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Applying for assistance

This content applies to England & Wales

The procedure for applying for assistance.

Eligibility for housing renewal assistance will depend on two key factors:

  • who can apply for assistance and
  • the type of properties that qualify for assistance.

Who can apply for assistance

A local authority may provide assistance to any person for the purposes listed above - see the Housing renewal system page (in the paragraph on scope of system). It is therefore possible for the authority to assist homeowners, tenants and/or landlords. Guidance on housing renewal [1] (originally published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) suggests, however, that authorities should only provide assistance to local authority and housing association tenants in limited circumstances, although it does not specify who can apply or the circumstances under which they may do so.

Properties that qualify for assistance

A local authority can provide assistance to improve living accommodation, which is defined as a building, part of a building, a caravan, or a boat or similar structure.[2] Living accommodation also includes property with which the building, caravan, boat or similar structure is connected, such as a yard, or a garden. For accommodation to be considered living accommodation, the applicant must occupy it for residential purposes, or it must be available for her/him to occupy for these purposes.

Application

Each local authority will have its own application process, as there is no standard application system. Advisers will, therefore, have to check the relevant local authority's policy for information on how a client can apply for assistance.

In assessing whether or not an applicant is eligible for assistance (or in some circumstances after it has agreed to provide financial assistance), a local authority may ask her/him to provide, within a specified period, reasonable information and evidence about her/his financial and other circumstances, which may be relevant to the application.[3] The authority can also use this information to decide whether or not to attach conditions to any assistance it may provide to the applicant.

When it approves an application for assistance, however, the local authority must inform the applicant whether s/he will be required to make a means-tested contribution if s/he will receive assistance in the form of a grant. If the local authority approves an application for a loan, it must tell the applicant the amount of money that s/he will receive and what the terms of repayment are. The applicant must also be told if s/he will incur any other financial obligations as a result of any assistance s/he receives from the local authority.

It may also be the case that the applicant will need to get planning permission or other authorisation before any work is carried out to the accommodation.

Payment of assistance

Each local authority must set out in its policy the conditions and procedures on how grant or loan payments are to be made. There is no requirement for payment to be made within any specified period of time.

Getting owner's permission to carry out works

If the applicant is not the freeholder of the property, a local authority will need to obtain the permission of the owner of the accommodation before carrying out work on the property, if the work would involve:

  • repairs to the accommodation or
  • adaptation or improvement of the accommodation or
  • demolition of the accommodation or a building in which the accommodation is situated.[4]

An owner is the person who is entitled to receive rent for the accommodation concerned and is not her/himself liable to pay rent for the accommodation to a superior landlord. In relation to moveable structures such as a caravan or a boat the owner is the person who is entitled to dispose of it.[5]

Application and fitness of property

Where someone applies for assistance, and the property is in disrepair (see the section on Assessing bad housing for information about disrepair) the local authority may decide that the property is not fit for people to live in. Similarly, where there has been an application for a Disabled Facilities Grant and the local authority decides, after inspection, that the property should not be used to house people, it must decide what to do about that property. In these circumstances the local authority has the power to issue one of the following:

  • a Repair Notice
  • a Deferred Action Notice
  • a Closing Order
  • a Demolition Order.

A potential applicant whose property is in a very poor state of repair should therefore obtain specialist advice from a surveyor, for example, before s/he applies to the local authority for assistance for housing renewal, or for a Disabled Facilities Grant.

[1] Housing Renewal Guidance (Consultative Document), OPDM 18 July 2002.

[2] article 2 Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 SI 2002/1860.

[3] article 6 Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 SI 2002/1860..

[4] article 5(1) Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 SI 2002/1860.

[5] article 5(2) Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002 SI 2002/1860.

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