FAQs

1. I have nowhere to sleep tonight

We are very sorry you are in this situation and hope the information below is helpful. We are signposting you to other organisations because at the moment FHfF is not in a position to offer direct services to homeless people.

Anyone who is homeless – or is threatened with homelessness within 56 days – should contact the Housing Services department at Mendip District Council. You can do this in three different ways:

a) Visit the Mendip District Council information point at Frome Library, which is open Monday – Friday from 9.30 – 1pm and again from 2 – 4.30pm.

b) Contact the Housing Options team at Mendip District Council on 0300 3038588

c) Go to www.mendip.gov.uk/housing

For families and vulnerable people, the social care emergency team offer an out of hours emergency number on 0300 1232327.

For single homeless people or couples without children, you can call Elim Connect Centre on 0300 500 0194 (the Avon and Somerset Rough Sleeper Line) or use their emergency out of hours answerphone which is 07930 818328. Elim have a team of experienced outreach workers who can come to find you where you are and help you access a range of accommodation and services. They also run a drop-in housing advice service every Tuesday from 11am – 1pm at Fair Frome (just behind Frome Town Hall on Christchurch Street West).

Shelter’s free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 is open 8am-8pm on weekdays and 8am-5pm on weekends, 365 days a year. More information

2. My landlord has given me notice – what do I do?

Being given notice to leave your home is invariably a worrying and disruptive experience for renters. It will be important to seek advice as quickly as possible.

For a useful guide, see this Communities and Local Government Leaflet ‘My Landlord Wants Me Out’:
https://www.mendip.gov.uk/media/10889/My-landlord-wants-me-out/pdf/My_landlord_wants_me_out.pdf?m=635786856870370000.

You may also find this article helpful:
https://www.mendip.gov.uk/article/8120/Threatened-with-homelessness

We also suggest that you contact the Citizens Advice Bureau:

5 King St, Frome, BA11 1BH.
Monday, Wednesday & Friday 10 – 1pm
Tel: 03 444 889 623, Mon – Fri 10 – 3.30
Email Advice: https://www.citizensadvicemendip.org.uk/Email%20Advice%20Form.html
(emails answered within 5 working days)

Prevention of Homelessness services from Mendip District Council

If you are threatened with homelessness within 56 days, and are someone with a legal right to live and work in the UK, then Mendip District Council has a responsibility to offer you the ‘Prevention Duty’ service. This can include both negotiating to help you keep your current home or to move out in a planned way, helping you find alternative accommodation, and (in some cases) providing financial assistance. Prevention Duty is offered regardless of whether you are considered in priority need for assistance or may be intentionally homelessness.

It’s important to contact Mendip District Council as soon as possible, which you can do in three different ways:

a) Visit the Mendip District Council information point at Frome Library, which is open Monday – Friday from 9.30 – 1pm and again from 2 – 4.30pm.

b) Contact the Housing Options team at Mendip District Council on 0300 3038588

c) Go to www.mendip.gov.uk/housing

You will be allocated a Housing Officer who will assess your needs and issue you with a Personalised Housing Plan. This can take place either at the Council offices in Shepton Mallet, at your home or over the phone, and will include agreeing actions for you to complete to try to resolve your housing situation. You will be offered support and assistance throughout the 56-day period. However if you don’t complete the agreed actions, then the District Council can discharge the Prevention Duty owed to you.

Is my eviction legal?

If your landlord wants to give you notice before your contract is over, they have to issue you with a Section 21 or a Section 8 notice. If your landlord has given you the required notice, as laid out in your tenancy agreement, it will be important to leave the property at the designated time. Not to do so may affect your ability to access housing in the future. It is also important that you continue to pay your rent during the time you are living in the property, regardless of whether or not you are in dispute with your landlord. If you don’t do that, it will put you at a great disadvantage if you need to make a legal challenge.

Mendip District Council provides online advice to help you check that your eviction is legal and to support you through the process, including negotiating with your landlord. See https://www.mendip.gov.uk/eviction. Alternatively, Nearly Legal is a specialist housing law website, run by solicitors, which provides a flow-chart that can help you to establish whether your eviction is legal at https://nearlylegal.co.uk/section-21-flowchart/.

You can also visit the Shelter website at https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/eviction/eviction_of_assured_shorthold_tenants

You may be interested in the campaign to end unfair evictions being run by Generation Rent.

See https://www.endunfairevictions.org/.

3. I’ve noticed somebody sleeping rough. What can I do?

Please contact Streetlink. This is a national service enabling members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them.

You will need to provide the location and details of the rough sleeper, and when you found them.

www.streetlink.org.uk or telephone the Avon & Somerset Rough Sleeper Line on 0300 500 0914. (Note: if current link links to this phone number, then this is fine)

If it feels appropriate, it’s better to say ‘hello’ to a rough sleeper rather than just ignore them, and they may welcome gifts of food, a hot drink or some clothing. However it’s recommended not to offer money but instead encourage them to seek the advice and support that can help them move on to a better situation. Please also bear in mind that there are a very few rough sleepers who have chosen this lifestyle and do not want to be constantly disturbed by offers of help, however well meaning.

FHfF’s homelessness advice leaflet is available from the Town Hall, library and Discover Frome, and will give you a general understanding of the local services available to homeless people in our town. We try to keep it up to date, but please bear in mind that some services may have changed.

4. I need to find somewhere to live in Frome

We hope you find suitable accommodation quickly. Although we do not currently have the capacity to find people housing, we have put together some information that may help you in your search for a home.

You may like to start with Fair Housing for Frome’s Tenants Leaflet for helpful information about renting locally. If you are considering Lodging as an option, see our Lodger’s leaflet.

Please note that unless you already have a local connection or are in an emergency situation, it’s very unlikely that Mendip District Council can help you with your housing or give you access to housing association properties.  However, if you think you may be eligible, you can try registering with Homefinder.

Noticeboards

FHfF has set up a Frome Housing Noticeboard on facebook to help private landlords and renters connect with each other more easily. You can use this page to search for accommodation that may not be listed elsewhere, or to post a ‘Looking for’ notice.  Working with Frome Town Council, we are also planning a physical noticeboard in the entrance to Frome Library (open Mon-Sat).

Other active noticeboards for property advertisements can be found in the window of Frome Wholefoods (updated on Thursdays) and the entrance to the Garden Café (hand your notices to café staff first for approval.)

Facebook

In addition to the Frome Housing Noticeboard, Facebook groups used by locals to advertise and look for rental properties include:

Letting agencies

There are a large number of letting agencies in Frome, many of which are listed in our Tenants leaflet as above along with a range of online agencies.

Most agencies in Frome will list all of their available properties on the Right Move website, so this is a good place to start: https://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-to-rent/Frome.html.

Some tenants have success with visiting letting agencies in person and talking to the agents about their housing needs.  Once you have found a property it is likely you will need to provide references and other information to secure your tenancy.  You may find that the process moves more quickly if you have this information ready in advance and – if needed – have already made arrangements with a guarantor.

5. What is Homefinder, and how does it work?

Homefinder Somerset is a partnership of Local Authorities and Housing Associations working together to provide a simple and transparent process for allocating homes in the social rented sector, as they become available.

There aren’t any council houses at the moment in Mendip, so these will take the form of a tenancy in a housing association property.

We suggest you start by watching these two videos: Introduction to Homefinder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cjh9iUr0PX8 and Homefinder Questions Answered: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWrkH3Y22lo

A brief overview of how the Homefinder scheme works:

a) You complete an application at www.homefindersomerset.co.uk
b) Your application will be assessed as either gold, silver or bronze, depending on your level of need. Approximately two thirds of properties go to people in silver and bronze bands, so there’s no need to struggle to be in the gold band. Gold banded applicants are often people who are either homeless or threatened with homelessness.
c) Available properties are advertised online from Wednesday to Sunday each week. You can bid on up to three properties each week. The scheme doesn’t function on a first come first served basis, so it doesn’t matter when you place your bid within each five-day cycle. It’s important to be realistic: for example, don’t apply for a ground floor property with disabled facilities unless this is something you really need.
d) Properties are allocated on the Monday and Tuesday of each week. (This is why you cannot place a bid on these days). If your bid has been successful you will receive a formal offer of accommodation.
e) Anyone who refuses three formal offers of suitable accommodation will have their case reviewed. They will be advised that if they subsequently refuse one further offer they will be suspended from expressing an interest in properties for a period of 3 months from the date of the last refusal. After 3 months the applicant will be reassessed.
f) If a homeless applicant refuses a suitable offer of accommodation, Mendip District Council will consider its duty towards them discharged, subject to the statutory review process. The Council may decide to use its power to discharge the homeless duty with a suitable Private Rented Sector Offer. In either case the gold band status for accepted as being, or threatened with being homeless will end.

Some general observations about Homefinder

  • In 2019, approximately one in three applications were successful
  • The longer you’re on the list, the more chance you have
  • You may need to be flexible: for example, to be willing to move outside of Frome
  • If you have a past history of antisocial behaviour or rent arrears this will make it harder to find housing
  • Having a pet may make it harder to find housing

6. I’ve got a place to live, but I can’t afford to furnish it.

Fair Frome runs a Furniture Project designed to provide furnishings for people on low incomes, including kitchen equipment and electrical items. You will need to be referred by a local organisation such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Job Centre Plus, a school welfare officer or a health professional. Fair Frome also collaborates with the various Frome Rotary Clubs to sponsor new carpets for people in need.

There are two freecycling sites in Frome where you can either ask for what you need or look out for things that local people are giving away for nothing. It’s free to sign up to these sites on www.freecycle.org or www.ilovefreegle.org.

Other sources of low cost furnishings are the various charity shops in town, particularly Dorothy House near Sainsburys; the weekly auction organised by Cooper & Tanner at Standerwick Market on Wednesday mornings; and online sites such as Gumtree or the Facebook Marketplace (which sometimes advertise items that are free of charge).

7. The property I rent is in a poor state of repair and/or damp

As a renter or tenant, you have a right to live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair. Shelter has produced a short video about what repairs your landlord is responsible to carry out at https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/repairs/landlord_and_tenant_responsibilities_for_repairs

When you move into a new property, you should immediately take note of any repairs and faults that need addressing and raise these issues with your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible. Take close-up photographs and keep a record of any correspondence. Letting agents should also provide a detailed inventory which you will be asked to check and return to them. This is your opportunity to add anything that has been missed to ensure you are not liable at the end of your tenancy for damage not caused by you.

If issues arise during your tenancy you should you should try to resolve these with your letting agent or landlord straightaway. If they are not addressed within a reasonable timeframe, Mendip District Council have a department set up to help you – find out more here.

Damp is a common problem that can damage your belongings and lead to poor health. Again, don’t delay in raising the issue with your landlord or letting agent, keeping a record of all correspondence, and if you don’t get a satisfactory response you can ask Mendip District Council for advice and assistance.

Black mould on ceilings and walls, commonly in corners or where furniture is close to the walls, can arise from the condensation created by normal day-to-day activities such as showering, cooking, washing and even breathing, and may be solved through better heating or ventilation.

In contrast, rising damp and penetrating damp are usually caused by structural defects in the property. This advice sheet from the Centre for Sustainable Energy provides some useful advice on how to manage damp in your home.

8. I’m getting behind with my rent

Talk to your Landlord

If possible it is best to talk directly to your landlord about your situation, as soon as you can. This may feel daunting, but you may find them more sympathetic than you expect, and by keeping them informed there is less risk of you being evicted. Landlords have the right to evict a tenant who is not paying their rent by issuing a Section 8 notice. However if you can arrange a meeting and explain your reasons for falling behind with the rent, it may be possible to get their support and come to an arrangement. It’s a good idea to calculate in advance what you are able to afford, and also to present them with a plan for repaying any rent arrears. This will demonstrate that you intend to get back on track.

Contact the Housing Options Team

Mendip District Council also offer advice on dealing with rent arrears at https://www.mendip.gov.uk/rentarrears. You can contact your local Housing Options Team for advice and support, especially if you feel you can’t speak with your landlord yourself. They may be able to help you stay in your home, or support you to find an alternative.

Housing Options Team
Council Offices
Cannards Grave Road
Shepton Mallet
Somerset BA4 5BT
 Tel: 0300 303 8588
Email: housing.admin@mendip.gov.uk

Getting Financial Support

You may be able to get help with your housing costs by applying for Universal Credit. To apply for Universal Credit go to: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

If you are claiming Universal Credit, you may be eligible to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement, in which your rent is paid directly to your landlord. This ensures that your housing costs get paid before anything else, and can help you with budgeting. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-rented-housing–2/alternative-payment-arrangements?preview=3295352

The following online calculator will help you check whether you are eligible for any other benefits: https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/AboutYou

Debt and Money Advice

Don’t hesitate to ask for help with managing debt, as soon as it starts happening. The Citizens Advice Bureau and National Debtline (a free debt advice service) are good starting points. Be wary of any debt advice services that require payment.

Citizens Advice Bureau, Frome
5 King St, Frome, BA11 1BH.
Monday, Wednesday & Friday 10 – 1pm
Tel: 03 444 889 623, Mon – Fri 10 – 3.30
Email Advice: https://www.citizensadvicemendip.org.uk/Email%20Advice%20Form.html
(emails answered within 5 working days)

National Debtline
Tel: 0808 808 4000 Or Webchat with an advisor (click on the blue tab to the right of the website below) Monday to Friday: 9am – 8pm, Saturday: 9.30am – 1pm. Website: https://www.nationaldebtline.org/

9. I’m worried about losing my house due to Universal Credit delays

Some people have been experiencing delays with their Universal Credit payments which then impact on their ability to pay their rent on time. This can be incredibly stressful. We suggest that you contact your case manager as soon as possible, preferably in person, to explain your situation.

Where possible, keep a record of any correspondence and make sure you meet all of your own commitments on time.

Another option is to visit the Citizens Advice Bureau in King Street.

Get an advance on your first payment

If you are beginning a new Universal Credit claim, you may need your first payment in advance to cover the rent. You can find out more information about this here: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit/get-an-advance-first-payment. Note that advance payments will need to be paid back within 12 months. You can spread the repayment over the 12 months and will not be charged interest.

Alternative Payment Arrangements

You may be eligible to make an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) through Universal Credit. An APA can include an arrangement to have your housing costs made as a Managed Payment direct to your landlord. You do not need to be already in rent arrears for an APA to be considered. Your work coach or case manager will help discuss your options.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-rented-housing–2/alternative-payment-arrangements?preview=3295352

Advice for Landlords on Universal Credit and Rented Housing

Here is some information that may be helpful to pass on to your landlord. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-rented-housing–2/universal-credit-and-rented-housing-guide-for-landlords

10. My landlord/letting agent is insisting on visiting – can I say no?

As a tenant, you have a right to privacy in your home. Your landlord cannot come into your home without giving notice or without gaining your permission in advance. This is the case regardless of what kind of relationship you have with your landlord or what amount of rent you pay.

In order for your landlord or letting agent to legally enter the property that they rent to you, for example to organise repair work or look at the state of the building, they must provide you with a minimum of 24 hours notice and make an agreement with you to come at a specific time – although if there’s an emergency it’s reasonable that you allow them access as quickly as possible. They also cannot threaten, harass or pressurise you. In particular they cannot threaten illegal eviction or to cut off services such as gas and electricity.

If you think your landlord or letting agent is unlawfully entering your home, contact the Private Sector Housing Team immediately using the online complaint form.
Email: PSH_enquiries@mendip.gov.uk
Tel: 0300 303 8588 
Private Sector Housing
Mendip District Council
Cannards Grave Road
Shepton Mallet BA4 5BT

Make sure you keep a record of any correspondence with your letting agent or landlord and follow up any phone calls or face-to-face meetings with an email outlining the contents of the meeting and any agreements made. It is important that you continue to pay your rent during the course of any dispute to avoid risking losing your home or harming your case.

Advice4Renters provides free or low-cost legal advice and representation from expert housing specialists, as recommended by Generation Rent.

11. Am I being charged the correct fees by my letting agent?

The legislation regarding tenants fees changed in 2019. With a few exceptions, letting agents and landlords can no longer charge fees to tenants. It is important for tenants, landlords and letting agents to be aware of these changes and their implications.

Here is a list of the fees you can be charged, but only under specific circumstances, so check the website below for more details.

  • Late payment of rent
  • Lost keys or fobs
  • Ending your tenancy early
  • Changing or assigning your tenancy
  • Renewing your tenancy (only if you signed a tenancy agreement before 1 June 2019 which says you have to pay a renewal fee)

All other fees are banned, including fees for referencing, administration, credit checks and immigration checks. Shelter provide clear information on their website regarding which fees can be charged to tenants and about what to do if you are incorrectly charged. For more details, see https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/private_renting/letting_agent_fees_for_tenants

Generation Rent also keep their website up-to-date with the latest news on tenant fees:
https://www.generationrent.org/can_letting_agents_charge_tenants_fees

If you think you have been charged incorrect fees, you can get support from Trading Standards. Our local body is Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards. You can telephone their Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06. Office hours are Monday to Thursday 09.00 to 17.00 and Fridays 09.00 to 16.30.

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards

Trading Standards Service
County Hall
Topsham Road

Exeter
Devon EX2 4QD

You can also complain to a Letting Agent Redress Scheme. See here for more details: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/private_renting/letting_agent_redress_schemes

12. I can’t get my deposit back… What do you advise?

Is your deposit protected?

If you have a shorthold tenancy, your landlord has a legal responsibility to protect your deposit using an approved scheme. If a landlord fails to do this, they are liable to pay compensation worth up to three times the value of the deposit.

You can find out more information from Shelter at http://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/tenancy_deposits/tenancy_deposit_compensation_claims

Here is another article on the subject from Renter’s Rights London: https://us10.campaign-archive.com/?u=8fea8851f99f4ad4888d7fdf5&id=0370691301

Do you feel there have been unfair deductions?

Many conflicts over deposit deductions arise when the tenant feels they are being asked to cover the costs of what would constitute ‘reasonable wear and tear,’ or for repairing damage that happened before they moved in. Any written correspondence about the condition of the property from the beginning or duration of your tenancy can be helpful to your case in claiming back your deposit. It’s also very useful to have photographs that support your case, for example by showing the condition of the property when you moved in.

Conflict can also arise over cleaning costs. If professional cleaning services are required to get the property up to standard when you leave, you may wish to find a company who can provide the service more cheaply than the contractor proposed by your letting agent. Arrangements of this kind will need to be agreed in advance with your letting agent or landlord.

Shelter offers detailed information about what to do if you disagree with deductions made from your deposit. They advise how to challenge these deductions through the scheme through which your deposit was protected and provide template letters to help with your negotiations. See https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/tenancy_deposits/how_to_get_your_tenancy_deposit_back

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