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Herts Choice Homes www.hertschoicehomes.org.uk Version 02 17.02.11 Your guide to Housing Options Contents OUR SERVICE AIMS There is a considerable shortage of PAGE 3 Affordable Home Ownership – affordable housing in Hertfordshire. Buying a Place of your Own Hertsmere Borough Council, St Albans City and District Council, PAGE 4 Private Rented Accommodation Three Rivers District Council, Watford Borough Council and PAGE 6 Welwyn Hatfield Council have joined Options for Older People forces to help increase choice and PAGE 8 mobility across the five boroughs. Mutual Exchanges The Herts Choice Homes PAGE 9 Low cost ownership Choice Based Lettings Scheme, Preventing Homelessness / Housing www.hertschoicehomes.org.uk, advice will give applicants a realistic view PAGE 11 of their chances of being re-housed How and when the council can (see our separate leaflet for details help with housing of the scheme). Being a region of PAGE 12 high demand for social housing, a Useful Contacts high percentage of people on the Housing Needs Register (waiting list) are unlikely to be offered a property unless there is an urgent housing need. This document details other housing options that you may wish to consider before you decide to apply to join the register. 2 Herts Choice Homes | Your guide to Housing Options AFFORDABLE HOME OWNERSHIP – BUYING A PLACE OF YOUR OWN A lot of people would like to own their own property. Home ownership provides long term security, offers you more control over your own housing and can be an investment for you and your children. Property prices in Hertfordshire are very high and this is why the Government has developed a range of low cost schemes to help you get on the first rung of the ladder. The detail of each scheme varies. Up to date information about schemes that are currently available can be found by contacting Lea Valley Homes, the HomeBuy agent for Hertfordshire. Contact details are on page 12. Herts Choice Homes | www.hertschoicehomes.org.uk 3 PRIVATE RENTED ACCOMMODATION All five councils have access to suitable private rented accommodation across Hertfordshire, and have helped lots of people secure settled accommodation with a private sector landlord through Rent Deposit Guarantee schemes. Why choose the private sector? l The private sector can provide attractive accommodation l You can choose a property the right size for your household. l You can choose which area to rent in. l Landlords will make sure their properties meet a range of safety standards. l Some landlords will accept households in receipt of Housing Benefit. l This is a better option than temporary accommodation. What is the Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme? The scheme aims to help people who are either homeless or threatened with homelessness. It is available at the discretion of each individual council and each council operates slightly different rules for the scheme. Under the scheme the council will provide the landlord with a guaranteed deposit of up to one or two months’ rent to cover any damage and/or rent arrears on a property. If any guarantee is paid to the landlord the tenant then repays it to the council. 4 Herts Choice Homes | Your guide to Housing Options How does the scheme work? We help you to find landlords who will accept the deposit guarantee. We have contacts with landlords who will accept tenants who are on a low income or who are in receipt of Housing Benefit. We provide access to these properties but we do not manage them. The individual owners manage the properties. The owner of the property (the landlord) enters into a tenancy agreement with you. This is legally binding and commits you to remaining in the property and paying the rent, for a set period of at least 6 months. In many instances the landlord will continue to renew the tenancy whilst you meet your obligations as a tenant. How do I apply? We are not able to help everyone with this scheme. First speak to the council to whom you have a local connection. They will talk to you about what you need, tell you whether you are eligible for the scheme and help you to access it. If you are approved for the scheme your adviser will tell you about the properties available and guide you through the rest of the process. Finding your own private rented accommodation. You can also find your own private rented accommodation. Newspapers, notice boards in newsagents’ windows, along with lettings agencies are a source of finding private rented accommodation. Be prepared to go to several agencies and view several properties. There is no guarantee however that you will find something quickly. Many people hear of properties by word of mouth from friends or workmates so it is a good idea to let everyone know that you are looking. Herts Choice Homes | www.hertschoicehomes.org.uk 5 House Sharing and Room Renting Sharing a flat or a house with others is often a more affordable option as bills are split between tenants and can be the first step towards independent living. If you are looking for a property to share, the following links may be useful: uk.easyroomate.com; www.roombuddies.com; www.flatmaterooms.co.uk. OPTIONS FOR OLDER PEOPLE As we get older our housing needs change and we often need to reconsider where and how we live to ensure a secure retirement. Why move? l Your current house or flat may no longer be suitable because of stairs, layout or location. l As children and family move away to form their own households you may no longer be able to cope or want to deal with a property that is too large or expensive. l You may be interested in sharing companionship and/or social activities with people of a similar age. l You may wish to have the security of having someone to look out for you and be in a safe and secure environment. l You may be entitled to a financial incentive from your landlord should you be giving up family sized social housing. 6 Herts Choice Homes | Your guide to Housing Options Sheltered Housing Schemes Sheltered housing schemes are unfurnished properties specially built or adapted to meet the needs of older or disabled people. The schemes often have an on-site or on-call manager who can offer support and assistance to residents during office hours. Some schemes have 24 hour emergency alarm systems. Sheltered Housing Schemes are not care homes. They are for people who can live independently but who would benefit from having someone around to provide some additional support when needed. Eligibility for Sheltered Housing Schemes Most schemes are open to applicants over 60 years of age with a housing support need or to couples where one of the joint applicants is at least 60 and the partner is 55 or over. However some schemes currently consider applicants who are younger, with a medical or physical issue or a learning difficulty. How to apply You need to apply to join the Housing Needs Register of the council with whom you wish to be housed. Contact details of the five partner councils are on page 12. Herts Choice Homes | www.hertschoicehomes.org.uk 7 MUTUAL EXCHANGE Mutual Exchange is where you swap tenancies with another council or housing association tenant. You need to apply to your landlord to join the mutual exchange register, and then search for another tenant to exchange homes with. If you find someone to swap with, you will need your landlord’s permission for the exchange to go ahead. How do I find someone to exchange with? There are various ways to find someone to exchange with: l Word of mouth. l Placing an advert in the window of your newsagents. l Looking at lists held by your landlord (not all landlords hold a list). You can also find exchanges through a scheme called Homeswapper. This scheme is free to use if your landlord is registered with the scheme. By joining the scheme you can add your details and also search for people who may want to swap with you. If your landlord is not a member of Homeswapper you can apply to join the scheme directly for a small charge. You can find out more information about Homeswapper on their website www.homeswapper.co.uk Why consider Mutual Exchange? l Mutual Exchange is a popular option for those with a low housing need. By finding someone to swap with you may be able to move more quickly than you would by remaining on the Housing Needs Register. l You can mutually exchange with council and housing association tenants across the country. 8 Herts Choice Homes | Your guide to Housing Options LOW COST OWNERSHIP Purchasing a home outright can be too expensive for many people, but if you have a household income of less than £60,000 per year you may be eligible for a low cost home ownership scheme. There are a range of products available, including: l Shared Equity/Shared Ownership - You buy a share of the property (usually at least 25%) and rent the remaining share at a low rent. l Rent to Buy - You rent a specific home at a low rent for a fixed period (say five years). During this time you have the opportunity to buy a share of the property. To buy a share of a property you will need to either raise a mortgage for the value of the share you want, or have sufficient money to buy the share outright. Usually you will be given the option of buying a small share to begin with, but can then buy further shares in the property, if your income increases in the future. This is known as staircasing. To find out more about low cost home ownership options contact Lea Valley Homes: www.leavalleyhomes.co.uk, telephone: 01582 869440. PREVENTING HOMELESSNESS / HOUSING ADVICE The Housing teams of the Herts Choice Homes councils offer free and confidential advice to residents within our boroughs. The earlier you let us know about your housing problems, the more we can do to help. We are all committed to preventing homelessness wherever possible and to helping you sustain your current accommodation.This means we will make every effort to keep you in your home if this is appropriate, or assist you in finding alternative accommodation. Herts Choice Homes | www.hertschoicehomes.org.uk 9 We can offer you advice on We have a number of schemes dealing with issues such as: and partnerships that may l Rent arrears help you, depending on your circumstances, such as: l Mortgage arrears l Debt advice provided in l Landlord disputes partnership with the CAB. l Disputes with friends or family l Sanctuary room for victims members with whom you are of domestic violence. currently living. l Mediation services to help l Domestic violence resolve family disputes. l Notice to leave and possession l Floating support for households action by landlords or lenders who need regular assistance l Your rights and responsibilities and support to maintain their housing. Mortgage Rescue Scheme You may be able to avoid repossession by applying for the Government’s Mortgage Rescue Scheme. All the following criteria must be met: l The mortgage lender (or other lender with a charge secured on the property) must be threatening repossession action l The household must include either dependent children, a chronically sick, mentally ill or disabled person l The property value must not exceed £220,000 (this may be flexible but only in very limited circumstances eg disabled adaptions in place) l Households in negative equity may be considered so long as this does not exceed 120% of the property value l The household income must not exceed £60k l The property must be of adequate size for the occupants and suitable for continued occupation The scheme would allow for a housing association to purchase the property at 97% of the market value and rent it back to the householder. This avoids the need, cost and upheaval of moving and maintains stability and continuity for the household. 10 Herts Choice Homes | Your guide to Housing Options What happens if you become homeless? If your local housing team is not able to help prevent you from becoming homeless they will look at other re-housing options that may be available to you. There might be options in the private sector, or a referral to an agency such as the YMCA, or a specialist supported housing scheme may be appropriate. HOW AND WHEN THE COUNCIL CAN HELP WITH HOUSING How and when can the Council help? If we are unable to prevent you from becoming homeless or provide you with alternative suitable housing options then the Council may have a duty to assist you as a homeless person. We only have a duty to secure accommodation for certain homeless people under the Housing Act 1996, as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002. If you are likely to become homeless or feel you could be homeless in the future you should contact the Housing Options team at your local council as soon as possible. Details can be found on page 12. Herts Choice Homes | www.hertschoicehomes.org.uk 11 USEFUL DETAILS COUNCIL CONTACT DETAILS Hertsmere Borough Council Civic Offices, Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire WD6 1WA 020 8207 7420 www.hertsmere.gov.uk St Albans City and District Council Council Offices, Civic Centre, St Peters Street, St. Albans, Herts AL1 3JE 01727 866 100 www.stalbans.gov.uk Three Rivers District Council Three Rivers House, Northway, Rickmansworth, Herts WD3 1RL 01923 776 611 www.threerivers.gov.uk Watford Borough Council Town Hall, Watford, Herts WD17 3EX 01923 226 400 www.watford.gov.uk Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing Trust Welwyn Garden City Housing Office, 51 Bridge Road East, Herts AL7 1JR 01707 357 796 www.welhat.gov.uk OTHER USEFUL CONTACT DETAILS Herts Young Homeless Group An independent charity working with young homeless people who can provide information, support, advice, mediation and advocacy for young people aged 16 – 25. Contacts in the following areas: Three Rivers, Watford, Hertsmere 01923 245 030 / 020 8207 6262 St Albans 01442 219 121 Welwyn & Hatfield 01992 635 001 Lea Valley Homes (HomeBuy Agent) Address: 6 Houghton Hall Business Park, Porz Avenue, Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire LU5 5UZ Telephone: 01582 869440 Email address: email@example.com Website: www.leavalleyhomes.co.uk Homeswapper: (Mutual Exchanges) Website: www.homeswapper.co.uk
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