Housing Q & A - May

If you are homeless or threatened with eviction from your home, we can advise and assist you through this crisis. We work closely with the Housing Advice teams for Cambridge City Council & South Cambs Council to ensure you get the advice & support you need. You can contact call us on: 0344 848 7979 (Mon-Fri 9-5). Or you can email us using the online form.

Important: if you are receiving Housing costs through your Universal Credit or Housing Benefit and are unable to cover your full rent, you can apply for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), which could cover the shortfall. And we can help you apply for this if you need it.

Specialist Adviser, Lee, delivered a live Housing Q&A session on Covid-19 housing support measures on Friday 29th May via Facebook and Twitter. He started with a case study describing the housing support given to one of our clients. This was followed by members of the public asking their own questions.

Question: Hi, My friend is really worried about paying her mortgage, she has been furloughed for at least another 2 months and not sure if she will ever go back to full time work. She is single so always been hard to pay the mortgage and has a little girl. She only bought the house 2 years ago and her partner left soon after that. Can you help?

Lee: Hi. Thank you for your message. I'm sorry to hear your friend is struggling with this. We can certainly give some advice on this to help.

One thing she could do, if she hasn't already, is ask for payment holiday from her lender. This was first set up for 3 months, but it will definitely be extended now, so she can get more breathing space.

We could also carry out a benefits check for her to make sure that she is getting everything she is entitled to and also help with an application for the Child Maintenance Scheme if she is not getting any help from the father of the child.

We also offer full money advice and can ensure that the payments made are reduced for the non-priority debts to make sure that she is able to afford the mortgage; there are also other support measures the lender should give her and we can advise and prepare for the situation if she is made redundant.

I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any questions on this.

Question: Hi. I'm currently on a mortgage holiday, but I've been told this will run out soon. I've applied for Universal Credit now my hours have been cut at work, but know this doesn't cover mortgage payments. I was wondering if there is any other help I can get?

Lee: Thanks for your question. First of all, you should be able to get an extension on your mortgage holiday for another 3 months - this is just about to be confirmed by the FCA, so take a look for updates on this.

Secondly, there is some help you can get with your mortgage while on Universal Credit, called Support for Mortgage Interest, which is a loan, but you need to have been on UC for 9 months continuously and there is other criteria too.

Here is further information on this for you to look at: Deciding if you should apply for SMI. You would need independent financial advice for this if you do consider this option in the future.

Thirdly, there is a key benefit that is not included in Universal Credit and that is Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called CT Support) to reduce your liability. You need to apply for this through your council.

You may also be eligible for a social tariff with your water supplier to reduce your costs here. And if you have any other debts you are struggling with, you can apply for a payment holiday too for these. Including any car finance, loans, credit cards, etc.

Finally, if you have any health issues we you may be eligible for other benefits too. You can do an online benefits check on What are you entitled to or contact our service for specialist advice on this. I hope that helps answer your question.

Question: I’ve got a close friend in Cambs who doesn’t know what to do. Her landlord just put up her rent and she can’t afford it now after being made redundant. Can you help please? I think the landlord is private.

Lee: Thanks for confirming that the landlord is private. Landlords can increase their rents during this period, but they have to follow the correct procedure for doing so. Here is a good overview of the rules for this: Rent increases on Shelter.

If they have followed the procedure correctly, then a continuation of the old rent could possibly be negotiated. There is a template letter here on the same site to assist with this as well as extra info for her: How to negotiate a rent reduction on Shelter.