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I’m a debt expert – how you can get free cash help if you’re struggling to pay your rent

TENANTS are being hit with soaring rents – but there’s extra help if you’re struggling with bills.

Rent has hit a record high outside London, with monthly bills rocketing to £1,162 on average in the three months between July and September, according to Rightmove.

Jonathan Chesterman shares advice on what to do if your struggling to pay rent

It comes at a time when households are already being hammered by rising inflation, which is currently at 10.1%, as food and energy prices also soar. 

But whether you live in social housing, or in privately rented accommodation, there is help out there.

The Sun spoke to Jonathan Chesterman, debt advice policy manager at StepChange, about some of the ways you may be able to get financial support.

Discretionary housing payment

Jonathan said people receiving housing benefit, or the housing element of Universal Credit, may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).

This can help cover housing costs such as putting down a deposit.

Money is given out on a case-by-case basis, often when your housing benefit is not enough to cover your rent or you’re moving home and need a deposit or rent advance.

Jonathan said the support varies from council to council, but it could be a one-off lump sum, or a regular payment.

Local councils decide what’s given out in their area, but each only has a certain amount of funding available to dish out.

Jonathan said: “While each council has its own criteria, it’s really important to find out what your local council has to offer.

“This is because if you don’t qualify, they may still be able to point you towards another form of support.”

You can find your local council by using this handy government tool.

Once you find their website, you should be able to access information on all the available help and how you can apply.

Household Support Fund

Councils can also choose to dish out rental support from the £421million household support fund.

Each authority has been given a slice of the funding on offer and can choose how to spend the money and decide who is eligible.

For example, some offer free school meals vouchers while others will give money towards energy bills.

But some will offer free cash grants which could be put towards your rent if you’re struggling.

That means there’s more help available, and Jonathan says it’s well worth finding out what’s on offer from your local council.

“Most local authorities are looking at how to help with the cost of living crisis,” he said.

“If you fall behind with your rent or council tax, the consequences can be quite serious.

“While the help may not be directly for rent support, getting help with other necessities such as energy bills can help you keep on top of your payments.”

Find out which is your local council by using the Government website, and get in touch to see what you might be eligible for.

The Welfare Assistance Scheme is a similar programme, offering free cash, food vouchers and bill help – and some local authorities may put money towards your rent.

Check your benefit entitlement

“If you are on a low income and are struggling to pay your rent, you should make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to”, Jonathan said.

“An eyewatering sum of money goes unclaimed, so don’t assume that just because you get Universal Credit, for example, you can’t get anything else.”

Benefit calculators can help you check what you could be entitled to.

For instance, you might be entitled to housing benefit.

Housing benefit is calculated using a number of different factors, including your rent rate, what type of housing you live in, and personal circumstances including your household income.

For those living in council or social housing, how much you get in housing benefit depends on your “eligible rent” – which is the rent you pay plus any service charges.

For private renters, your “eligible rent” is whatever is lower: your actual rent or your “Local Housing Allowance” rate.

As this varies depending on where you live, it’s best to check the local housing allowance rate in your area on the Gov.UK website.

What you can get in housing benefit varies, as it depends on your personal circumstances, living situation and finances.

There are several benefit checker tools you can use – here’s our guide.

As well as benefits, there may be free grants that you can access.

Turn2Us has a free grants search tool so you can find out what help is available to you.

Talk to your landlord

If you are struggling to keep up with your rent, speaking to your landlord is an important step, Jonathan said.

It’s worth flagging in advance that you’re having problems rather than waiting until you’re in arrears.

The landlord might be able to discuss a payment plan for you, or possibly consider reducing your rent for a period.

If you’re already in arrears, they may help you come up with an affordable repayment plan to cover what you owe.

Jonathan said: “The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation, so don’t suffer in silence.

“The situation is more likely to escalate if you don’t communicate clearly that you simply can’t afford your rent.

“Try not to feel like you are on your own. While there may not be a quick fix for the problem, it’s best to be open about it.”

Set a budget

Taking the time to write your spending down can seem daunting, but Jonathan says it’s the best way to take control of your money.

Drawing up a budget and seeing where you can cut back is one of the most effective ways of making sure you don’t fall behind on payments such as rent.

Jonathan said: “For a lot of people, drawing up a budget can sound quite daunting.

“Reaching out to organisations that offer free debt advice, such as StepChange and Citizens Advice is a good place to start.

“They can help you to get started.

“There are also free apps for iPhones or Android users that can help you to budget.

“Budgeting can help people to get a sense of order to their finances.”

If you’re struggling to pay your debt, there are a number of services you can use to get free advice and help, including:

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