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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Paying rent, bills and insurance – council and housing association tenants

If you rent a council or housing association property you have to pay rent and other charges on time. Find out about paying your rent and insurance, when rents can be increased and what financial support you can get if you’re on a low income.

Rent and other bills

Your tenancy agreement should tell you things like:

  • how often you must pay your rent – weekly, fortnightly or monthly
  • when your rent can be increased
  • what’s included in the rent – for example, it might include the cost of renting a council garage
  • other charges – for example, service charges (these pay for things in a building you share with others like lifts)

You are also responsible for paying:

  • Council Tax – this pays for local services like rubbish collection
  • utility bills – like electricity and water
  • your TV licence – if you own a television

If you owe your landlord rent – ‘rent arrears’

Not paying your rent is a reason your landlord can evict you

It’s important to keep up-to-date with rent payments – if you have problems paying your rent, contact your landlord immediately. Repeatedly paying your rent late, or not at all, are reasons your landlord can evict you (end your tenancy early).

Help with paying your rent and Council Tax

If you're on a low income, or having financial problems, check if you qualify for any benefits - such as Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or tax credits. You don't have to be out of work to claim benefits and you could qualify for more than one.

See the link 'On a low income' for more information about the financial help available. You can also get advice from Citizens Advice or Shelter.

Rent disputes and rent increases – what can you do?

Rents are less than what a private landlord would charge for a similar property. The amount of rent charged by a council or housing association is worked out by looking at:

  • the property’s size and location
  • local pay levels – what people earn varies across the UK, so rents are worked out to make sure they are affordable for local people

If your landlord plans to increase your rent, you should be given at least four weeks’ written notice.

Rent disputes if your landlord is the council

Most councils increase rents once a year and the amount is set. This means you can’t ask your council to review it. The type of tenancy you have does not affect when the rent is increased.

Rent disputes if your landlord is a housing association

Most housing associations increase rents once a year. Your tenancy agreement should state when the rent can be increased.

If you’re a housing association tenant, you usually have the right to ask for a rent increase to be reviewed by an independent Rent Assessment Committee. Independent means it has no connection with your housing association.

Paying rent – your options

Most landlords ask for rent to be paid in advance. This means you pay for the time that the rent covers at the beginning – eg the first day of the month. To find out when your rent is due check your tenancy agreement or contact your landlord.

There are different ways to pay including:

  • at a Post Office
  • at a ‘PayPoint’ outlet – you can find these in many newsagents, supermarkets and garages
  • over the telephone
  • online – most councils and many housing associations give you this option
  • by Direct Debit
  • Direct Debit payments automatically transfer money from your bank account to your landlord’s, so you don't have to remember to pay the rent each time

Insuring your possessions

Your landlord is responsible for insuring the building and you’re responsible for insuring your own belongings – for example, against theft.

Many landlords run schemes that make it easy to arrange insurance through them. This is often cheaper than arranging insurance yourself as the landlord may get a discount from the insurer.

Insurance claims against your landlord

You may be able to make an insurance claim against your landlord for damage that they are responsible for. For example, if a tradesman (hired by your landlord) accidentally bursts a pipe your landlord will be responsible for the cost of repairing any damage.

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