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Advice Directory  



Owner Occupation

Top of the Housing Advice page


The number of people who own their own homes has increased considerably in recent decades. The UK government encourages home ownership where it is sustainable (i.e. where people can afford the mortgage repayments). A number of schemes exist to help those who who aspire to be home-owners - for example the Right to Buy scheme allows council tenants to buy council houses at a discounted price, and the Key Worker living programme helps key workers, (nurses, teachers, police officers, social workers), to buy homes in areas where high prices would otherwise prevent them from living in or near the areas where they work.


For most people, buying a home is the biggest financial commitment they will make. The following costs should be taken into consideration:


mortgage repayments;
mortgage protection insurance in case you become ill or lose your job;
life assurance to enable your family to pay off the mortgage if you die;
contents insurance against the risk of theft, fire, flood or other accidents;
council tax and water charges
utilities such as gas, electricity, telephone etc


A property may be leasehold or freehold. A leasehold means that the land on which the property is built is not part of the sale; you will have to pay ground rent to the freeholder (the owner of the land) and possibly a service charge for maintenance and repairs. If the property is freehold, the land on which the property is built is part of the sale and no ground rent or service charge is payable.


Other fees and expenses that may be incurred during the process of buying a house include:


a solicitor or licensed conveyancer
an independent survey
arranging a mortgage
the Land Registry fee
Stamp Duty


The website of the Citizens Advice Bureau gives comprehensive advice on buying a home and selling a home.


Social Housing

Top of the Housing Advice page


Social housing in England consists of two basic types of housing: property rented from a local authority, commonly known as council housing, and housing rented from what are now termed Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) - a new name for social landlords who are independent of local authorities. Since 1988 more than 400,000 homes in England have been transferred from local authorities to RSLs. This is because there is often a backlog of repair work; transferring and bringing in private investment is regarded as the best way to bring improvements.


RSLs are usually Housing Associations. Most are small and own fewer than 250 homes. They provide homes to rent and also run low-cost home ownership schemes, such as Homebuy, which allows people to buy or part buy their homes at less than market cost. RSLs in England are regulated by the Housing Corporation whose website contains useful information for tenants of RSLs, including how to become an RSL tenant or homeowner, your rights as an RSL tenant and information on how to contact RSLs in your area.


Current Government policy on social housing can be found on this website, together with useful information for council tenants such as a guide to tenant participation and empowerment, and the Council Tenants Charter: your rights as a council tenant.



Private Renting

Top of the Housing Advice page


Privately rented property is housing rented from a private landlord. Tenants and landlords enter a tenancy agreement, which is a legal agreement in writing that sets out the rights and responsibilities of both parties. Full details of the length of the tenancy, the rent payable and what is and isn't allowed in the property will be contained in the agreement. There are different types of tenancy agreement and most people have one of three types:


an assured shorthold tenancy
an assured tenancy
a regulated (or 'protected' tenancy)


The type of tenancy you have depends on when it was taken out. Private landlords will normally rent their property at the market rate. The landlord's right to increase the rent depends on the type of tenancy. However, all tenancy agreements should set out: the date the tenancy began, the rent and when it is payable, any rent review arrangements and the length of any fixed term. After a year, the landlord can increase the rent by giving at least one month's notice. If you feel the increase is too high, the amount can be challenged by contacting the local Rent Assessment Committee (its number will be listed in the phone book). See also the Rent Service website


Full details of the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants are set out on the website of the Legal Services Commission.


People on low incomes in the rented sector are entitled to housing benefit. The Department of Work and Pensions website provides information on housing benefit entitlement.


The Citizens Advice Bureau website contains useful advice for landlords and tenants in the privately rented sector. Click on Housing and select Disrepair in rented accommodation.



Further Resources

Top of the Housing Advice page


Shelternet is a free, online service providing information to help with housing problems such as homelessness and problems with private renting or home ownership. The information can help you address your particular problems and find out your rights before the problem gets out of hand.


H.O.M.E.S. (Housing Mobility and Exchange Services) works with councils and housing associations throughout the UK, offering a wide range of services to help people move home. This site also has a searchable list of properties available in various regions and is able to match people wanting to swap homes.


If you require legal advice, you can locate a solicitor in your area through the databases at the Law Society (England and Wales).


Home buying and selling: Advice, information and links to help you buy or sell a home, including affordable housing options.


Renting and letting: All you need to know if you rent or let out a property, from an introduction to your rights to who's responsible for what



Visit UKOrbit's Consumer & Advice Centre for further help and information.

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