Worried about losing your home?
Help for the homeless and those threatened with homelessness
The Government has produced guidance on common housing problems during Covid-19. It covers when notice can be given, possession proceedings, rent and mortgage payments, maintenance and repairs.
For help with homelessness or the risk of homelessness please contact Housing Options.
We will try and prevent or relieve your homelessness whenever we can by assisting you to remain in your current property or to find suitable, alternative accommodation in the private sector or through Homes 4Wiltshire choice based lettings scheme. If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days, and are eligible for assistance, Wiltshire Council will have a duty to prevent or relieve your homelessness.
If you are eligible we assess your housing needs and agree a personal housing plan with you. This could include steps that you are required to take and that we will take, to prevent or relieve your homelessness. The Council does not have a duty to house every homeless person, but it does have a duty to provide a prevention and relief duty to every eligible customer who is homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days.
There is more information on this below.
You are eligible for assistance if you are a British citizen, an EEA worker who has worked legally in the UK for 3 months or more and the work is genuine and effective, or have an entitlement to public funds.
You are considered to be homeless or threatened with homelessness if:
- You have nowhere to live or may lose your home within 56 days
- 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
Housing Options will interview you to assess your situation. If you are eligible Housing Options will support you to stay in your existing home or find alternative suitable accommodation. The duty to prevent your homelessness will last at least 56 days if you engage with us, or until you become homeless.
If you do become homeless we will determine if you are in priority need, and whether there is an interim duty to provide to you with emergency accommodation. A relief duty will be owed to you, if you remain homeless, for a minimum of 56 days regardless of whether you are priority need or not. After 56 days the Council will decide if a full housing duty is owed.
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
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 the rent or 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.
All advisors are trained and will listen and respond sensitively to your needs. Information provided will be treated confidentially. To give you the best possible service, we will need information about your situation such as where you have lived previously and who makes up your household. We may also require more sensitive information such as any medical conditions that you or a member of your household might have.
Useful documents to bring to an interview could include:
- Proof of benefits
- Proof of children or pregnancy
- Eviction notice or notice of cessation
- Medical evidence
- Rent book
- National Insurance number
- Court orders
- Bank or building society statements
- Any other relevant documents to support your case
How we assess your application
Under homeless legislation we assess each application under the following areas:
- Priority need
To help us with this assessment you may need to provide supporting documents such as those listed above.
Once Housing Options have completed their enquiries they will inform you in writing of their decision. If you disagree with the decision, you can request a review.
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. Include any additional information or changes in your circumstances, which could affect the outcome of your application and any new documents in support of your request, for example a doctor's letter.
Your request and any supporting documents should be sent to your 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 the decision. You may wish to seek independent legal advice for this.
Housing Options will make every effort to prevent you from becoming homeless. They may refer you to other agencies for more specific advice and support or help you to bid on the local housing register Homes4Wiltshire.
If you require accommodation, you may need to consider the following options:
- Staying with friends or family
- Private renting
Housing Options can also give information about local night shelters, drop in centres and supported housing.
These provide accommodation for one night at a time. You may need to be eligible for benefits before being able to access the accommodation.
These provide a friendly place during the day to meet other people, have meals, receive advice and help, and take part in activities.
Supported housing offers furnished accommodation and support to develop independent living skills. It is generally short term. If you are interested, ask Housing Options who can assess whether you fit the criteria for referral.
If you feel that you don't need supported accommodation, but would like some support in dealing with accommodation and housing issues, Housing Options can also help with this.
No one should need to sleep rough. There are services available to help in Wiltshire, Swindon, BANES, Somerset and North Somerset . These may include:
- Practical advice
- Supporting people to get back on their feet
- Helping people get back to friends and family
- Emergency accommodation
If you are rough sleeping or for more information see Rough Sleeping?
If you see someone sleeping rough e.g. sleeping out in the open, in a tent or car, living in a makeshift shelter, sleeping in farm buildings etc. please tell us so that we can help them. Please email Roughsleeperteam@wiltshire.gov.uk or StreetLink
Help with rent deposits
Most private landlords ask for a rent deposit as a condition of letting , 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 finding the money for the deposit, there may be help available. For further information please see Housing Options contact details
The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association(SSAFA) is for serving regulars and reserves, ex Forces and their families. SSAFA can offer practical, emotional and financial support. Contact their Helpdesk on 0800 731 4880 from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Their website has more information and details of local contacts, an online contact form and live chat SSAFA.
We may be able to help people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home through WiltsLet. This may cover rent in advance or a deposit bond for a private sector property. We can also help you to find a suitable property. Please click on the Factsheet at the top of the page for more information or get in touch through Housing Options contact details.
Wiltshire residents who are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent can get in touch through Housing Options contact details who can help. We provide free, confidential and practical advice.
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, check whether you can increase your income by:
- Starting part time work
- Claiming benefits. For benefits advice visit Gov.uk Benefits Advice or contact your local Citizen’s advice Bureau
- Claiming tax credits. For advice on tax credits 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 may also be able to cut your expenses by shopping around for cheaper deals on gas, electricity, telephone and insurance and considering whether there are any non-essential expenses that can be stopped.
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 companies may offer key or card meters or payment cards
- Pay as you go for your mobile 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.
If you are considering borrowing money or buying on credit, check that:
- You can afford any repayments including the interest charged
- 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
- You have enough money left over to pay your priority bills such as mortgage, rent, gas, electricity and water
If you cannot keep up your payments your creditors may threaten bailiffs and court action. Please see the organisations listed below which offer free help and advice with money problems.
If you are a council tenant, we will try to contact you at the earliest before any rent arrears become too high. Staff have a good understanding of money management and awareness of the benefits which tenants may be able to claim. We will aim to agree regular manageable payments with you to clear the debt.
Where council tenant rent arrears continue and regular payments are not made, the Council may take action 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.
Housing Options offers free, independent advice to help you:
- Put together a debt management plan
- 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 or 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
Housing Options can provide for more information and to allow them to work with you to try and help you to remain in your home.
If you are having difficulty paying your rent, mortgage or other bills, don't do nothing! Some of the organisations listed below give free advice on how to deal with all types of money problems. They'll help you check you are claiming all the benefits that you can, work out a debt management plan and give you tips on dealing with your creditors.
You could contact your landlord or mortgage lender. It may be that you can renegotiate the terms of your mortgage or arrange a lower rent for a period.
Creditors may try to persuade people to keep up their payments when they can no longer afford to do so, or threaten bailiffs and court action. You could ask them to accept lower repayments and freeze interest. If they take you to court, fill in the court forms, getting help if possible, and offer repayments that you are sure you can afford to keep up.
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.
Some of the organisations below give free advice about housing rights, how to negotiate to try and settle the problem without going to court and how to prepare if you do go to court. They can also advise about legal aid and whether you would qualify for this.
Local County Courts
Salisbury Crown and County Court
St Johns Street
Telephone: 01722 325444
Swindon Combined Court
The Law Courts
Telephone: 01793 690500
Organisations that can help
Wiltshire Citizens Advice can advise on most day to day legal problems.
Freephone: 0800 144 8848
Website: Wiltshire CAB
Stepchange offer free advice on money problems.
Call their freephone helpline (including all mobiles) on 0800 138 1111.
Available Monday to Friday, 8am - 8pm
Saturday 8am to 4pm
There is lots of information on their website and online assistance Stepchange debt charity
A free, impartial service set up by the government to help people manage their personal finances including benefits, insurance, budgeting etc.. Money Advice provides information online, on webchat, over the phone and in printed guides.
Call 0800 138 7777 or Type talk 18001 0800 915 4622
Lines are open from Monday - Friday, 8am to 6pm except Bank holidays
Website: Money advice service
The National Debtline offers advice online, by email and phone.
Call their Freephone helpline on 0808 808 4000. Open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm
There is also lots of information on their website: National Debtline
The Debt Support Trust is a registered debt advice charity. Trained advisers will advise on suitable debt solutions either online or by phone.
Call 0800 085 0226 from Monday to Friday, 8am to 7pm
Website: Debt Support Trust (which includes an online debt analyser tool)
Wiltshire Law Centre, Sanford House, Sanford Street, Swindon SN1 1HE
Usually offers housing advice to those who qualify for legal aid but due to the Covid-19 situation is offering free initial legal advice on housing matters to all.
Offers free advice to GreenSquare tenants on debt, benefits and housing matters.
Open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4.30pm except Bank holidays
Telephone: 01793 486926
Website: Wiltshire Law Centre
Shelter provides a wide range of housing information on their website. This includes homelessness, problems with private rented and council or housing association accommodation, evictions and repossessions.
Shelter offers webchat for non urgent issues and a helpline for urgent matters.
The helpline is available every day of the year on 0808 800 444. Available from 8am to 8pm week days, and 9am to 5pm weekends.
Website: Shelter England