Homelessness and Housing Advice Service
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The Homelessness and Housing Advice Service offers a wide range of free services for owner-occupiers, tenants who are renting their homes from social or private landlords, private landlords and people who have lost or are in danger of losing their homes.
Contact us immediately if you think you are at risk of being made homeless, the sooner you contact us the more likely we will be able to help.
The council provides a drop-in service at The Gateway, 89 Sankey Street, WA1 1SR, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. (From Monday 4 November our opening times will change to 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm weekdays). Pre-arranged appointments can be made on request. You can also complete our Homeless application form and a housing officer will contact you.
If you have an emergency out-of-hours, call 01925 444400.
If you're a Housingplus customer living in temporary accommodation, you can now pay rent and service charges by card either over the phone or at reception. You can also pay via direct debit or via cash or cheque at reception at the Homelessness and Housing Advice Service reception, The Gateway.
In addition to the self-service computers, we have a customer help desk with staff to help you access online applications, search for PRS property and set up email accounts etc.
This service is available on request (where possible) or you can make an appointment with one of the customer service staff.
The Council works with housebuilders and Registered Providers in order to ensure, insofar as possible, that its residents have access to high quality of housing at a price they can afford. We apply policies to new housing developments that require a certain number of the houses or apartments to be provided as ‘affordable homes’. These affordable homes are generally provided in an equal mix of rented properties, which are let via Registered Providers and Housing Associations, and affordable ownership properties such as shared ownership, which again are normally provided via Registered Providers, or discounted sales, which may be sold directly by the housebuilder.
The Council itself does not hold any affordable housing stock. All affordable housing, other than some very specialized supported living units, is owned and maintained by Registered Providers. The main Registered Providers operating in the Borough include:
What is a Discounted for Sale Home?
Most major residential schemes are required to provide a certain number of properties for sale to eligible people and families at a discounted price. The level of discount may vary between sites and locations, but typically it will be between 20% and 30% of the value of the properties when sold on the open market. If a ‘First Home’, the discount could be far greater. This means, for instance, that a house normally worth £200,000 on the open market would be available for sale to eligible people at a price of £160,000 if discounted by 20%.
Please be aware that if you purchase a discounted property, when you come to sell it, you must sell it to another eligible person or family at the same discounted level. This is because the discounted rate is applied for the lifetime of the property in order to ensure it remains permanently affordable. The requirement for this will be written into the title or lease of your property. Normally, the Council will be responsible for agreeing the discounted price with you or your estate agent, and making sure that the new owner meets the eligibility criteria. You should be aware that although we try and be as efficient as possible, these checks can sometimes slow down the sales process. The legal responsibility is for you to contact the Council before you put your home on the market. We can advise you of your requirements at that stage.
If you purchase a Discounted for Sale home, then you will own and be wholly responsible for the property. You will not have to pay any rent. You may, however, have to pay service charges for the upkeep of the estate (such as green spaces or play areas, or if you have purchased an apartment, the common areas of the apartment block such as the foyer and corridors) and you will need to check this with your solicitor before purchasing.
Who is Eligible?
The eligibility criteria for discounted homes will vary from site to site and you will need to check with your solicitor or the Council on the details of the property you are interested in. Normally, the requirements will be set out in the planning agreement (the ‘section 106 agreement’) at the time permission was granted for the housing development. Some older planning agreements have very few restrictions on who can occupy the affordable homes; others, especially those brought forward with Government funding, may have strict eligibility criteria.
As a general rule, we would normally require that purchasers of discounted for sale homes are first-time buyers aged between 23 and 40; or otherwise that they live or work locally and cannot afford to purchase a similar property on the open market. If the latter, you will be required to send us a signed, letter headed statement from an FCA accredited finance advisor. Your finance advisor will need to let us know that based on your circumstances you would not be able to afford the property you are applying for at the full open market value and could only afford it at the discounted price. You will also be required to provide confirmation of local connection. If you live in Warrington, we will need proof of your address such as a utility bill or council tax bill. Alternatively, if you work in Warrington we will need evidence of this from your employer.
If the discounted home is provided under the ‘First Homes’ initiative, then the eligibility criteria that have been set by the Government are that:
- You should be a first-time buyer as defined in paragraph 6 of schedule 6ZA of the Finance Act 2003 for the purposes of Stamp Duty Relief for first-time buyers; and
- You should have a combined annual household income not exceeding £80,000 in the tax year immediately preceding the year of purchase; and
- You should have a mortgage or home purchase plan to fund a minimum of 50% of the discounted purchase price.
These national standard criteria also apply at all future sales of a First Home.
How do I Apply?
New discounted properties are normally sold to eligible applicants directly by the housebuilder. If you are interested in a new discounted property on a particular estate, you should contact the housebuilder’s sales team and tell them that you are interested in the Discount for Sale properties. The sales team should take your details and your evidence of eligibility (see below) and pass them on to the Council for verification. If you are eligible, then the Council will issue a Certificate to the housebuilder in order to let the purchase proceed.
Second-hand discounted homes are normally sold in the same way as open market homes using estate agents and web-based platforms. The vendor should stipulate the restrictions on the property, and make it known that it is only available at a discounted price to eligible households. If you are interested in a second-hand Discount for Sale property, then the same verification process takes place, and you should ask your solicitor to forward your details to the Council. Your solicitor should advise you on any occupancy restrictions that have been placed on the property.
What is Shared Ownership?
Shared Ownership is a means of attaining a legal interest in a property that is tailored to your budget. You can now buy as little as a 10% share, or as much as a 75% share, of the property. You will pay rent on the remaining equity, which will normally be held by a Registered Provider. When you can afford it, you can buy out the remaining interest of the Registered Provider and own the home in a process known as ‘staircasing’. This enables you to buy shares in the home of 5% or more as and when you are able. As your equity stake increases, the rent you pay to the Registered Provider will decrease.
We recommend strongly that you take detailed financial advice before committing to a shared ownership property, to ensure that you are confident you can afford the equity payments and the rent, along with other costs associated with the property, which may include service charges. You should also note that the price of the shares is linked directly to the changing value of the property. If your property has increased in value since you bought your initial shares, the cost of purchasing any additional shares will increase by the same percentage.
If you own a share of your home, the landlord has the right to find a buyer for your home. The landlord also has the right to buy it first (known as ‘first option to buy’ or ‘pre-emption’). You can sell your share yourself if the landlord does not find a buyer and they do not want to buy it themselves. If you own 100% of your home, you can sell it yourself.
In the vast majority of cases it may be possible to staircase to 100% and own the property outright. On certain sites, however, staircasing may be restricted. You will need to check this with the Registered Provider or Council.
Who is Eligible?
Details on the eligibility criteria for buying shared ownership properties can be found at: Applying for Help to Buy: Shared Ownership (helptobuyagent1.org.uk)
Normally, you can buy a home through shared ownership if both of the following apply:
- your household earns £80,000 a year or less
- you cannot afford all of the deposit and mortgage payments for a home that meets your needs
In addition, one of the following must also be true:
- you’re a first-time buyer
- you used to own a home, but cannot afford to buy one now
- you own a home and want to move but cannot afford a new home suitable for your needs
- you’re forming a new household - for example, after a relationship breakdown
- you’re an existing shared owner and want to move
How do I Apply?
A schedule of available and upcoming properties is also maintained by the North West Help to Buy Agent: www.helptobuyagent1.org.uk. The Help to Buy Agent is the agent appointed by the Government to provide access to Help to Buy and Shared Ownership products in the Borough, and can also be reached on 0300 790 0570.
If you meet the criteria, you can contact the Help to Buy Agent and review the properties available in your area. Alternatively, you can contact Registered Providers directly in order to see what is available or what may be becoming available in your area.
What is Affordable Rent?
Affordable rented properties must be provided to eligible households at not more than 80% of the open market rent, inclusive of all service charges. They are normally delivered and maintained by Registered Providers, with which you would enter a tenancy agreement. Some affordable rent properties may be delivered directly by the housebuilder or developer if they form part of a larger ‘Build to Rent’ scheme. These are known as Affordable Private Rent properties and, again, must be offered at not more than 80% of the open market rent, inclusive of all charges.
In practice, the vast majority of those affordable rent properties provided by Registered Providers are made available to tenants at rents that are covered by local housing allowances (‘housing benefit’). This is not always the case, however.
The stock of affordable rented properties is controlled by the ‘Under One Roof’ allocation system. This is explained in more detail below.
You may have the right to buy your rented property if you have been a tenant to a public sector landlord (such as a Registered Provider) for over three years. Further information on this can be found at Right to Buy: buying your council home - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Who is Eligible?
Anybody who is over 18 can apply to Under One Roof unless one or more of the following apply:
- You earn more than £60,000 a year or own assets worth more than £24,000; or
- You have been found guilty of unacceptable behaviour in the past; or
- You owe money for housing related costs.
Once you have submitted the online form, we will check that the information you have given to us is correct and that you can provide evidence to support your situation. We will let you know what information you need to provide and when.
You will not be able to see which homes are available or choose the ones you are interested in. Instead we will match available homes with members who have the most housing need and have been registered for the longest amount of time. This will be based on the areas you have chosen and your family type.
Although you can tell us which areas you would like to live in the most, Under One Roof cannot guarantee that homes will become available in those areas. The time taken to allocate housing to you will depend on a number of factors, such as the type and size of property that you need and the availability of those properties.
How do I Apply?
You will need to register with ‘Under One Roof’ before you are allocated an affordable rented property. Eligible households can become a member of Under One Roof by registering and completing an online application though this website.
If you already live in a social housing property and want to move but don’t have an urgent housing need we may ask you to register with HomeSwapper instead. HomeSwapper is a national scheme which allows people living in a social home swap their home with another person. Registration is free for all existing social housing tenants.
If you are facing difficulties with your housing, are homeless or are about to become homeless, you should contact us as soon as possible.
The council's Homelessness and Housing Advice Service can offer advice and help in finding alternative accommodation.
The council may have a duty to find this accommodation for you if you satisfy certain requirements and are within 56 days of losing your home.
If you are in financial difficulties over your mortgage or rent payment, the service may also be able to assist you before you are evicted and help you to remain in your home.
We provide services for rough sleepers. If you believe that someone is sleeping rough, please contact us so help can be provided.
You can also report rough sleepers to StreetLink at any time and they will pass on the information to the Council. Call 0300 500 0914 or visit streetlink.force.com
The council offers a service for Warrington residents to carry out house surveys in support of applications to UK Visas and Immigration for entry clearance into the UK. An independent assessment of the property is required as part of the application.
To arrange for a survey please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
As this service is non-statutory we charge a fee (currently £80 including VAT). The fee covers costs in undertaking the survey and producing a letter. Payments need to be made before the survey is begun.
Applicants will need to provide:
- Their own name and contact details.
- Information about the person(s) entering the UK including name, age and relationship to the sponsor.
- The full address of the property the person(s) entering the UK intend to live in.
- The landlord’s name, address and contact number must be provided, along with a copy of the current gas safety certificate, if relevant (only if this is a rented property).
To arrange an appointment for a survey, please contact Housingplus.
The council doesn’t hold any housing stock; all accommodation including sheltered accommodation is allocated via Under One Roof (U1R).
You can also approach social landlords directly to see if they have any waiting lists. Torus and Your Housing Group don’t have lists as their properties are allocated through U1R.
Warrington Housing Association hold a separate list so you may wish to contact them directly to register your interest.