What support is there for contract-holders during the cost-of-living crisis?
Fri 31 Mar 2023
Although the rising cost of living has been hard on many people, contract-holders are often particularly affected when there’s a financial squeeze.
Although you can cut back on how much electricity and heating you use, you’re unlikely to have control over making your home more energy efficient.
The good news is there is a lot of support available for anyone who’s struggling at the moment including contract-holders. It’s there to help, so it’s important to take advantage of what’s available, especially if it means not having to make tough decisions between eating and heating, and enabling you to keep affording your rent.
Where can contract-holders turn to for financial help?
It’s in everyone’s interest to make sure those that are struggling can afford to stay in their home, especially when rental stock is currently in such short supply in many areas.
The first place to turn to is a specialist site where you can find out if you are eligible for financial support: https://helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk/. This covers help that can be secured for:
And if you’re on a low income, there is further support, including:
- Universal Credit. This is a payment that’s available to people on low income who need help with their living costs. You can apply via the GOV.UK website.
- Discretionary Housing Payments. If you already receive Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit but still need help with the rent, you can apply to the local council for a DHP.
- Reduction in Council Tax of up to 100%. Each local authority runs its own scheme, but if you are experiencing hardship, you could qualify for financial support by way of a reduction in your Council Tax bill. And if you live alone, check you are getting the 25% single-person discount.
If you are on an eligible low income and getting certain benefits or tax credits, you should also receive £900 in three separate instalments over the coming tax year, under the Government’s Cost of Living Payments support scheme. This is automatic, so there’s no need to make an application.
If you can’t access any of the support above, but still need help, here are some of the things you could talk to your agent or landlord about:
- Making sure the property is easy to keep warm. With minimum EPC ratings set to rise from ‘E’ to ‘C’ in the coming years, it’s in your landlord’s interest to make energy efficiency improvements before laws are finalised and there’s a rush on materials and tradespeople. So speak to your landlord or agent to:
- Ensure the walls, loft or roof and floors are all properly insulated
- See if it’s possible to install an efficient, low-carbon heating system
- Replace any older white goods with new models that have a good eco-rating
- Investigate having the electricity and gas put on smart meters. These track and display energy usage in near-real time and can help you see where you might be able to cut back on energy usage to save money. Those on prepay can top up their account via their phones and those on monthly payments will have readings sent automatically to the supplier at least once a month - so your bills will always be accurate.
If you pay the bills, you can request a smart meter and arrange for the switch yourself, although you should always ask permission from the landlord or managing agent first. To find out exactly what you need to do, just visit the Smart Energy GB website.
If you are struggling to pay the rent, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your landlord or managing agent - it’s much better to find a solution that works for everyone than to end up in a position where you can’t pay your rent.