Frequently asked questions by young people
Read the top 10 questions we get asked here at Shelter Cymru, and the answers our advisers have given.
How do I find my own place?
The kind of place that’s right for you will depend on what you can afford and whether you are ready for total independence or not.
Many young people move into privately rented places – often a shared flat or bedsit. Finding a place is fairly easy. Search for rooms to rent in your area by using websites such as Spareroom.co.uk. You could also check local papers, shop windows and letting agencies to see what’s available – but don’t pay any letting agency fees until you’ve agreed to move in. The downside is that you’ll need to come up with a deposit and rent in advance, and it can be hard to find landlords who’ll accept housing benefit.
Alternatively, if you want your own space but still need a bit of support from time to time, a local foyer, or supported housing project might be a good first step.
You can probably also apply for council housing, and ask the council to put your name forward to housing associations or housing co-ops. These all tend to be cheaper than renting privately. But bear in mind that you may have to wait a very long time for an offer, if you get one at all.
Can I claim housing benefit?
You may be able to claim Housing Benefit to help pay your rent if you have a low income or are claiming benefits.
You’ll need to fill in a claim form if you want to do this.
How much you get, if any, will depend on your situation. But it may not cover all of your rent. You’ll have to make up the difference from your other income. There are special rules that might affect you if you:
- are under 35
- have been in care, or
- are a full-time student.
Claims sometimes take a long time to process, and you will have to pay all of the rent yourself until the council has completed this. If you haven’t had any payments within 14 days of the council receiving your claim form, ask for an interim payment (sometimes known as a ‘payment on account’).
The Housing Benefit rules are complicated, so go to a local advice surgery if you need help. Visit advice near you to find one. They may be able to help with forms or chase up delays, and can check that you’re getting everything you’re entitled to.
I’m being evicted – what can I do?
Firstly, it may be worth trying to negotiate with your landlord. If there has been a misunderstanding, or you have fallen behind with the rent, you may be able to come to an agreement.
If this isn’t possible, your rights depend on the type of agreement you have with your landlord and the reasons for the eviction. In most cases, landlords have to follow a special legal procedure to evict you. They usually have to give you the correct amount of written notice and get a court order. But some people (including lodgers and most people who live in hostels) are only entitled to ‘reasonable notice’, which could simply be verbal.
If a landlord doesn’t follow the correct procedure, or tries to force you out by making life difficult, they may be guilty of harassment or illegal eviction, both of which are serious criminal offences.
Different types of tenancy or licence give you very different rights. If you have a secure, assured or regulated tenancy, you should do everything possible to keep your home. Contact an adviser as soon as possible. You can do this by phoning us on 0345 075 5005, or visit advice near you for your local advice surgery.
Getting advice may help you to delay the eviction, or even prevent it altogether.
Am I entitled to housing from the council?
Most people can apply for a council home, but waiting lists are usually very long. In some areas, it’s very difficult to get a place unless you are given priority on the waiting list.
If you have nowhere to stay or are likely to become homeless within 56 days, the council may have a duty to help you. You don’t have to be sleeping on the street – you might be staying with friends or relatives temporarily, or need to move because of abuse, or unsanitary conditions. If you don’t have a home that’s safe and reasonable for you to stay in, you may be legally classed as homeless.
If you are in this situation, you should make a homeless application. The council will look into your situation to see what help you are entitled to. If you have nowhere to stay, and it looks as though you fall into one of the groups of people who are in priority need, the council should offer you emergency housing while they are deciding what other help they can offer you.
Not everyone is entitled to accommodation, but this doesn’t mean that the council can just turn you away. Most people are entitled to advice and help at the very least.
How do I get out of my tenancy?
Whatever you do, don’t just walk away! If you do, you’ll probably still be liable for the rent after you move out.
It could also make it much harder for you to get your deposit back, or to get a reference so that you can rent a new place.
It’s always worth talking to your landlord – it may be possible to negotiate a deal you’re both happy with. Put anything that’s been agreed in writing.
If your landlord won’t agree to end your tenancy, you’ll have to follow the correct procedure to end it. This may vary slightly, depending on the type of tenancy you have.
If you have a joint tenancy or licence, remember that the actions of one person will affect everyone’s rights. So be sure to discuss it properly before anyone contacts the landlord.
I’ve got rent arrears – what do I do?
If you’re behind with the rent, your landlord may have the right to evict you, and can ask for a court order to make you pay back what you owe. But it’s often possible to sort things out, and the sooner you take action the better. If you do nothing, the situation is likely to get worse, and you might end up having to pay court costs as well as the money you owe.
You may be able to negotiate a payment plan with your landlord so that you can pay off the arrears gradually. Even if your landlord insists on taking you to court, you may not lose your home.
If you’re worried about your rent or money problems, you can talk in confidence to one of our specialist debt advisers on 0345 075 5005.
They may be able to:
- help you work out how you can reduce the arrears
- represent you in court,
- help you deal with the Housing Benefit department, if problems there have caused your arrears
- check exactly how much you owe – this is very important if you’re facing eviction – some tenants can only be evicted for large arrears.
If your landlord tries to evict you without following the correct procedure, or tries to force you out by making life difficult for you, they may be guilty of harassment or illegal eviction, both of which are criminal offences.
Is my landlord responsible for all repairs?
Your tenancy agreement should say which repairs your landlord is responsible for, and which are up to you.
Tenants normally only have to deal with minor problems and repairs, and your landlord is always responsible for certain things, no matter what the agreement says – this includes all structural and exterior repairs, drains, pipes, gas and electrical equipment. They are also responsible for making sure your home is safe.
Whatever the problem, report it to your landlord as soon as possible (it’s best to do so in writing) and don’t use equipment that might be unsafe.
If a landlord tries to dodge their responsibilities, you may be able to:
- get help from the environmental health department of the local council, if the problem is damaging your household’s health
- take your landlord to court to force them to do the work that’s needed
- arrange the repairs yourself and pay for them out of the rent (but be very careful if you do this – you must follow the correct procedure).
Your options will depend on whether you rent privately, or from the council or a housing association.
Caution: If you rent privately, your landlord may try to evict you, rather than do the work that’s needed. If you have limited tenancy rights, this may be quite easy for them to do, although the landlord still has to follow the correct procedure.
Think carefully and talk to an adviser before you take action. If the problem is minor, you may prefer to live with it rather than risk losing your home. See our pages on repairs and bad conditions for lots more advice.
My landlord is hassling me – what can I do?
Some landlords and letting agents make life difficult for their tenants.
They may be guilty of harassment, which is a criminal offence, if they:
- come round without warning, late at night, or when you’re out
- cut off your gas, electricity or water supply
- interfere with your post
- threaten or intimidate you
- won’t let you into parts of your home
- make you sign agreements that limit your rights.
If you’re in this situation, there are practical steps you should take. Gathering evidence of what is happening will be very helpful if you decide to take action. Keep a diary of incidents and always report them to your council’s tenancy relations officer, or the police.
If your landlord is being unreasonable, your local council can help. The tenancy relations officer or housing officer will remind landlords of their legal responsibilities and should prosecute them in extreme cases.
You can also take the landlord to court yourself – you can apply for an injunction and/or damages for the expense or distress you have suffered.
For more advice about what to do, see our pages on harassment and illegal eviction.
What can I do about problems with a letting agent?
Many privately rented places are managed by letting agencies or estate agents. The agency usually deals with day-to-day queries, maintenance and collecting the rent. They act on behalf of landlords – not tenants – so it’s important to understand your rights.
Letting agency charges vary quite a bit. Some don’t charge tenants at all, while others charge for drawing up tenancy agreements, providing inventories and for their administrative costs and phone calls. Don’t pay any fees until you’ve been offered a place, and be wary of agencies that want to charge you just to register, or for a list of properties.
Letting agents should display the fees they charge. These should be clearly on view at the agent’s premises and on their website if they have one. You should not have to ask to see them. This should make it easier to work out exactly what an agent is charging you for and whether you think the fees are reasonable. The list of fees must include a description of each fee so that you can understand what it’s for and whether it applies to the property as a whole or to each tenant who may move into the property. An agent who breaches these rules can be fined up to £5000.
If you’re having problems with an agency, you should complain to the landlord – their name and address should be on your tenancy agreement. Even if you’ve always dealt with the agency, your contract is with the landlord. So if the agency has kept your deposit unfairly, for example, you can claim it back from the landlord.
Letting agents who manage properties must have a licence from Rent Smart Wales. Once licensed they must keep to the requirements of a Code of Practice, otherwise they can face a penalty. See our pages on Landlord registration and licensing and letting agencies for more information.
What can I do about the flatmate from hell?
Most problems in shared housing are to do with a clash of lifestyles or day-to-day issues. Whether you’re living with an all-night DJ, a chain-smoker, a milk thief, or a slob, other people’s habits can be a nightmare!
Try to choose who you live with carefully, and agree some ground rules.
If the problems have already started, your options will usually depend on what the problem is and whose name the agreement is in. If you have separate tenancies, you may be able to ask the landlord to sort things out. But if you have a joint tenancy, each tenant’s actions affect all of you. If one person isn’t paying their rent, you could end up having to pay her/his share. And if they cause problems, the landlord may decide to evict you all.
In some cases, the only options may be to put up with the situation or move out. If this is the case, be sure to end your tenancy properly before you go. In extreme cases (eg if your flatmate is violent or causes a serious nuisance) the council, or even the police, may be able to help you.