So you may have found this blog because you’re facing homelessness. Perhaps you’ve been served a section 21 notice? Well, I’ve been there and I know that sick feeling you must have right now. But take a moment. Take a big breath. Let’s get a plan in place… You aren’t alone!
Firstly, are you a family with (or expecting) children? If so, let me point out that you will not end up on the street. You will not be sleeping in a shop doorway. Your Local Authority has a duty of care towards your children and as such, are obliged to house you in temporary or emergency housing should it come to that.
That aside, let’s look at the first steps you need to take.
I would say you need to contact shelter or a similar charity. I have a small list on another page. It is important that you find out if your section 21 has been served legally. They can also help negotiate with your landlord to try and solve any issues you have to prevent any further action. Give them a call, or another of the homeless charities. Honestly, you have nothing to lose.
A section 21 is not a legal document in itself. You do not have to leave by the date given. Your landlord will have to go to court to remove you. This is a two step process. Firstly the court will grant a Possession Order – this is the court confirming the Landlord is entitled to have his property back. This will usually give you two more weeks but it still does not give the Landlord the right to remove you from the property. If you are still there after the date given he will have to apply for a bailiffs warrant from the court. This does not mean they will be banging down your door! If the warrant is granted then you will be given a date and time that they will be executing the warrant.
Looking for Private Rented?
If you are looking for another private rented place, make the calls. Call every local estate agents and ask to be added to their list. Better still, visit them personally with a huge smile and lots of friendliness. They will be more likely to remember your face that way should something come up.
Check out Shelters advice on renting here.
Check out gumtree. But never ever give money over the internet. If you put up a wanted add be prepared for strange people offering large houses at a fraction of the normal local rents. They will probably state that they live abroad. They may even give you a postcode and road name. But look closely at the pictures – I spotted two-pin style plug sockets in most! Simply Report and Ignore. But there are genuine ads on there.
Put up cards in local shops in the area you’d like to live.
If you are receiving housing benefit and finding it hard to source willing landlords, contact your local authority. Some hold lists of Housing Benefit friendly Landlords. Also – check out this new website for properties that accept Housing benefit applicants at www.dssmove.co.uk
Check out the internet – there are so many sites now. Most let you sign up to alerts for your search criteria too. Just google to let and your area name.
Buy your local paper – some have a specific housing day and some put property details in every edition. You should also place a wanted ad if they have they option.
I know this is a stressful time but don’t panic and settle for something which will make your life difficult. It’s just not worth the stress if you know you will have to move yet again.
If you are struggling with finding a guarantor or the deposit needed then speak to your Local Authority. They often have schemes to help. You can also apply for a budgeting loan if you are in receipt of benefits.
Also, this website is a fantastic resource for linking you to local Private Rented Access Schemes. These are schemes set up to help those finding it hard to find a place through the private sector and can offer support for deposits or guarantors Also a great place for general advice for Landlords and Tenants.
Don’t forget to check on the shelter website if your deposit has been entered into a deposit protection scheme here. If it hasn’t been protected within 30 days of your landlord receiving it you could be paid compensation.
Can’t find another Private Rent?
What happens if you have looked everywhere but keep getting a no? What if you can’t find an affordable place? Or you have no guarantor or references and huge deposit?
Then your next step is to get yourself onto the Local Authority housing list. Most councils now operate a ‘choice based letting’ system. This means that you are awarded a category of priority and the available houses are put onto a list. You then get the chance to bid on the properties that you would like. Sometimes you get a set amount of bids. We get three. When the bidding closes, the council look at who has higher priority and offers the the house.
This system is pretty fair if you get the priority you deserve. Don’t be afraid to appeal that if you think it’s wrong but be warned – at the start of this process, before your section 21 has expired, you probably won’t be classed as a high priority.
You can get added to the list but also ask them to put you in touch with the housing options team as well. They will work with you to prevent homelessness but often not until the latter stages of your section 21 expiring. Be persistent.
But honestly, being on this list is a long process in most areas and there is a very high chance that by the time the notice is up you will not have been offered housing. Ask them for their average waiting times. Most councils now quote years.
If you really can’t find suitable housing by the time the court orders are issued then you will make an application for homelessness. Each Local Authority offer different procedures for this. I have written about how it went for us in this blog but am composing another page for that process which will shortly be ready.
I know this is a stressful time. I have felt it and paced the floor at 3am. It’s not the same process for everyone but I hope this blog will show you at the very least, you aren’t alone.
If you’d like some support or have any questions about our journey then you can contact me here, or via twitter or facebook. You can also email me on firstname.lastname@example.org I am by no means an expert but I can certainly sympathise and will happily share any tips that have helped us. At the time of writing this, we are in emergency housing awaiting our application being assessed. We will shortly move onto the next temporary place until we get a bid accepted.
If you have any tips for looking for rented housing that you think should be added – let me know!