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Housing advice

Last updated 20 January 2014

Advice on housing related matters including domestic violence, tenancies, debt advice, welfare benefits, rent and repairs.

Emergency contact number

If you have an emergency outside office hours, such as domestic violence, that means you are not safe to stay in your home, please call 020 8496 3000.

If you need help with spoken or written English, let us know and we can provide interpreters and/or translated information - for example if English is not your first language, or if you have sight and/or hearing disabilities.

Cedar Wood House is accessible for people with mobility disabilities, including wheelchair users, with ramped/level access, wide doors, and fully accessible toilets. There is also an induction loop for hearing aid users. This information is available in the following languages:

Housing advice

Housing Advice at Waltham Forest Housing Services gives free advice on housing matters to all residents within the borough.

If you are experiencing problems with your accommodation, you should get advice. You can do this by contacting Housing Advice, or a solicitor specialising in housing.

When you seek advice, you should take any documentation that is relevant to your case. For example, your original tenancy agreement, court papers, correspondence from your landlord, housing benefit, or solicitor. Even if you do not have any papers, you should still get advice.

When reading this information, it is important to remember that the laws concerning housing and welfare rights are very complicated. The information here cannot explain everything; it is intended to provide a guide to enable you to exercise your rights.

Who we work with

We give advice on housing and related problems to people who live, or want to live, in Waltham Forest and are:

  • Leaseholders
  • Private tenants
  • Housing association tenants
  • Home owners
  • Homeless or likely to become homeless
  • Private landlords

Advice areas

Worried about losing your home

  • Mortgage problems
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Domestic violence
  • Landlord telling you to leave
  • Friends or relatives want you to move out
  • Landlord not paying the mortgage on your home
  • Rent problems
  • Possession proceedings - what to do if you receive a Notice to Quit, Court Summons, Court Order, Bailiffs Warrant
  • Forced to sell your home
  • Leaseholder enquiries
  • Tenancy deposit legislation

Problems with your landlord

  • Repair problems
  • Privacy - landlord coming into your home uninvited
  • Rent problems - rent books, rent disputes, rent increases etc
  • Landlord refusing to accept rent
  • Overcrowding and shared facilities
  • Nothing in writing? - Your rights if you have no written tenancy agreement

Accommodation and Housing Benefit

Money problems and housing

  • Rent arrears
  • Mortgage arrears
  • Service charges
  • Welfare Benefits and other ways to increase your income

Landlords: problems with your tenants

  • Tenancy advice and information
  • Rent arrears
  • Damage to your property
  • Legal procedures for gaining possession
  • Access to your property for inspection and repairs
  • Tenancy deposit legislation - Your obligations

How you can help us to help you

At busy times we may only be able to give you brief initial advice when you first contact us. If your problem is urgent please try and contact us early in the morning.

We can give you advice about Council and Housing Association rented accommodation but there is a severe shortage of these types of housing. This means that we also give advice about finding private accommodation, or about improving conditions in your present home.

Once you have had your application registered, depending on your circumstances you may be eligible to bid for vacant Council or housing association properties. More information about this can be obtained from the Housing Allocations and Registrations Team on 020 8496 3000.

Get advice early - many people lose their homes, or rights to be re-housed by the Council, because they wait too long before getting advice.

The more information you give us, the quicker we are able to give you proper advice. Please let us see any useful documents as soon as you can.

Leaflets online

There is a full range of Housing Services leaflets and forms available here.

These leaflets are all available free of charge, by downloading from this website, by post or in person from our office.

Are you having difficulties in your home because of disability?

The Disability Adviser in Housing, is available to provide advice on housing assessment issues affecting disabled people. If you need advice you are welcome to come to any of these advice sessions.

Advice sessions

DIAL
Community Place
806 High Road
Leyton E10 6AE
10am-12noon
Second Tuesday of every month

Disability Resources Centre,
1a Warner Road Walthamstow E17
10am to 12 noon
First Thursday of every month

Whipps Cross University Hospital
Whipps Cross Road
Walthamstow E17
10am–12 noon
Last Friday of every month

Interviews can also be held in your home or at our office.

For further details contact:

Supported Housing and Disability Team
Adult and Community Services
Cedar Wood House
2D Fulbourne Road
Walthamstow E17 4GG

Tel 020 8496 5545
Fax 020 8496 5439
Email melinda.christopher@aschamhomes.org.uk.

Mortgage arrears or payment problems

The Housing Advice Unit at Waltham Forest Housing Services gives free advice on housing matters to all residents within the borough.

If you are worried about keeping up with your mortgage repayments, help is available. You must get advice as soon as possible. Talk to your lender first of all - repossession should always be a last resort and they should discuss alternative payment arrangements with you.

It is essential that you get the right advice to meet your needs. You want to solve your problems, not add to them! You may see advertisements for independent financial advisors who provide money advice, but these people may charge for their services, so always check first.

You may also receive publicity from companies who will buy your home and rent it back to you on 'rent-back’ or 'sell-to-let’ schemes. Although these are legal, they are not fully regulated; selling your house to this type of scheme may reduce or pay off your debts, but you will no longer own your own home. Your new landlord may increase your rent, or ask you to leave after six or twelve months. The Government’s mortgage rescue scheme may be more suitable for you if you are considering this option.

If you have been unable to come to a satisfactory arrangement with your lender, or if you need further help, here are some of the options that are available to you:

Support for mortgage interest

If you are receiving income-related benefits such as Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, you may be entitled to Support for Mortgage Interest as part of your benefit. On 5 January 2009, a temporary package of measures was introduced to provide extra help for homeowners with mortgage problems.

For full details, visit the JobCentre Plus website.

Mortgage Rescue Scheme

If you are in serious difficulties and will become homeless if you are repossessed, you may be eligible for the Mortgage Rescue Scheme. This scheme is for vulnerable families, like the elderly, disabled or those with children. Eligibility is also dependant on your income, the value of your house and the amount you owe. For Waltham Forest residents, this scheme is coordinated by the Housing Advice Unit in partnership with Citizens’ Advice and Metropolitan Housing Association

If you are eligible for the Mortgage Rescue scheme, you can be offered one of two options. If you have had difficulties paying your mortgage but are likely to be able to afford home ownership again in the future, you may be given an opportunity to sell a share of property to a housing association. This would mean cheaper monthly mortgage repayments with the option to buy back their share in the future. If you are unlikely to be able to make mortgage payments in the future, you may be able to sell your property to the housing association but remain in the home as a tenant, paying an affordable rent.

Both options enable you to remain in your properties.

Further details are available on the Gov.uk website.

For further information about any of these schemes, or if you need any advice about your housing problems, please contact us.

Debt advice

For further advice about debts, you can also contact any of the following agencies:

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau

The Citizens' Advice Bureau can provide free and confidential advice about financial and legal problems, and can direct you to the support you need. You can get advice online at www.adviceguide.org.uk or contact a local Citizens' Advice office directly - see their website for contact details.

Waltham Forest Credit Union

Credit unions are official cooperatives where members’ savings earn interest, which is then used to provide low-cost loans to other members. Membership of Waltham Forest Credit Union is open to anyone who lives or works in Waltham Forest. For more information visit www.wfccu.org or contact the Credit Union at:

4 Church Hill
Walthamstow E17 3AG

(formerly the Council’s Cash Office).

Tel 020 8520 8740
Email enquiries@wfccu.org.

Consumer Credit Counselling Service

The Consumer Credit Counselling Service is a national charity and are the CAB’s preferred partner for debt management plans. They specialise in providing free debt advice and their service is always completely free of charge. A change in circumstances caused by redundancy, bereavement, illness or a sudden expense, can make debts spiral out of control. If you are worried about making the repayments on the money you owe, it is very important to get help to prevent making a bad situation worse. If you are worried about debt try using CCCS Debt Remedy which offers anonymous debt counselling 24 hours a day.

Tel 0800 138 1111 or visit www.cccs.co.uk.

National Debtline

Helps you deal with your debt problems.
Tel 0808 808 4000 or visit www.nationaldebtline.co.uk.

Further information

Download a copy of the Homeowners Mortgage Support leaflet (2MB PDF file)

Download a copy of 'Are you worried about your mortgage? Get Advice now (NHAS)' (710KB PDF file)

Information about rent

Before you move into rented accommodation, you will have agreed with your landlord how much your rent is and whether you will pay the rent weekly, fortnightly, monthly or quarterly. Details of your rent should be contained in a written agreement if you have one. If you do not have one, then the rent you agreed at the start of the tenancy with your landlord is the rent you legally have to pay.

Rights on rent

There are rules on how much rent your landlord can charge and how and when it can be increased. The rent you pay and what you can do if your rent goes up will depend on the type of tenancy or license agreement you have. If you want to know what your security of tenure is, seek advice from the Housing Advice Unit.

Can I have a rent book?

By law a landlord has to provide a rent book to somebody who pays rent weekly, unless the rent includes a substantial payment for meals.

The rent book must contain:

  • The name and address of the landlord and the landlord's agent if there is one
  • The amount of rent to be paid
  • Description of the property for rent

If you pay rent weekly and your landlord fails to provide you with a rent book or the required information, they have committed an offence and in some cases may be prosecuted by the Council. If you ask your landlord for a rent book with this information but they do not give it to you, you should contact the Tenancy Relations Service by Tel on 020 8496 3000.

If you do not pay rent weekly you are not entitled to a rent book. However, you should make sure you get receipts for your rent, or pay by cheque or standing order to prove you have paid.

If the landlord refuses to take your rent

You should seek advice urgently, because your landlord may try to evict you for non-payment of rent. You should put the rent in a separate account and tell the landlord in writing that you will give it to them as soon as they will accept it - keep a copy of the letter.

If you are claiming Housing Benefit, you could write to the Housing Benefit Section explaining the problems you are having and ask them to keep the money aside until your landlord asks for it.

You should copy any letters that you write, and keep them safe because you may need to show them at court.

Rent and disrepair

You should never stop paying rent because of repair problems unless you are advised to by a specialist solicitor or an advice agency who is acting on your behalf.

If your landlord starts possession proceedings because you have rent arrears, sometimes you may be able to put in a counter claim because of the disrepair.

Other tenant's rent

If you have a joint tenancy (where more than one person shares a tenancy), and the other people move out, unless the agreement states otherwise, you will have to pay their part of the rent as well as your own. You may be able to negotiate with your landlord to find somebody else to move in to the property so that you do not have to pay the extra rent yourself.

As soon as you know that your joint tenant intends to move out, you should get advice.

Pressure from your landlord

If your landlord is putting pressure on you because you owe rent, you should never ignore it.

You should:

  • Get advice by calling 020 8496 3000 and asking for the Housing Advice Unit
  • If you are waiting to receive housing benefit you should find out what is happening with your claim and ask what extra information, if any, is needed. If your landlord has given you a 'Notice Requiring Possession' or a summons, bring this into the Housing Advice Unit and we will seek to fast track your housing benefit claim in order to prevent homelessness
  • If you receive a summons to go to court, or your landlord is harassing you or threatening to evict you, contact the Housing Advice Unit at once

If you do not pay your rent on time or you fall into arrears, you could risk losing your home because your landlord can take legal action against you.

What is housing benefit?

For information about Housing Benefit including who can claim, how to apply and what to do if your payments are incorrect, please visit the Housing Benefit pages.

The Sanctuary Scheme for domestic violence

This scheme has been developed for people in Waltham Forest who are affected by domestic violence.

It is aimed at people who feel vulnerable or threatened by partners or ex-partners but want to stay in their homes.

Many people, although they are under the threat of violence, don’t want to move home as they live near to their children’s schools, doctor, family and other support networks in the area.

The Sanctuary Scheme aims to make the home more secure by undertaking building works that make it difficult for unwanted visitors to gain access to the property. This may include new locks, stronger doors and window grilles.

How does Sanctuary work?

The Sanctuary Scheme is a multi-agency scheme involving the Council, the police, building contractors and Report It or Victim Support - voluntary anti-harassment agencies. It is jointly funded by Waltham Forest Housing Services and the Community Safety Unit.

If you have suffered domestic violence you will be referred to Report It/Victim Support who will offer a wide range of support and advice and assess if you are suitable for the scheme.

Once they are sure you want to stay in the property if it can be made safer, Report It/Victim Support will tell the Council who will pass the details to the police Domestic Violence Liaison Officer, contractor, and the fire service.

They will then inspect the property to identify what work can be done to make it safer. Once this work is agreed with the client and the landlord, the Council will arrange for it to be done and paid for. If you are an owner occupier, you will be responsible for the cost of the works. If you are unable to pay, the Principal Housing Adviser will assess if the Council will pay. If you are claiming benefits, the cost will be met by the Council.

When the work is finished, the property will be inspected to ensure it is acceptable and meets health and safety regulations.

Emergency contact number

If you have an emergency outside office hours, such as domestic violence, that means you are not safe to stay in your home, please call 020 8496 3000.

Sanctuary Scheme leaflet

Download the Sanctuary Scheme leaflet (496KB PDF file)

Find more information about domestic violence and the help available.

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