for them. In such a case, social renters pay an extra amount above their usual rent to cover their arrears. However, before committing to a plan of such nature, you must calculate the amount you will be able to spare for this additional expense by considering your income and preparing a budget.

Claimants who are also on benefits in addition to availing a council house will find it easier to seek easy payment plans from their councils or social housing landlords. For instance, if you are on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, you may simply have your payments transferred to for payment of your rent through Direct Debit or a Standing Order.

If this is not a workable solution as Housing Benefit or Universal Credit do not account for the entire amount of your rent, you may apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). This is extra money provided by your local council to meet your rent payments or arrears (if you have any). You are not required to return this amount to the council. If you are on Housing Credit or Universal Credit, you can ask your local council for a DHP form. Find your local council here.

You can also reassess your situation to see if you are living in a council house beyond your needs. If you have a spare room, you may consider moving into a smaller council house to reduce your rent expense or taking in a lodger to increase your income so you may be able to make rent payments on time.

No matter what your situation is, the best way to proceed is to contact your local council or housing association if you are expecting financial constraints in being able to meet your rent payments. It is better to make arrangements prior to going into rent arrears. However, if you are already in such a situation, you must inform the local authorities to work out a mutually convenient solution.

It is only in extreme cases that your social house landlord may ask you to evict the premises by “seeking possession”. However, if you are able to claim severe financial hardship a=such as homelessness due to eviction, you may be able to stay in the house until another one is arranged by the council.

If you are not on benefits Check if you can get Universal Credit to make rent payments easier.

If you are struggling with living expenses, you can try Reducing your living costs through your council’s assistance.

For an all-round perspective on the topic, we will explore the following areas:

  • Can Council Help With Household Essentials?
  • Can I Get A Council House If I Work?
  • Can Someone Live With Me In My Council House?
  • Who Is Eligible For Council Housing?
  • How To File An Application For Council Housing?

Can Council Help With Household Essentials?

Yes, the council can help with essentials such as furniture and household equipment by giving vouchers to residents to purchase these through certain schemes or charities. Sometimes items are available at extremely low-cost; while at other times, charities may pay for them while residents claim to use them. 

This means that while councils may not directly pay for the furniture or home equipment that a council house resident requires, they can connect them to charities who can either offer the pay for the furniture while the resident pays them back in instalments or sometimes they may simply make the payment on behalf of the resident(s) who is not expected to make any payment at all. 

Some social housing providers provide council homes that are furnished. In the case of any changes or repairs needed for the furniture/washing machines/cooker etc, they are also willing to offer to repair or replace the items without any additional cost to the tenants. However, the items may be preloved and not brand new.

This is called a “welfare scheme”. Since each council runs their own welfare scheme you may need to connect with your own council office to learn specific details of it applies in your area Find your local council It is not necessary that you need to claim benefits to qualify for a welfare assistance scheme.

In some cases, the council may be able to offer you an interest-free loan to purchase household essentials. Although you will only be required to pay back what you have received, you must pay back the loan within 2 years. 

To be eligible for an interest-free loan you must be on benefits including the following:

  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit

Residents who are on low-income and unable to afford living essentials such as furniture, household equipment may be able to find help in the following ways (in addition to council’s assistance):

  • Social landlord
  • Grant giving organisation
  • Second-hand furniture seller
  • Affordable credit

Can I Get A Council House If I Work?

Yes, whether you are in full-time employment or are working on a part-time basis, you remain eligible for a council house. One of the key factors that make an individual eligible for council housing is low income and little or no savings. 

In fact, considering the economic conditions of social renters, recent data gathered and analysed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government indicates that in 2019-20, nearly 45 per cent of them were working. 

According to the English Housing Survey of 2019-2020 (a nationwide analysis of people’s housing conditions), nearly 45 per cent of social renters were employed; with 31 per cent working full time and 14 per cent working part-time. They also constitute the majority of the social rented sector which accounts for 4.0 million households. The data from this survey further suggests that 25 per cent of social renters were retired, while 24% were in full-time education who were inactive. This relates to being out of work either due to a disability, long-term illness, or having to look after a family. 

Can Someone Live With Me In My Council House?

Yes, someone can live with you in your council house as they are generally intended for eligible candidates and their families; whether they are dependants or non-dependants. However, if you intend to ask someone to live with you as a carer or a joint tenant, or you intend to sublet your council house, you must consult your tenancy agreement and discuss with your landlord/local council office prior to making any commitments.

If you are under a Secure Tenancy or Fixed Tenancy agreement with the housing authorities, you may sub-let rooms in your council house; however, subletting of the entire council house is not allowed. You will find a clause in your tenancy agreement that confirms the same. Therefore, it is advisable not to add someone to your council house with the intention of subletting the premises.

Who Is Eligible For Council Housing?

Generally, each council has their own rules for the provision of council homes. This is called an “allocation scheme”; according to which applicants’ eligibility criteria and priorities are assigned.

However, as a basic rule, anyone who is above 18 years of age, low on income and savings can apply for council housing. Some councils also require a “local connection” of the applicant. This means that either they have lived in the vicinity for a number of years or they have a family or job in the area.

Other key criteria for council housing eligibility include the following:

  • the applicants hold British or Irish citizenship
  • they have indefinite leave to remain
  • they fall under settled status (under the EU settlement scheme)
  • they are refugees or under humanitarian protection
  • they are a Commonwealth citizen with a right of abode
  • Who Gets Priority For Council Housing?

While each council has an individual allocation scheme to follow in terms of assigning priority to council housing applicants, those claimants who fulfil any of the following criteria are expected to be higher on priority:

  • if someone is legally homeless 
  • they have to move homes due to a serious medical condition or disability
  • due to hardship-anything from medical treatment or potential danger to changing jobs
  • currently residing in an over-crowded house or under poor living conditions

How To File An Application For Council Housing?

Candidates are advised to share as many relevant details as possible in their application and also include any supporting evidence to back up their claims. This may include medical reports or doctor’s notes, in case the application is being raised on medical grounds. 

Details of the following may be required:

  • income and/or benefits
  • employment history
  • long-term medical conditions or disabilities
  • savings 
  • assets in possession such as automobile
  • visas or immigration documents (if the applicant is not from the UK)

These details not only determine whether or not a candidate is eligible; but may also increase their rank in a list of priority applicants. Furthermore, they also help to determine the size of housing that may be required by them.

Conclusion:

Whether you are a social renter in a council house through the local council/housing association or a social landlord, there are a number of solutions when tenants are faced with the challenge of meeting their rent payments or face arrears. However, it is advisable to seek the advice of local authorities before the arrears keep piling up each month as the higher the debt, the longer time it will take to pay it back.

Most of the time, easy repayment plans are devised for council tax rent arrears. Tenants who are on benefits may also make arrangements for direct payments to be made. However, they must check whether their benefits are able to pay for the entire amount of the rent that is due. 

Tenants who are not on benefits must check if they are eligible for and can claim benefits so that their finances can be made conveniently.

FAQs: Can Council Help With Rent Arrears?

Can rent arrears be written off?

Sometimes; especially in cases where the council/landlords are understanding towards the tenant’s financial hardship and genuine inability to pay rent, arrears may be written off by them. This is most likely in cases when after a series of rent arrears, the tenant has been able to manage their future payments/

Will universal credit pay my rent arrears?

Universal Credit is received by claimants in the same way as wages and may be used to pay for living expenses such as rent. However, if someone is in debt with regards to their council house rent, the landlord may ask for direct payments of rent arrears to be made directly through Universal Credit payments.

How many months rent arrears before eviction?

You may be in arrears for up to 8 weeks (or 4 months) before an eviction notice is given. However, councils are required to work out a repayment plan and consider options for clearance of dues if rent arrears is the only reason for eviction from council home. 

Can you pay half of your rent?

Yes, you can pay partial rent as long as it is mentioned in your tenancy agreement and there is a mutual understanding with your landlord. You may also pay your rent on a weekly or fortnightly basis rather than as a monthly bill.

Can I get help with my rent?

Yes, you can help with your rent from local councils as well as financial advisory services. If you are eligible for benefits are not claiming them, you may also contact eh Department for Work and Pensions for advice.

References:

Paying off your rent arrears

You are taken to court for rent arrears

Get help with renting costs

Manage debt and rent arrears | Disability charity Scope UK

Managing council housing rent arrears | Hull City Council

Local welfare assistance | Local welfare assistance

If you’re struggling with living costs

Can someone live with me in my council house?

Getting a council home

Council housing

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John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.