By Yvonne Hignell, Care & Support Services Director
Homelessness was one of the top three reasons people contacted us last year about their social health. So if you’re worried about losing your home, you’re not alone.
A staggering 58,000 households in the UK were classed as homeless by local councils in 2015/16, according to the Homelessness Monitor. Although rough sleeping is the most obvious form of homelessness, there are many people who are forced to stay in temporary accommodation, on friends’ sofas or in their cars.
Feeling that you may lose your home can be incredibly frightening, but there are some practical things you can do to try and keep yourself secure.
Overall, the three golden rules to follow are:
- Seek help as early as possible
- Try to stay calm when dealing with people
- Keep a record of all communication. If you are in rented accommodation try and communicate with your landlord in writing, even if this is by text. Keep copies of all communication. If you do speak with people via phone, always get their names and make a note of the date and time you spoke with them, plus any details of the conversation
What are my rights?
You can find out more information on your rights as a tenant or homeowner through our leaflet on Keeping a Roof Over Your Head.
What should I do if my income is reduced?
If you lose your job, go on long-term sick leave or your income is reduced in another way, it can leave you feeling worried about how to make ends meet. These guidelines will help in this situation:
- Make paying the rent or mortgage your priority
- Respond to letters and phone calls – keep your landlord or mortgage lender in the loop and keep a record of all correspondence
- If you’re struggling to pay your housing costs, get some expert advice as soon as possible:
My relationship has broken down, what happens to our home? Can they make me leave?
Citizens’ Advice has lots of information on its website for couples who live together when their relationship breaks down (whether tenants or homeowners). Click here to visit their website.
I’m in rented accommodation and I’ve been evicted or asked to leave, what can I do?
In most cases a landlord must follow a legal process in to get you to leave, which involves applying for and securing a court order. The main exception to this is if you share a home with them.
Housing and homelessness charity, Shelter, lists the steps that landlords should follow to evict you. Take a look at the following relating to each type of tenancy:
If the process has not been followed your landlord may be guilty of illegally evicting you.
If you’ve been told to leave or been given court papers, it’s important to seek advice. You can use Shelter’s directory to find a local advice service or ring our free, confidential helpline on 08081 311 333.
What should I do if my home will be repossessed?
In order to repossess your home, your lender must get a court order. The Government’s website has lots of detailed information about the process that must be followed and what you can do to try and postpone or stop the repossession from happening. Visit the repossession pages.
Am I classed as homeless or threatened with homelessness?
Your local council could treat you as homeless if:
- You have no home in the UK or abroad (or, if you have a home abroad, you can’t live in it)
- You can only stay where you are temporarily (e.g. you’re sleeping on a friend’s sofa, in a B&B or a refuge)
- You can’t get into your home because the locks have been changed
- You’re at risk of violence
- Living in your home is so expensive that you can’t afford to pay for food or heating
- Your home is in such poor condition – or so overcrowded – that living there puts your health at significant risk
- You are unable to live with your family, for example because your landlord doesn’t allow children or there’s not enough room
- You live in a houseboat, caravan or mobile home and have nowhere to park or moor it
You should be classed as threatened with homelessness if you could lose your home within 28 days (or within 2 months in Scotland).
What can I do if I’m going to lose my home?
If you think you’re going to become homeless, seek help as soon as possible.
If you’re legally classed as homeless (see the ‘Am I classed as homeless’ section, above) your local council must provide you with help, such as advice or accommodation. The help you get will depend on factors such as:
- Your connection to the local area
- Whether or not you’re in priority need, for example, you’re elderly, have dependents or are disabled (this no longer applies in Scotland)
- Whether the council feels you became homeless through no fault of your own
You can find out how to apply as homeless on Shelter’s website.
The charity also has a guide on housing rights to help you work out what help you’re eligible for.
Don’t forget, if you’re struggling to keep a roof over your head, we’re here for you. You can ring our free, confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat.