Housing support during the national Cost of Living crisis

Today’s guest blog is
from Ally Rush – Strategic Lead, Shelter Bristol

The national housing crisis is inextricably linked with the national cost of living crisis. Hundreds of thousands are struggling to afford to keep a roof over their heads, and we now face a perfect storm of spiralling rents and rising bills that threatens to push many towards the brink of homelessness. In Bristol we have more than 19,000 households on our waiting list for social housing, along with over 1,100 households in temporary accommodation and a cost of operating crisis that is impacting the ability of support services to meet the needs of all.

How can I access housing support?

1. Struggling to pay rent

Rent is considered a priority debt as not paying could mean you lose your home. If you are struggling to pay or have fallen into arrears, it’s important to get advice as soon as you can as you may be eligible for additional financial assistance.

Try to negotiate with your landlord or agent, they may consider an affordable repayment plan, or even a temporary rent reduction – ensure any agreements or arrangements are in writing. Even private landlords may understand and will let you stay if your problems can be sorted out.

Early intervention can prevent a situation from worsening to the point where you may face homelessness. It is critical that households can access the financial assistance that is available to support them to pay their rent.

Discretionary Housing Payments are available when Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn’t provide enough money to pay your rent. More information is available on Bristol City Council’s website or from Shelter.

You can read about the different types of support that may be available if you need help with paying your rent on the Shelter website.

Your landlord must follow the specific rules when increasing rent. Simply telling you that the rent is going up does not actually change the rent legally. However, if you pay the new rent your landlord is proposing, this is treated as a legal acceptance of it. The same is true if you sign a new agreement accepting the new rent. Read about rent increases on the Shelter website

If the rent increase is excessive or the landlord is not following the correct procedure you can contact the council’s Private Renting Team.

2. Legally homeless:

If you cannot pay for the basics like food or heating after paying for your housing, you could be legally homeless.

You can approach the council’s homeless prevention team who will look at whether your home is affordable. If it isn’t, the council will need to look at assisting in accessing alternative housing options.

How can I take action?

  1. Know your rights and get essential advice

Get expert housing advice from Shelter advisers 365 days a year – over the phone, web chat, or on our website. We also hold free, online workshops.

Tel: 0808 800 4444 – open Mon to Fri, 8am to 8pm, weekends and bank holidays, 9am to 5pm. Email home@shelter.org.uk or on the Shelter website.

You can also seek financial advice from Citizens Advice Bureau, Step Change, Bristol’s Welfare Rights and Money Advice Service (WRAMAS) or Talking Money​.

If you receive a notice from your landlord, seek housing advice from Shelter, CHAS or Citizens Advice Bureau.

  1. Join together to fight for a fair renting system

The Bristol Fair Renting campaign was launched by local renters, with support from Shelter and the council, to demand urgent change to tackle high rents, poor conditions and discrimination in private renting.

The team of renters leading the campaign have all been personally impacted by the broken renting system and have been working hard to unite renters as a community and influence local politicians to bring the change they are fighting for.

They worked with Councillor Tom Renhard to shape a motion to tackle benefits discrimination, which councillors voted through in January 2022. In March, the campaign co-hosted a Renters’ Summit which brought the community together to start a conversation about what a local action plan to stamp out income discrimination needs to include, as well as what rent control could look like for Bristol.  More information can be found on the council’s website.

Show your support for the Bristol Fair Renting Manifesto.   

If you’re a renter and are interested in helping to lead the Fair Renting Campaign, or would like to share your story, please email daisy_picking@shelter.org.uk. 

For more cost of living support and advice visit the Bristol City Council cost of living webpage.

You can also call the We Are Bristol phone line on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.