Act now and get advice early, that is the message that Manchester City Council wants to highlight to residents who are having trouble paying rent or having tenancy-related issues this winter.
The ongoing economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic could see an increase in the number of people in financial difficulty or at risk of homelessness. And prevention remains the most effective approach to tackling it.
The current situation means that people who would have never thought of themselves at risk of homelessness may now be potentially faced with financial difficulties, whether that is through losing a job, the threat of redundancy, furlough coming to an end and the worry that they will slip into arrears if they cannot afford to pay their rent or mortgage.
The Council’s Housing Solutions team has a dedicated prevention team with advisers who assist people threatened with Homelessness because their Landlord or Mortgage provider have asked them to leave their home. They may have received a notice or County Court paperwork. Every situation is different, so advisers look at the individual’s circumstances to find the best solutions, to stop situations escalating and avoid the spiral into homelessness.
Anyone struggling with debt management, welfare benefits or housing can also access independent legal advice directly from the council’s partners Citizens Advice Manchester or Shelter as both organisations provide help through their own dedicated advice services.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, lead member for homelessness said: “We are putting the prevention message at the heart of what we do this winter. This is about helping people already in accommodation to remain in it especially given the pressure on housing availability. We know that there is more pressure on our homelessness services at this time of year and Covid-related issues will just add to this.
“Our advice to anyone who is worried about paying rent or has another tenancy-related issue is to act now and not to let problems snowball out of control. It is so much better to ask for help before crisis point is reached. The earlier that we or one of our partners, Citizens Advice Manchester or Shelter, are involved the better chance we have at getting a resolution to ensure that people do not lose their home, whether that is liaising with private or social landlords, getting the right financial advice or helping to access benefits that you’re entitled to – it could be the difference between keeping your home or becoming homeless, which everyone wants to avoid.
“Our plea is do not to ignore a potentially difficult situation and get advice as early as you can. We, and our partners, are here to help you as much as we can through this unprecedented situation.”
Andy Brown, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Manchester said “In these difficult times, many people will be facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to work, finances and housing. When people come to us for advice early on, we are able to get to the heart of the issue and finding a resolution becomes much easier. We would urge people who feel they may be at risk of missing payments or facing possession action to speak to us as soon as possible. Our teams of welfare benefits, universal credit, debt, employment and housing advisers will be able to help them to find a way forward.”
Anyone in Manchester who is having tenancy or landlord issues or is at risk of losing their accommodation should visit www.manchester.gov.uk/housingadvice for more details about the housing prevention help available.
To get help from Citizens Advice go to https://www.citizensadvicemanchester.org.uk/ or Adviceline number 03444 111 222
Shelter – https://england.shelter.org.uk/ or
Cheetham Hill Advice Centre (CHAC) – https://cheethamadvice.org.uk/
Here are some examples, from our Housing Solutions team and partner Citizens Advice Manchester, which shows how timely intervention has helped people overcome difficult situations.
Housing Solutions case study
In January 20 a 30-year-old male living in a houseshare was given 2 months to leave his property. He first contacted our service in March, when his notice had expired and he had not secured alternative accommodation. He had left one job and was about to start another in hospitality, when lockdown restrictions were imposed and the offer withdrawn. His housemate also lost his job at this time so they were unable to pay their rent. The Government had imposed restrictions on movement and the possession stay, but the Landlord still wanted them to leave. We made the landlord aware that they had to follow the correct legal process to remove them from the property. The landlord was concerned that rent arrears were accruing. We advised both tenants to claim Universal Credit, which gave them money to live on and support with their housing costs. His claim was delayed because he had contracted Covid-19 and required hospital treatment. We updated his landlord to give a timescale on payment. Once he was well and his Universal Credit claim had been processed, we then helped him to address a shortfall between his award and rent due. We then assisted him to make a Discretionary Housing application which paid the full rent and reduced the arrears. This gave him time to recover and find alternative accommodation. The landlord also received full rent for this period and the situation was resolved amicably.
Citizens Advice case studies
Joseph and Maria*
Joseph was living with a long-term health condition but after spending a month in hospital with Covid-19 he was left paralyzed from the waist down and unable to manage his own welfare benefits support. He was relying on his sister, Maria, for support but she had never had to navigate the welfare system before and felt completely overwhelmed with where to begin. With our support, Maria has been able to report Joseph’s change in circumstances to the correct agencies so his benefits can be adapted to best support him, she’s also begun the process to become an appointee so she can help him to manage his support more efficiently going forward and is assessing sheltered accommodation for Joseph so that she can be confident that he will be safe and cared for at home. Most importantly, she feels better informed and more able to cope through what was an already stressful time.
Ella lives in shared housing and had set up an events company at the start of 2020. When Coronavirus began to spread, work dropped off and money started to get tight. When she contacted Citizens Advice Manchester, Ella had been living off her savings, but these had now halved and she was getting worried for how she might be able to continue, especially as she had fallen behind on her rent payments and was worried about losing her place in the house. We did a quick check with Ella and found that she would be entitled to Universal Credit, so we talked her through the claiming process, and booked her in to speak with one of our Money Advisers to help her with getting back on track with her finances. With our support, Ella will soon have money coming in to help her keep up with her living costs while she waits for payments through her company and for work to pick up and has the added confidence of having helped herself out of difficulty.
*names have been changed to protect confidentiality
Press Release supplied by Manchester City Council