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When everyone has a home

Housing and debt helpline for Northern Ireland – 028 9024 5640

November 2014

Hector contacted Housing Rights Service for help back in July.

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Benefits, Minority Groups, Adviser

When an adviser assists a client with a review of a negative homelessness decision, they will usually try to identify some error in the original decision making process.  The reviewing officer may acknowledge this error, yet decide to uphold the original negative decision.   In this situation, the reviewing officer must send the applicant a “minded to” letter.

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Case law, Legal

A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), 'Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion', has found there are now as many people in poverty in the private rented sector as in the social rented sector in England, Scotland and Wales, (around 4m in each).

When Steven first contacted Housing Rights Service, he had already been on the social housing list for over 5 years. In that time, Steven had been living in his mother’s house, sofa surfing between friends’ places and spent one and a half years living in a hostel.

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Homelessness

Tenants who are having problems in their privately rented homes can now turn to a new service for assistance.  Smartmove Housing is providing a tenancy sustainment intervention service as part of the Private Rented Sector Access Scheme, funded by the NI Housing Executive.

What is a Tenancy Sustainment Intervention scheme?

Smartmove officers can intervene in a failing tenancy and work with the tenant and the landlord to try to improve the situation.

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Private Tenancies, Practical tips, Landlord

Advisers and solicitors working with rural clients affected by repossession may not be aware of the impact that certain planning clauses may have on their clients’ options.  Permission to build certain rural dwellings may have been granted subject to a clause requiring that the property be occupied by a farmer or farm worker.   This type of clause can help you negotiate with a lender who is threatening legal action to repossess the property.

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Repossession, Legal

The latest NI Repossession statistics have been published by the Courts and Tribunal Service, showing a welcome fall in cases reaching court.  The report shows statistics for July – September 2014.

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Repossession

People from all walks of life end up in the Chancery Court in Belfast, facing the possibility of losing their home.  Sharon and Stephen are one such couple, who got help from our Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme last month, after meeting specialist representative Maria McNally at court. 

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Repossession, Practical tips, Affordability

The latest Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin has been published by the DSD.  Covering April – June 2014, it contains statistics on homelessness, the Residential Property Price Index and new National House Building Council (NHBC) registered dwellings sales and prices.

Key facts from the latest statistics include

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Homelessness

Earlier this week, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced a number of new measures which aim to minimise the impact of payday loan charges on borrowers.

From 2nd January 2015:

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Policy, Affordability

The Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey, has announced that the proposed transfer of housing functions from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Department of Social Development to the new councils will not happen until 1st April 2016.

The original Housing and Regeneration Bill proposed a number of housing functions were to be transfered to the 11 new councils from 1st April 2015.  However, due to delays this Bill never materialised.

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Policy, NI Assembly

Going to court and facing the possibility of eviction or repossession creates unimaginable stress for many people.  Every day Housing Rights Service sends two specialist advisers, Maria and Eamonn, out to court hearings across Northern Ireland to offer free advice and representation to people who are attending court to try to save their homes.

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Repossession, Social Tenancies, Private Tenancies

Housing and welfare practitioners should note the following changes to social security legislation and update their resources accordingly. 

Habitual residence

There have been many recent changes to the rules around habitual residence recently.  Currently, only people who have been living in the Common Travel Area for at least 3 months can make a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

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Benefits, Minority Groups, Welfare Reform, Legal

M&S are donating 5% of the sale of every product in the Food on the Move range purchased in Northern Ireland to Housing Rights Service this Christmas. 

There is something for everyone in the range - try the classic Turkey Feast sandwich or one of the vegetarian options. There are also fun treats like Twinkle Twinkle Little Bars (pictured), and Mini Mince Pies. 

 
We've storified some of the highlights from our Bigger & Better conference so those of you who weren't able to attend can see some of what you missed.  
 

Conference highlights #prsplus

 

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Private Tenants Forum, Private Tenancies, Policy

Over 100 delegates attended a packed conference held in Belfast on the 6th November that was aimed to open debate on how the Northern Ireland private rented sector (PRS) can genuinely offer a more viable and attractive longer-term tenure option. The audience, made up of government officials, advice workers, academics, landlords and tenants, heard from speakers across the UK and Ireland.

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Private Tenancies, Policy, Landlord

Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA has announced a review of the private rented sector.

Speaking at our Bigger & Better conference yesterday, the Minister said “…now is the right time to look again at the regulation of the private rented sector.”

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Private Tenancies, NI Assembly

Private tenants have, for the first time, published proposals for improving rented accommodation in Northern Ireland. The Private Tenants’ Forum has produced an ‘Agenda for Action’ which sets out 8 practical ways to improve rented accommodation in Northern Ireland.

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Private Tenants Forum, Private Tenancies, Policy

Representatives from Housing Rights Service will be contributing to a Housing Repossessions Taskforce Conference being held today in Belfast. The conference will open up discussion on a range of options currently under consideration by the Respossession taskforce, a group set up in February 2014 by Nelson McCauseland.

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Repossession