Everything you need to know about rent

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1 Everything you need to know about rent THIS LEAFLET IS RESIDENT APPROVED

2 What s inside This leaflet gives you information about your rent. It tells you about: u How to pay your rent u Understanding your rent statement u How your rent is calculated u What are service charges? u What to do if you are struggling to pay your rent u What happens if you don t pay your rent u What is a Notice of Seeking Possession (NOSP)? u Other place to get advice Our officers work with support agencies such as Thames Reach to make sure you get all the help and advice you need.

3 How to pay your rent Over the phone Lewisham Homes has a freephone number for all housing enquiries Press 2 to pay your rent or speak to the Rent team. (It may be cheaper to call from a mobile). Lewisham Council also have a 24 hour automated payment line please include your name and how we can contact you. Online By direct debit Visit your local Housing Office, call our freephone number , or download a form at u A simple and safe way to pay your rent. u Payments are made direct from your bank account to your rent account. u If your rent changes, your direct debit will automatically change. In person At PayPoints (local stores and garages where you see the PayPoint sign) or any Post Office. You can pay by credit card or debit card at Pepys and Holbeach Housing Offices or by cash or cheque at Lewisham Town Hall with your rent payment card. By bank standing order Visit your local Housing Office, call our freephone number , or download a standing order form at u To set up a standing order take the completed standing order u form to your bank. You will need the Council s bank details: u Bank: Co-operative Bank PLC u Sortcode: u Account number: u If your rent changes it is your responsibility to change your u standing order with the bank. everything you need to know about rent

4 Understanding your rent statement 1) Reference This is your unique reference number and you must quote it when calling about your account. 2) Week number Our financial year always starts the first Monday in April and this will be numbered as week one, each week after that will be identified in numerical order according to date. 3) Date The date shown is the period start date and is aways the Monday of that week. This will also include dates of payment and adjustments within the week. 4) Rent due This is the amount of rent due each week after benefits or grants have been taken out. This is

5 what you must pay each week. 5) Payment made and amount This identifies the method of payment and the amount. 6) Adjustment and amount This section is used for manual adjustments on the account, for example a transfer of debt from a previous tenancy or changes in benefits. 7) Arrears balance This shows the amount of outstanding rent. 8) Credit balance Shows the balance of your rent account each week. 9) Money owed This shows what was owed at the time the statement was produced. Please note, you may have made payments since the rent statement was sent out. How your rent is calculated Lewisham Council sets the level of rent that tenants pay using rules and advice from the Government. Lewisham Homes collects rent on behalf of the Council. Rent is also determined by how much Lewisham Council needs to spend on services for its tenants and takes into account the level of inflation year on year. Rent is paid into The Housing Revenue Account and this, along with some money from the government, is what pays for the services that tenants receive. It also covers other items such as paying the cost of borrowing for the original build of the property and for capital improvements. everything you need to know about rent Your rent does not pay for other services that the Council provides, and it is not subsidised by Council Tax payments. What are service charges? Your basic rent does not include the cost of additional services that you may receive, for example, caretaking, communal lighting, grounds maintenance, communal window cleaning* and bulky household waste removal**. These services are paid for by your service charges. Service charges are calculated to ensure they are fair and that tenants pay for the actual cost of the services provided. * Communal window cleaning will only be charged to those blocks that benefit from the service. ** Bulky household waste removal will only be charged to those tenants who live on estates. This service is not available for street properties

6 Struggling to pay your rent? Rent is a priority debt. If you do not pay your rent you could lose your home. Contact our Rent team immediately for help. We can: u give advice about claiming all the benefits you are entitled to and help you to complete an application form; u help you manage your finances; u negotiate a payment plan to pay rent arrears; and u offer you a range of money advice services including referrals to other agencies which may be able to give further support. If your overdue rent continues to increase, you may not be eligible for rehousing. Lewisham Homes will take court action to recover the money owed and you could lose your home. Are you entitled to any benefits? Depending on your circumstances, you could be entitled to benefits available from the government. We can help you check what you are entitled to and work with you to complete the application. Remember: the sooner you claim the better, as not all benefits can be backdated. Housing Benefit Housing Benefit helps people on low incomes to pay their rent. If you have applied previously, and your living or financial situation has changed, you could apply again. We can tell you whether you are eligible to apply and help you complete the application form. Council Tax Benefit Council Tax Benefit provides help with your Council Tax if you are on a low income. Child Tax Credits If you re responsible for at least one child or young person who normally lives with you, you may qualify for Child Tax Credits. Working Tax Credits If you work, but earn low wages, you may qualify for Working Tax Credit. Nine out of ten families with children get tax credits, but you don t need to have children to qualify. Pension Credit If you re aged 60 or over you may be entitled to Pension Credit. You could still be entitled even if receive a state pension or personal pension.

7 Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Disability Living Allowance is a tax free benefit for children and adults under 65 who need help with personal care or have walking difficulties because they are physically or mentally disabled. Attendance Allowance (Carer s Allowance) This is for those aged 65 or over who need help with personal care because they are physically or mentally disabled. It is not usually affected by savings/income. Tackling your debt There are two types of debt: Priority debts and nonpriority debts. You should always work out how to pay off your priority debts first. Rent is a priority debt. Below is a list of some of the main priority debts. You should look to make arrangements to pay off these creditors first. Type of debt Rent arrears Council tax Gas and electric Unpaid fines Maintenance / Child Support Risk if you do not pay Lose your home Bailiffs / Imprisonment Cut off Bailiffs / Imprisonment Bailiffs / Imprisonment Find out what benefits you re entitled to We have a dedicated Welfare Officer who can advise you and help you to apply for all benefits. You can make an appointment or dropin and see us at our Welfare Surgeries at Pepys Housing Office on a Monday morning (between 10am-12pm). Don t worry about making an appointment just drop by during that time period to see the Officer press 2. Preparing a budget One of the most important things you can do is plan a budget that you can stick to. We can help you do this. We can also give you a Self-Help Debt Pack or you can download a copy from our website. Negotiating a payment plan Ignoring the problem won t make it go away. If you are having trouble paying your rent, contact us straightaway to put together a payment plan that you can stick to. A reasonable amount every month is much better than an offer you can t afford to maintain. everything you need to know about rent

8 What happens if I don t pay my rent? Lewisham Homes takes non-payment of rent seriously and will take action against tenants who do not pay their rent. Rent arrears may prevent you from transferring, exchanging or moving home under the mobility scheme. You could get a bad credit rating If we have to take court action to recover unpaid rent, a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you may prevent you from getting credit such as credit cards and loans. You might not be able to get a mortgage If you intend to buy your home or another property, the mortgage lender may refuse you credit if you have a CCJ against you. They will also write to us for a reference. A history of rent arrears will mean a poor reference and the lender may decide not to risk giving you a mortgage. You could end up homeless If you are evicted because of rent arrears the Council may decide that you are intentionally homeless. You may not be entitled to, or be offered, any temporary or permanent accommodation. We will work to recover outstanding rent arrears. Golden rules for dealing with debt u Don t borrow money to pay off your debts without thinking carefully about how you will repay this loan. Get advice first. u Check you are claiming all the benefits and tax credits you can. u Contact the people you owe money to (your creditors) straightaway. u Always pay your priority debts first. u If you are sent to court, fill in reply forms, this will help the judge decide how much you can afford u Always keep copies of letters or forms you send to and receive from Lewisham Homes or the Council.

9 What is a NOSP? A Notice of Seeking Possession (NOSP) is a legal document you receive at the first stage of eviction. If you don t pay your rent, the flow chart below shows you what will happen. Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Contact us to confirm You receive a NOSP Have you arranged to pay the money you owe? Yes No You have 28 days to respond to a NOSP. If you do not respond we will take you to Court. What will happen Proceedings issued You will need to go to a Court Hearing Possession order obtained You will be charged costs What this means We will write to the Court to ask for a hearing. We will let you know what we are claiming for and why. You will need to go to a hearing held at Court at the time they decide. We will ask for either outright possession, where you must leave your home, or a suspended / postponed possession, which means you can keep your home only if you keep to the conditions set out by the court. If you do not keep to the conditions, we will ask for bailiffs to evict you. The minimum you will have to pay is and the maximum is everything you need to know about rent Step 4 A warrant is requested for bailiffs to evict you from your home Lewisham Homes and a Bailiff will come to your house to evict you. If you refuse to leave they may bring a locksmith and the Police to remove you from the property. Home is SAFE You will LOSE your home

10 Other places to get advice National advice Advice UK A network of free, independent advice centres across the UK National Debt Line A national helpline for people with debt problems in the United Kingdom. The service is free, confidential and independent Disability Benefits Line Tax Credits Helpline Pension Service Consumer Credit Debt Counselling Service Advice about personal budgeting, wise use of credit and managing achievable plans to repay debts Community Legal Advice Free, confidential and independent legal advice about debt, money, tax, benefits and housing as well as much more, for residents of England and Wales Local advice and community groups Lewisham Council Housing Benefit Access Point Lawrence House 1 Catford Road, Catford London SE6 4 RU or Access Point Wavelengths Library Giffin Street, Deptford London SE8 4RJ Deptford Action Group for the Elderly (DAGE) Help and advice for pensioners. 71 Deptford High Street London SE8 4AA Lewisham Jobcentre Plus 9-19 Rushey Green, Catford London SE6 4AW Citizens Advice Bureau 120 Rushey Green, Catford London SE6 4HQ Voluntary Action Lewisham (VAL) VAL holds a database of many community services and advice centres throughout Lewisham. 120 Rushey Green London SE6 4HQ

11 Local advice and community groups Age UK Lewisham Plus Credit Union 262 Kirkdale Sydenham London SE6 4RS Lewisham Local Pension Service Drop in surgeries held at: Access Point Lawrence House 1 Catford Road, Catford London SE6 4RU or Lewisham Library Lewisham High Street London SE13 6LG / FORVIL (The Federation for Refugees from Vietnam in Lewisham) Evelyn Community Centre 1 Kingfisher square, Wooton Road London SE8 5TW Evelyn 190 Community Centre Community advice service for help with housing, financial, social issues. 190 Evelyn Street London SE8 5DB Local advice and community groups Capitalise A London-wide partnership that aims to improve the lives of Londoners who are experiencing or at risk of financial exclusion and debt. 28 Commercial Street London E1 6LS Somali and Somaliland Lewisham Community Community advice service for help with housing, financial, social issues. Evelyn Community Centre 1 Kingfisher square, Wooton Road London SE8 5TW AFRIL (Action for Refugees in Lewisham) Free advice service for refugees and asylum seekers. c/o Volunteer Centre HE Olby Community Project Community advice service for help with housing, financial, social issues. 170 New Cross Road London SE14 5AA everything you need to know about rent

12 We can give you this information in any other way, style or language that will help you access it. Please indicate which language you require and provide your name, address and telephone number in the box below. Nous pouvons vous fournir ces informations d'autres façons, dans d'autres formats ou dans d autres langues pour vous aider à mieux les comprendre. Veuillez indiquer vos détails ci-dessous. For other formats tick the appropriate box below: n Large print n Audio tape n Braille RENT V0510 Lewisham Homes FREEPOST (no stamp required) London

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