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Worried about losing your home?


Debt advice

Wiltshire residents who are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent can get help from the Housing Options Service. We provide free and confidential advice and solutions

Make a list of all the money that you have coming in and going out each week.

If your expenses are more than your income, you can increase your income by:

  • Starting some part time work
  • Claiming benefits: for advice on which benefits you are entitled to, visit Gov.uk Benefits Advice or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Claiming tax credits: for advice on which tax credits you are entitled to, visit HM Revenue & Customs tax credits website or call the helpline on 0845 300 3900
  • Taking in a lodger (this may affect your benefit entitlement)
  • Getting grown-up children living at home to help with the bills.

You could also cut your expenses by shopping around for cheaper deals on bills such as gas, electricity, telephone and insurance and considering whether there are any non-essential expenses that can be stopped, such as paid for television.

There are ways of spreading costs to fit in with your income so that it is easier to manage your money:

  • Contact the council tax office to re-arrange payment times.
  • Gas and electricity: key or card meters, or weekly/monthly payment cards.
  • Pay as you go for your phone.
  • Use the TV licence payment and savings cards.
  • If you are on income support, water charges can be taken from your benefit. You can also ask for a deduction to be made for arrears of rent and council tax.
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If you are considering borrowing money or buying on credit, make sure:

  • You can afford any repayments, now and in the future
  • You do so through a reputable company or credit union; do not use illegal money lenders, commonly know as loan sharks
  • You read and understand all the small print

Always make sure that you have enough money left to pay your priority bills.

Creditors, such as banks and loan companies, often try to persuade people to keep up their payments when they can no longer afford to do so. They can also threaten bailiffs and court action. In times of hardship it is often possible to persuade them to accept a lower figure. If you can't persuade them to accept a lower amount and they take you to court, fill in the court forms, getting help if you wish, and offer a monthly repayment that you are sure you can afford to keep up.

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The housing options team can provide  advice and assistance for debt counselling. Debt counselling is also available from the Citizens Advice Bureau and financial advice and support is available from Wiltshire Money. This may not stop people falling into arrears but an organised approach in understanding debt, particularly if there are several debts, and an easy method of making regular payments, can help reduce the worry and trauma this can bring.

If you are a council tenant, we will try to make contact with you at the earliest opportunity, before the debt becomes too bad. Our staff have a good understanding of debt counselling and awareness of benefits to which tenants may be entitled. This is important in ensuring that the debt is reduced to the lowest amount possible. Repayment of the debt is normally by way of regular payments by agreement between tenant and neighbourhood manager.

Where council tenat rent arrears persist and regular payments are not made, the council is forced to pursue the matter through the County Court to seek possession of the property. This action is taken reluctantly as the court costs are also due to be paid by the tenant.

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You can get free independent advice from the housing options team who will help to:

  • Put together a plan for managing your debt
  • Prepare to speak to your lender about making a new repayment arrangement
  • Understand any letters you receive from your lender

What help could I get from my lender?

Depending on your payment history and whether your difficulties are likely to be long or short term, your lender might agree to:

  • Reduce your payments for an agreed length of time
  • Change your mortgage to an ‘interest only' mortgage give you a 'payment holiday' (this is where your lender will allow you to stop making payments for a while, however you will still be charged interest)
  • Extend the length of your mortgage to reduce your payments
  • Postpone your payments or help you to claim on any mortgage payment protection insurance

Contact your local housing options team for more information and to allow them to work with you as soon as possible to try and help you remain in your home.

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If you are having difficulty paying your rent or mortgage, don't do nothing!

You need to sort out debts and bills before they get worse. There are lots of ways you can make the situation easier. The first thing you should do is contact your landlord or mortgage lender; it may be that you can negotiate the terms of your mortgage or arrange a lower rent, or a different method of payment.

Creditors, such as banks and loan companies, often try to persuade people to keep up their payments when they can no longer afford to do so. They can also threaten bailiffs and court action. In times of hardship it is often possible to persuade them to accept a lower figure. If you can't persuade them to accept a lower amount and they take you to court, fill in the court forms, getting help if you wish, and offer a monthly repayment that you are sure you can afford to keep up.

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It is extremely important that you attend your court hearing if you are facing repossession or eviction as this can increase your chances of keeping your home.

You can get help if you are:

  • A tenant facing eviction
  • A homeowner facing repossession

Represent you at the hearing:

  • Advise you about welfare benefits
  • Offer you basic debt advice and refer you to specialist debt advice
  • Help you negotiate with your mortgage lender or landlord to pay off your debts

Your local County Court is listed below:

Salisbury Crown and County Court
St Johns Street
Salisbury
Wiltshire
SP1 2PN
Telephone: 01722 325444

Swindon Combined Court
The Law Courts
Islington Street
Swindon Wiltshire
England
SN1 2HG
Telephone: 01793 690500

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Help with rent deposits

A rent deposit is a sum of money that most private landlords will ask new tenants to pay, in case the tenant causes damage to the property or doesn't pay the rent or bills.

If you are moving or want to move into a private rented property, but are having difficulties in finding the money required for the deposit, a range of help may be available to you. Please contact our Housing Options team, who will be happy to provide further information.

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If you are leaving the armed forces, or have separated from a member of the armed forces, you can approach SSAFA (The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) for help with housing. SSAFA can provide advice, support and financial assistance, the latter in association with other charities and benevolent funds. Find out more by emailing info@ssafa.org.uk or by calling SSAFA on 020 7403 8783.

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This scheme offers help to people who are at risk of losing their home by providing financial assistance in order to secure a privately rented property. We can help find a suitable property and will raise the payment for the rent in advance and/or deposit bond based on an assessment of circumstances. If you would like more information about WiltsLet, please see the factsheet or contact our Housing Options team.

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Help for the homeless and those threatened with homelessness

We will try and prevent homelessness whenever we can by trying to assist you to remain in your current property or find suitable, alternative accommodation in the private sector or through the Homes 4Wiltshire choice based lettings scheme. However, we may not be able to prevent you from losing your home and the housing options advisor will clearly explain the homelessness process to enable you to make an informed choice about the options available to you. If you choose to make a homelessness application, we will complete an assessment under the Housing Act 1996 Part 7 (amended by the Homelessness Act 2002).

The council does not have a duty to house every homeless person, but it does have a duty to provide advice and information to everyone who requires it.

The information below is intended only as a guide and to provide information about how your application will be assessed.

There are five criteria outlined below that must be met in order for your application to be accepted and to be considered for alternative accommodation.

You are eligible for assistance if you are a British citizen or have an entitlement to public funds.

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You are considered to be homeless or threatened with homelessness if:

  • You have nowhere to live;
  • A mortgage lender has taken you to court and has said you must leave;
  • You have been living with friends/relatives and they have asked you to leave;
  • You cannot return to your home because of violence or threats of violence from someone you are associated with.

A person is said to be threatened with homelessness if they are homeless within 28 days.


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You are in priority need if:  

  • You have dependent children or an adult who depends on you and who normally lives with you
  • You or someone you normally live with is pregnant
  • You have become homeless as a result of fire, flood or other disaster
  • You or someone you live with is disabled, suffering from a mental illness, or is vulnerable for some other special reason such as old age
  • You are 16 or 17 years of age and are not the responsibility of social services for accommodation
  • You are under 21 and at any time as a 16 or 17 year old were looked after, accommodated or fostered
  • You are vulnerable as a result of fleeing domestic abuse
  • You are vulnerable as a result of being in the armed forces, prison or care
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You may be regarded as having made yourself intentionally homeless if it is discovered that you deliberately did, or failed to do something, which caused you to lose your home, such as not paying rent/mortgage although you had income to make the payments, or if you were evicted due to neighbour nuisance etc.

If you are found to be intentionally homeless we may not have a duty towards you.

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A member of the Housing Options team will interview you to determine whether you are homeless, have a priority need and whether the council has a duty to provide you with a home.

All our advisors are trained and will listen and respond sensitively to your needs. Information provided will be treated confidentially.

To help us give you the best possible service, we will need detailed information regarding your circumstances. This will include questions about where you have lived previously and who makes up your household.

We may also require more personal and sensitive information, for example, any medical conditions that you or a member of your household might have.

How we assess your application

We are required under homeless legislation to assess your application under the following areas:

  • Eligibility 
  • Homelessness
  • Priority need
  • Intentionality

To help us with this assessment you may need to provide supporting documents, for example, a statement from your bank or building society or a letter from your doctor. 

Once your assessment has been completed, we will provide you with a notice of our decision.

If you disagree with the decision we have made you can request a review.

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Once the housing advisor has completed their enquiries they will inform you in writing of their decision.

Useful documents that you may need to bring to an interview to support your case

  • Proof of benefits
  • ID
  • Proof of children or pregnancy
  • Eviction notice or notice of cessation
  • Medical evidence
  • Rent book
  • National Insurance number
  • Court orders
  • Any other relevant documents that will support your case
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You have a right under section 202 of the 1996 Housing Act Part VII (as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002) to request a review of the council's decision. Under the homelessness legislation you have the right to request a review of the decision made about your homelessness application if you feel it is incorrect.

You can also request a review of the decision if you have been accepted as having a priority need and have been offered a property, which you feel, is unsuitable for your needs.

To request a review, you must put in writing the reasons why you feel the decision is incorrect. You should also include any additional information or changes in your circumstances, which could affect the outcome of your application.

Where appropriate, please send any new documents in support of your request for a review, for example, from your doctor, if you have not sent them before.

Your letter and any supporting documentation should be sent to the local Housing Options team. The reviews are conducted by an officer senior to the original decision maker.

You will be sent a letter advising you of the outcome of your review within 56 days.

Should your review be unsuccessful in changing the decision, you have the right to appeal to a county court within 21 days of receiving your letter. You should seek independent legal advice from a solicitor.

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Accommodation

The Housing Options team at Wiltshire Council will make every effort to prevent you from becoming homeless. This may involve referring you to other agencies for more specific advice and support and helping you to bid through our choice-based lettings system, Homes4Wiltshire.

If you require accommodation, you may need to consider the following options:

  • Staying with friends or family
  • Hostels
  • Lodgings
  • Private renting

If you would like more information about night shelters and day centres in Wiltshire, please contact our Housing Options team.

These provide accommodation for one night at a time. You may need to be eligible for benefits before being able to access the accommodation.

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These provide a friendly place to attend during the day to meet other people, have meals, receive advice and help, and take part in activities.

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There is a wide range of supported accommodation in Wiltshire, which may be suitable for you if you require assistance to live independently.

All referrals to supported accommodation need to be made through Housing Options who will assess your needs and match you to the best scheme for those needs.  Discuss this option with your Housing Options Adviser who can assess whether you fit the criteria for referral. 

If you feel that you don’t need supported accommodation, but would like access to some support in dealing with accommodation and housing issues, you can contact the Housing Options teams.

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To enable us to understand local issues, we are asking you, the community, for help in identifying anyone in your local area who is sleeping out at night. No one should need to sleep rough. In B&NES, Somerset, North Somerset, Wiltshire and Swindon there are services available to help. This may include:

  • Giving practical advice
  • Supporting people to get back on their feet
  • Helping people get back to friends and family
  • Access to a range of emergency accommodation

So if you see someone sleeping rough i.e. sleeping out in the open, in a tent, in a car, living in a makeshift shelter in the woods, sleeping in farm buildings etc please tell us so we can help them.

You can tell us about someone sleeping rough in your area – completely confidentially – by contacting our 24 hour referral line on 0800 917 7765 or completing an online referral form by visiting www.roughsleeperhelp.co.uk

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Organisations who can help

The Citizens Advice Bureau has several offices in Wiltshire

Tel:03444 111 444

Website: www.cabwiltshire.org.uk (Wiltshire)/ www.citizensadvice.org.uk (general)

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Freephone helpline (including all mobiles) open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 4pm on Saturdays: 0800 138 1111

Website: www.stepchange.org

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A free and impartial service set up by the government to help people make the most of their money. Money advice is available to everyone across the UK – online, on webchat, over the phone, in printed guides and face to face.

Tel: 0300 500 5000

Website: www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en which includes a list of charities that provide free debt advice

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Freephone helpline open from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday and 9.30am to 1pm on Saturday:
0808 808 4000 Website: www.nationaldebtline.co.uk

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Freephone helpline open from 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday telephone 0800 085 0226.

Website: www.debtsupporttrust.org.uk which includes an online debt analyser tool.

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Free advice is available on debt, benefits, discrimination and housing, by phone or by home visit, for low income tenants.

Wiltshire Law Centre, Temple House, 115 Commercial Road, Swindon, SN1 5PL

Telephone: 01793 486926

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Free housing advice helpline: 0808 800 4444 Website: www.england.shelter.org.uk

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Credit unions are community based local savings and loan schemes. Managed and run by trained volunteers, credit unions offer people who live or work in the area a chance to save regularly (by cash, standing order, payroll deduction or at a collection point) and to borrow at a reasonable rate of interest.

Telephone: 01722 421881

Website: http://www.wiltshiresavingsandloans.org.uk/

Email: office@wsl.email

Registered Address: South Wiltshire Credit Union Limited, St Michael's Community Centre, St Michael's Road, Salisbury SP2 9LE

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Factsheets

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Wiltslet bond scheme factsheet

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Last updated: 23 May 2017 | Last reviewed: 23 May 2017