Herts Choice Homes

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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.




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     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.




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                       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.




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     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.




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      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.




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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: leavalleyhomes@aldwych.co.uk
Website:       www.leavalleyhomes.co.uk
Homeswapper: (Mutual Exchanges)
Website:	     www.homeswapper.co.uk

				
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