FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

This section considers a range of questions that are put to the Centre on a regular basis. The answers are an outline but if you require more information please follow the links or get in touch with the Centre. You can also request information by contacting us.

Please note due to Covid-19 a number of regulations have been suspended and/or amended.  For more details please go to our Bulletins or contact us.

  1. HOMELESSNESS

Homelessness and its prevention is a major priority for the Centre.

The Centre will always try and help prevent homelessness where it is safe to do so.  Around 50% of the work we do involves homelessness across all tenures.

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness you should seek assistance from your local Council, (South Ayrshire Council). If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness in South Ayrshire or you intend to reside in South Ayrshire you can access free information, advice and advocacy from the Centre by phoning, texting, e-mailing, or through What’s App and Facebook.

The Centre can assist where possible to try and prevent homelessness from happening through our Advice and Tenure Sustainment services.  We have assisted many tenants across South Ayrshire from becoming homeless and stabilising tenancies for our service users.

We liaise with landlords and partner agencies to make suitable ongoing payment arrangements in order to stabilise rent accounts and reduce arrears.  We do this by analysing income/expenditure and trying to maximise income where possible.

Where relevant we can apply for grants or alternative income streams to try and reduce the arrears.

A service user who had rent arrears of £2,000 had the balance reduced by £1,500 from two separate grant applications based on their employment history.

Another service user was awarded a grant of £978 for rent arrears and £699 towards Council Tax.  We also assisted with a Universal Credit application to ensure that they received the correct assistance for their ongoing rent.  As well as applications for Council Tax Reduction and Discretionary Housing Payment to help maintain stability.

Who is homeless/threatened with homelessness?

A person/household can be homeless if they have no place to live or have accommodation which is not reasonable to occupy including in emergency situations.

A person is threatened with homelessness if they are within 2 months of losing their accommodation. More information on homelessness can be found here.

What should I do if I am going to be homeless?

If you are homeless or are threatened with homelessness within 2 months you should contact your Local Housing Authority.

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness in South Ayrshire you should contact Housing Options

What happens next?

If you have made an application the Council has a duty to make enquires. If you are threatened with homelessness the first issue is to try and prevent you from losing your accommodation.

If this is not possible or you are already homeless the Council has a duty to provide you with temporary accommodation pending consideration of your application. They will consider whether you are intentionally homeless and they may consider whether you have a local connection. It should be noted that some Authorities do not consider the question of local connection as this is a discretion but currently South Ayrshire Council does.

What is intentionally homeless?

The Council will consider whether an applicant has made themselves intentionally homeless or not. Intentionally homeless is where an applicant or a member of the household has done or failed to do something which has caused them to lose accommodation which would have been reasonable to occupy. An example of this could be someone who deliberately did not pay rent and then were evicted for rent arrears. If you feel you are not intentionally homeless you should contact us for advice.

If an intentionally homeless decision is made, then the duty of the Council to the applicant is restricted to providing temporary accommodation for a limited period of time for the applicant to secure alternative accommodation. The Council must also provide advice and assistance during this time.

Currently there is legislation on the statute books to change consideration of intentionally homeless from a duty to a power. In addition a person found to be intentionally homeless will be entitled to Short Scottish Secure Tenancy in most cases. Both of these provisions are not in force yet.

Can I appeal a homeless decision?

Yes, the process is called a Review and this is a statutory right. Normally a request for a review should be made within 21 days of the decision.

It is important that you seek advice on this as soon as possible after you receive the decision. South Ayrshire Council have put our contact details at the bottom of their decision letters. If you are from South Ayrshire or intend to reside in South Ayrshire contact the Centre.

If you are not from South Ayrshire you should contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), Housing Advice Centre or Shelter Scotland (see links page).

  1. HELP TO PAY RENT & COUNCIL TAX BILLS

It is important to note that as part of Welfare Reform Housing Benefit will be phased out as working age benefit claimants will have to apply for or migrate over to Universal Credit.

South Ayrshire is now a full roll out area which means all new claims will require to be made online for Universal Credit unless you are in an exempt category.  This benefit replaces many working age benefits in the current system. Please contact DWP for more info.

Housing Benefit/Council Tax Reduction are means tested benefits to help people on low income to pay their rent/Council tax.  If you pay both rent and Council Tax, you could previously can apply for both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction at the same time with one claim form.  If you apply for Universal Credit you will need to apply for Council Tax Reduction separately. See the South Ayrshire Council website for more info.

Size Criteria (Bedroom Tax)

In April 2013 the UK Government introduced size criteria rules into Housing Benefit for working age people only who renting from Councils, Registered Housing Associations or other Registered Social Landlords, (RSL) The rules restricted the size of accommodation you can receive Housing Benefit & UC Housing Element for based on the number of people in your household. The Scottish Government decided to mitigate the Bedroom Tax for those on benefits but there is no guarantee this will continue indefinitely.

If you want to know more about this please contact Benefit Services on 0300 123 0900 or benefit.services@south-ayrshire.gov.uk

Universal Credit

Universal Credit has now replaced the following benefits – Income Based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

If you currently claim one of these benefits you will continue to do so. However, if your circumstances change it may mean you need to then claim Universal Credit instead, please always get advice from the DWP if this happens.

In time you will change over to Universal Credit and the DWP will write to you when this will happen.

Housing Element

When you claim or are migrated over to Universal Credit you will claim a Housing Element within your Universal Credit claim. The Housing Element will be paid as part of your overall UC claim every month into your bank account unless you request this is paid direct to your Landlord.  The maximum period for backdate for UC is 1 month, and will only be paid in specific circumstances and if a person could not have reasonably claimed earlier.

Private Sector tenant’s UC Housing Element, like Housing Benefit, is restricted to the Local Housing Allowance applicable to your household.  Single under 35’s will still be entitled to the shared accommodation rate.

The size criteria still applies for Council and Housing Association tenants and so you should continue to make a separate claim for Discretionary Housing Payment with South Ayrshire Council

You will now have to apply for Council Tax Reduction separately to South Ayrshire Council and you will have to fill out a separate claim form.

Making a new Universal Credit claim:

If you need to make a claim for Universal Credit this must be done online. If you do not have internet access at home, or an appropriate device to make a claim then South Ayrshire Council have created an assisted support directory letting you know where you can go to make your claim. This can be found here SAC Digital Support Directory

What you need to make a Universal Credit Claim

The following Factsheet may be useful to let you know what information you need to gather in advance of making your Universal Credit Claim.

New style Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance

Some claimants may still qualify for ESA and JSA based on National Insurance contributions that have been paid whilst working.  It is recommended that you check the qualifying criteria first before applying.  However o you have housing costs this will still be paid through Universal Credit.

UC Checklist

Legacy Benefits

For claimants still in receipt of those benefits now covered by Universal Credit you will still continue to receive it until there is a change in your circumstances that would necessitate switching to Universal Credit for example the birth of a child or moving in with a partner or being made unemployed. 

Not all changes will necessitate this such as changing address within South Ayrshire will mean you will continue to stay on your existing benefits.

You will also receive housing benefit if you are in temporary furnished accommodation but unless you are on an existing legacy benefit you would have to claim Universal Credit to receive the personal allowance.

  1. PRIVATE RENTED TENANTS

The Centre has a large private rented sector caseload. Cases are opened on a range of matters such as deposits, rent arrears, repairs, illegal evictions and landlord/tenant disputes.

If your tenancy started after 1.12.17 you will probably have a Private Residential Tenancy https://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/advice_topics/renting_rights/renting_from_a_private_landlord/the_private_residential_tenancy

Tenancies created between 2.1.89 and 30.11.17 are likely to be Assured and Short Assured.

If your tenancy started prior to 2.1.89 it will probably be a Regulated Tenancy.

There are some people who have neither of the above and have a tenancy at Common Law

If you are unsure come in and see Adviser who will be able to look at your lease and explain what kind of tenancy you have and what your rights and responsibilities are.

The First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber has replaced the Sherriff Court for most legal applications relating to a private tenancy please click the link provided to find out the applications

https://www.housingandpropertychamber.scot/apply-tribunal

 

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

When a deposit is paid to a private landlord or letting agency they are required to register it with a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. The scheme keeps the deposit in a separate bank account until the end of the tenancy. This only applies to private landlords who are required to register as a landlord with their local authority and does not apply to Registered Social Landlords or Local Authorities.

At the end of a tenancy, the landlord lets the Scheme know if any of the money needs to be retained and the rest should be returned to the tenant. If the tenant thinks that their landlord has unfairly made a claim on all or some of the deposit they can complain to the Scheme who will make a decision based on evidence provided to them from each party.

3 schemes:-

lettingprotectionscotland

safedepositsscotland

mydepositsscotland

Tenancy deposits must be registered with a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 working days of the tenancy starting. Either the landlord or the tenant can apply for the deposit to be returned from the tenancy deposit scheme.

If landlords don’t use a Tenancy Deposit Scheme then a tenant can apply to the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber. https://www.housingandpropertychamber.scot/

Under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme Regulations. This can be done either during the tenancy or up to 3 months after the tenancy has ended.

The First Tier Tribunal can order the Landlord to:-

  • pay the tenant up to 3 times the amount of the deposit,
  • pay the deposit into a Scheme and
  • comply with the other requirements of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme Regulations.

Does my Landlord need to provide a lease?

Yes, a Landlord and/or Agent must provide a formal tenancy agreement (Lease) which sets out the terms of the tenancy and they cannot charge you for providing it.

Does my Landlord have a repairs obligation?

Yes, all Landlords must ensure their properties meet the Standards.  If you are unhappy with a repair issue you should firstly report this to your Landlord and give reasonable time for them to fix any issues.  If you are unhappy with this then you can contact an Advice Agency such as ourselves or the Private Rented Landlord enforcement officer at SAC or the Housing and Property Chamber.

https://www.housingandpropertychamber.scot/apply-tribunal

All properties have basic safety standards in place too such as:-

  • Gas appliances & boilers checked by Gas Safe Engineer annually
  • Carbon Monoxide monitor fitted
  • Electrical safety checks

Can a landlord evict me without notice?

No, no matter what kind of tenancy rights you have your Landlord cannot evict you without complying with the Law.  Depending on what tenancy you have will depend what Notices need to be served and how.  A Landlord cannot remove you from your home without a Court /Tribunal Order and this can only be enforced by Sheriff Officers.

If you have had a Decree granted against you and you did not represent yourself or did not have a Solicitor defending you at Court then you could apply for a Minute of Recall. Please contact us or a Solicitor direct if you require assistance with this.

It is important you contact us to get advice tailored to your individual circumstances as it depends on what kind of tenancy you have and what notices have been served.

What is the Landlord Registration Scheme?

All Private Landlords must be registered with the Council and all their properties must also be registered. It is an offence to let property if you are not registered. To be registered a landlord must be a fit and proper person. See SAC Registration for more info.

  1. COUNCIL AND HOUSING ASSOCIATION TENANTS (PUBLIC & RSLs)

What type of tenancies are there in the public sector?

The main tenancies are Scottish Secure Tenancies (SST) and Short Scottish Secure Tenancies (SSST). If you are in temporary homeless accommodation you may have a Tenancy at Common Law or a Licence To Occupy.

How is my rent set?

The rent is normally set on an annual basis and tenants are given 4 weeks’ notice of an increase, this usually happens around March/April each year.

If you are on Housing Benefit you do not need to notify anyone of this change but if you are on Universal Credit you will have to tell the DWP of this change by letting them see the letter.

What happens if I have rent arrears?

You should try and deal with rent arrears as quickly as possible. You could speak to your Landlord and agree an affordable repayment plan. You may be entitled to help with your rent if you are on a low income/ Universal Credit or other legacy benefit – see section on Housing Benefit.  You can contact us to liaise with your landlord on your behalf if you do not feel you can do this yourself.

What happens if the tenant dies?

If there is a Qualified Person in the house they can succeed to a SST and become the tenant. There are 3 levels in which a person can qualify to succeed these are:-

Level 1:- Spouse/Civil Partner, Co-habitee if the home has been their only or principle home over the past 12 months.

Level 2:- A relative of the deceased where this is their only or principle home.

Level 3:- A carer who has given up their own only or principle home.

There can be 2 rounds of succession; one can succeed from a successor.

Can they evict me without notice?

No, if a public sector landlord wishes to evict from a Scottish Secure Tenancy they must firstly serve a Notice of Intention to Raise Proceedings and thereafter seek an order from the Court. If Decree is granted at Court then the Council can arrange a date for ejection. If you have had a Decree granted against you and you did not represent yourself or did not have a Solicitor defending the action you may apply for a Minute of Recall. Please contact us your local Advice Centre or a Solicitor direct if you require assistance to apply for this.

Prior to seeking recovery of the property your Landlord must comply with pre-action requirements which are designed to seek solutions short of eviction and to try and prevent homelessness.

What is a Short Scottish Secure Tenancy (SSST)?

This type of tenancy can only be created in certain circumstances. It does not enjoy the full rights of a Scottish Secure Tenancy such as Right to Buy and Succession. It is also easier for a landlord to end this type of tenancy.

If your Landlord is saying you will have a SSST, they must give you a Notice stating that your tenancy will be a SSST or your tenancy is being reduced to a SSST (this can be done if an Anti-Social Behaviour Order is taken out against you or a member of your household). This Notice must also state the reason that the tenancy offered is a SSST.

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 introduced important rights to access information held by public authorities and requires more proactive publication of information.

Please refer to the Scottish Government website to find out more about the information published by the Scottish Government.

Disclaimer

We (Ayr Housing Aid Centre) make every effort to ensure our website is up to date but we don’t provide any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to the accuracy of the information on the site. We will not be held responsible for any loss, damage, or inconvenience arising in any way whatsoever from the use of this website.

We take no responsibility for comments or views expressed by individuals on this website.

We welcome and encourage other websites to link to the information that is hosted on these pages, and you don’t have to ask permission to link to us.  However, we don’t give you permission to suggest that your website is associated with, or endorsed by us.

Where our site contains links to other sites and resources provided by third parties, these links are provided for your information only. We have no control over the contents of those sites or resources, and accept no responsibility for them or for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of them.

It is always wise for you to run an anti-virus program on all material downloaded from the Internet. We cannot accept any responsibility for any loss, disruption or damage to your data or your computer system which may occur whilst using material derived from this website.

We take no responsibility for comments or views expressed by individuals on this website.

We welcome and encourage other websites to link to the information that is hosted on these pages, and you don’t have to ask permission to link to us.  However, we don’t give you permission to suggest that your website is associated with, or endorsed by us.

Where our site contains links to other sites and resources provided by third parties, these links are provided for your information only. We have no control over the contents of those sites or resources, and accept no responsibility for them or for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of them.

It is always wise for you to run an anti-virus program on all material downloaded from the Internet. We cannot accept any responsibility for any loss, disruption or damage to your data or your computer system which may occur whilst using material derived from this website.

Copyright

The contents of this website are the copyright of the Centre. You may make copies for your personal use only. You are not allowed to copy and distribute its content in any way without the prior consent of us. No part of the site may be copied or adapted without the written permission of the Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Intellectual property rights

Intellectual Property rights in the material on this site belong to Ayr Housing Aid centre unless otherwise indicated.

Limitations of warranties and liability

The information on this website is intended for your general information. It is a guide only. We have used all reasonable endeavours to ensure the accuracy and completeness of this website. However, we give no representations, assurances, undertakings or warranties about the accuracy, correctness or fitness for purpose regarding the site or any web site referred to by them (“third party site”). We accept no responsibility whatsoever for any reliance placed on the contents of this site.

June 2020