AFF is increasingly being approached by families who need advice on housing in civvy street; whether it is accessing social housing, exploring options for civilian housing or using FHTB to help with a house purchase. Below is a range of topics based on the questions families have come to us with. If you have any other questions not covered here, contact AFF at email@example.com.
Please check our COVID-19 section for up-to-date information, as the coronavirus outbreak may affect the advice given on this page.
01 AFF Win – better access to social housing for separated spouses
There has been a change to statutory guidance to help recently separated spouses and civil partners of Service personnel access social housing registers where they have no local connection.
In 2013 AFF wrote our first brief on the issues faced by spouses and civil partners leaving SFA after separation when trying to access social housing registers if they didn’t have a local connection. At that time, and to this day, regulations prevent local authorities from insisting on a local connection for Service personnel within five years of leaving the Services. However, this vulnerable group of separating partners, who had been just as mobile as the serving person, were only accepted if they had a local connection.
As a result of the AFF brief some local authorities changed their allocation policy to include this group. However, many did not, so AFF pushed further, with the help of other agencies and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government put out a consultation paper at the start of 2019 asking for views on this topic.
New statutory guidance
In June 2020 the outcome of the consultation was published and AFF is pleased to announce that the new statutory guidance states: ‘The Secretary of State strongly encourages local authorities to exempt from any local connection requirements divorced or separated spouses or civil partners of Service personnel who need to move out of accommodation provided by the Ministry of Defence.’
This isn’t legislation, however, AFF hopes that, as all local authorities have signed the Armed Forces Covenant, they will look to include this action in their housing allocation policies going forward.
And whilst this should help families get onto a waiting list, it doesn’t confer any priority over non-military families.
For the full guidance, click here.
For AFF’s 2017 AFF brief, click here.
AFF would be very interested to hear from you if the above has helped you access social housing or if you are still experiencing issues with local authorities. Please contact the AFF Housing Specialist on housing @aff.org.uk.
Guidance on mesne profit debt
AFF is also pleased that new advice is given within this document for local authorities, who take into account rent arrears, to be sympathetic towards Service personnel or their former partner who have accrued mesne profit debt.
Occupants of SFA who remain in residence following the expiry of a 93-day notice to vacate become irregular occupants and are charged mesne profit charges for trespass, which are not currently taken into account in the housing element of Universal Credit.
AFF is concerned about the issue of mesne profits after the 93 days and will continue to highlight this to the Department for Work and Pensions.
If you have been affected by this, contact the AFF Money and Allowances Specialist on firstname.lastname@example.org
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02 Leaving SFA as a divorced spouse/separated civil partner
AFF is aware that many councils no longer consider divorced spouses/separated civil partners to be part of the Armed Forces community and don’t give them the leeway on a local connection which they give to Serving personnel when they leave.
Whilst we never think that a marriage will end in divorce, it is worthwhile considering having your name down on the social housing register for where you would settle if this did happen (close to family so that you have a local connection etc.). The earlier you register, the longer you will have been on the list should the worst happen. AFF has spoken to several local councils about the best way to apply for social housing and the advice they give is to:
- Phone them as your first action – do it as soon as you know you need help and don’t leave it until the last minute; the more time you give them the more ability they will have to help you by your deadline date.
- Make sure that when you contact them you let them know that you are a separating Forces family,
- Let them know if you have any special circumstances e.g. medical, schooling/public exams etc.
- Let them know if you are leaving due to domestic violence
- Let them know if you have a reason for not having a local connection anywhere (e.g. child of a Forces family or if you grew up in care)
- Remember that social housing is very scarce so think carefully before refusing an offer (especially if you are homeless) as the council may consider that they have carried out their duty of care to you and remove you from the list.
AFF has written a brief and is pushing to get recently divorced spouses/ separated civil partners to be included in the Armed Forces Covenant’s definition of family. We are also asking individual councils to change their policy to reflect the needs of this vulnerable group; click here for the AFF brief.
If you are experiencing issues accessing social housing as a result of the above, contact AFF at email@example.com
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03 Tenancy Deposit Loan Scheme
If Service Family Accommodation (SFA) isn’t the right fit for your family, you may look to use private rental so you can live where you want to.
The upfront costs for private rental can be large, with deposits and rent required in advance, but did you know that you can get help with the deposit through the MOD tenancy deposit loan scheme?
Your soldier can apply for an advance of salary loan to the cost of the deposit, which must be repaid within 12 months. Repayments are recovered from your soldier’s salary on a monthly basis.
Once you have paid your deposit, your landlord must put it in a government-backed tenancy deposit protection scheme and you then have 45 days to provide your line manager with evidence that this has happened (usually a certificate).
For more information, click here
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04 Sub-let Programme
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has started a long-term project to sub-let empty Service Family Accommodation (SFA) to the private market, mainly on short term six monthly lets.
Empty SFA don’t generate any income but still need to be maintained etc. so this is a good way for them to ‘earn their keep’.
Entitled and eligible Service personnel continue to take priority for SFA and should apply for accommodation in the normal way.
- An initial 2,300 homes could be made available under these arrangements and around 70 sites across the UK have been identified including; Arborfield, Biggin Hill, Canterbury, Lyneham, Leuchars, Inverness, Warminster, Wittering, Aldershot, Woodbridge and Bordon. These void sites will be released on a rolling programme
- All the planning has been designed to ensure that families are not affected. DIO:
- Has chosen sites where there is adequate surplus accommodation.
- Plans, where possible, to release houses in groups so they can be managed more effectively.
- Will consult with local commanders etc. to understand any local issues, including security.v
- Aims to ensure that Service families are not disadvantaged.
- Will inform families
- Every potential private tenant will be subject to credit and reference checks.
- Tenants will be subject to credit and reference checks.
- These properties will not be improved, but will be prepared and checked for maintenance and safety prior to occupation.
Investment for improving SFA will continue to be targeted at homes occupied by Service families and all revenue will go to DIO as part of its overall running and investment into the estate.
To find out more about this scheme, click here.
AFF was concerned that some military families would prefer to live with other military families rather than amongst civilian families in order to retain the support of ‘patch life’, and has been assured by DIO that any family living amongst houses selected for the PRS will be offered a move to a ‘military’ area.
Removals will be paid for if you are on a normal license to occupy, but if you are on a surplus license, you can move but removals will not be paid for. Disturbance expense for entitled families is a matter for the local chain of command to decide; however, DIO will underwrite disturbance costs on request. AFF has also been assured that there is no time line to decide to move.
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05 Will I get social housing?
Social housing is very scarce and most councils having long waiting lists – the Armed Forces Covenant means that you will not be disadvantaged by not having a local connection, however, it will NOT mean that you get to the top of the list.
If you have more than £16,000, most councils will not consider you for social housing so, if you have been made redundant, left with a medical discharge payment or at the end of Service with a pension and lump sum, you need to look at alternatives.
Even if you are at the top of the list, it could still be years before you get a house; it is worth remembering that, if you leave SFA and are homeless, the council will have a duty of care to put a roof over your head. However, this may be a hostel or B&B which isn’t ideal for a family.
As soon as you know you are leaving (or even if you are just considering it in the future), it is worth finding out all the options open to you – contact JSHAO for more information.
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06 Improved social housing support for Service personnel and their families
Local councils all have different criteria to get onto their housing register but if one of those is the need for a local connection, they cannot refuse to register you if you have left the Armed Forces within the last five years.
If you have any trouble getting a council to accept you because they say you don’t have a local connection, AFF would like to know about it – please email details to firstname.lastname@example.org
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07 Looking for civilian housing options? The Joint Service Housing Advice Office can give housing advice
It’s never too early to start thinking about civilian housing options and if you leave it until the end of your Service it could be much harder to make an easy and stress-free transition to civilian street.
The Joint Services Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) provides advice and guidance, to you and your serving soldier, about housing options not only just when making the transition to civilian life but during the whole of your Army career. Soldiers and their families are actively encouraged to attend the JSHAO Housing Options briefings held around the country at any point in their Service career. JSHAO also provide information and advice if you remain in Service accommodation beyond the last day of your soldier’s Service.
Once your soldier is a veteran, and out of Service accommodation, you are responsible for sourcing your own housing, either by purchasing your own home or by renting accommodation privately or via Local Authorities.
At this stage, if you contact JSHAO for information you will be signposted to your Local Authority housing department or an appropriate veteran’s agency.
Sourcing civilian housing can take a considerable amount of time so make sure that you start planning well in advance of your leaving date.
For more information about this service, please contact JSHAO.
Click here for more information on other agencies which can help you with housing, including Haig Housing who are also able to help separated spouses and their families.
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08 The MOD Referral Scheme - another way to get social housing
The MOD Referral Scheme operates a service that tries to help Service leavers, who are discharged from the Armed Forces and are in need of housing, find social housing.
Unlike local Authority policies, the scheme is beneficial because it does not demand that you have a local connection with the area in which you are applying.
You may apply for a reasonable number of areas by listing the locations or counties in which you would like to live. However, the scheme is wholly dependent on the goodwill of Housing Associations, and it is reliant on their provision of vacant properties in which they are unable to fill.
As a result of this, The Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) and the Referral Scheme cannot estimate how many offers they might receive.
All applicants are strongly encouraged to consider alternative housing options as there are no guarantees of being housed through the scheme.
Applicants must be Armed Forces personnel within six months of their discharge date and currently occupying Service Accommodation.
Applications for the Scheme can be accepted from Service leavers, married or single, and from separated spouses living in married quarters or hostel accommodation provided by SSAFA Forces Help and the Services Cotswold Centre.
It is important to note that while personnel in Single Living Accommodation (SLA) are eligible until six months post discharge date, those in Service Family Accommodation (SFA) are eligible until they leave that Service property.
Do Not Apply:
If you are married ex-Service or single and beyond the six months after your discharge date.
If you own or part-own a property or are privately renting, you will not be considered for housing through the Scheme.
If you have sufficient capital to buy a property you are unlikely to be housed. Pensions and expected gratuities will also be taken into account when processing your application.
Completing an Application Form
If you are eligible, you will need to complete an application form. This form can be downloaded from the MOD website. To ensure your application is processed quickly and without complications, ensure that you include all the relevant information required. Further requirement details are available when you download your application.
Your application will be acknowledged in writing and you will be added to the database for consideration when properties become available. Each property offer is assessed by its appropriate allocation such as family size, location etc. with the most eligible and highly prioritised applicants details being forwarded to the Housing Association.
Be aware that applicants are restricted to one offer through the scheme.
For more information call 07814 612120 or email RC-Pers-JSHAO-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk
You need to include evidence of the date on which you are required to leave your Service Accommodation:
SFA occupants – a copy of my ‘Notice to Vacate’ or ‘Certificate of Cessation of Entitlement to Occupy’ (provided by DIO Service Delivery Accommodation within six months of discharge)
SLA occupants – a copy of my MOD Form 1166 (available from Unit Admin Office)
Overseas applicants – a copy of my ‘Certificate of Cessation of Entitlement to Occupy’ (available from the Station Staff Officer)
Applicants following marital separation – a copy of my ‘Notice to Vacate’ or ‘Certificate of Cessation of Right to Occupy’ (provided by Defence Estates at the start of the 93 day notice period)
Unlike Local Authority policies, the Scheme is beneficial because it does not demand that you have a local connection with the area for which you are applying.
You may apply for a (reasonable) number of areas by listing the locations or counties where you would like to live. A member of the team will then get in contact to discuss the options available in those areas. You are not restricted by where you now live, where your family live or where you will work.
Single Service leavers and couples without children may also find it difficult to access housing provided by the Council.
On the MOD Referral Scheme, singles and couples are just as likely to be housed as families because applicants are chosen by their suitability for the type of property offered by the Housing Association.
The JSHAO and the MOD Referral Scheme have no housing stock, no internal connections with Local Authorities and unfortunately there is no guarantee that applicants will be housed through the Scheme.
All applicants are strongly advised to contact their local authority and consider alternative housing options, in addition to applying for the Scheme, in order to maximise the chances of being housed. The scheme attempts to provide another route into Social Housing, not replace such actions as directly contacting local authorities.
Service leavers with families, and separated spouses with children, may also wish to contact the Services Cotswold Centre, which offers temporary accommodation.
Information, advice and hostel accommodation is also available from SSAFA Forces Help. Single Service Leavers should contact SPACES (Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex-Services), who may also be able to help. Details for these Associations can be found on our website.
Additionally, for those who would benefit from adapted and sheltered (both supported and unsupported) accommodation, this type of housing is accessible through the Scheme. Please contact JSHAO on 07814 612120 or email RC-Pers-JSHAO-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.
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09 LAUNCHPAD: a perfect transition solution
If you are looking to settle in the Newcastle area upon leaving the Army, then Avondale House could be the solution.
It provides the perfect environment for a responsible transition to civilian life, especially as public and private sector organisations in Newcastle are helping resident veterans and their families to find jobs, houses, training and other support, as required. Click here for further information.
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10 Looking to settle in Scotland? Military Matters can help
Military Matters is a specialist housing advice project that is open to all members of the Army community: serving, veterans and family.
The Service they offer is available free of charge to anyone interested in living in Scotland.
Their focus is Scotland simply because they are funded by the Scottish Government and Poppyscotland but you don’t have to currently live in Scotland to use their Service.
Their small team of Housing Advice workers spend time getting to know your individual circumstances and then produce a tailored advice report which provides information and guidance on what options you may wish to consider, and also the options that may not be suitable.
The focus is very much about home ownership rather than social renting, and for that reason, the team know about current incentives such as the Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme and the Scottish Governments Low Cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (LIFT) Schemes.
They do still work closely with colleagues in the veteran’s social housing sector, so if this is something that suits your circumstances, they can help to signpost you to the right place.
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11 Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme
The Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme is an advance of salary scheme, which is available to help Service personnel who want to buy their first home and to enable the option to self-build amongst eligible Service personnel. Click here to find out more.
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12 Applying for a mortgage: have you been disadvantaged by being in the military?
As part of the consultation on the Armed Forces Covenant, AFF has been included in discussions with ministers regarding improving access for Service personnel to housing, both private and social, for those leaving the Services or for those who simply do not wish to live in military provided accommodation.
The Housing Minister, Grant Schapps, said; ‘.……until now we’ve had a mad situation where living on a base or serving abroad has disadvantaged people in the Armed Forces applying for a mortgage. So the Government will also be working with credit reference agencies and Royal Mail to ensure that this is no longer the case.’
AFF would like to hear from families who have experienced difficulties in obtaining a mortgage because of a poor credit history due to credit reference agencies failing to recognise BFPO addresses abroad, or because of constant changes of address on posting. Please email your feedback to AFF at email@example.com
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13 Selling your own property - Have you thought about Capital Gains?
Several families have approached AFF, concerned that they are looking to sell a property that the non-serving spouse bought prior to their marriage and will have to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on any profit.
AFF is not a financial advisor and we strongly recommend that anyone selling a property talks to their local Tax Office to get advice which relates to their specific situation. Having contacted HMRC for clarification, the basic principle is laid out below:
When a property is sold, any profit made is called Capital Gains and, over a certain threshold, is taxable. Dependent on the owner’s circumstances, certain reliefs may be given to reduce the amount of tax payable.
HMRC has confirmed that if the owner has to move to live in “job-related accommodation” in order to be with the serving spouse that they will not lose their entitlement to Private Residence Relief (PRR).
PRR means that, so long as it has been your only home and that you have only used it as your home, that you will pay no CGT. However, if you have rented your house out then this period of time will be taken into consideration in the calculations.
Note: According to HMRC advice, signing a license to occupy means that SFA/SSFA is not in fact a ‘residence’ for PRR purposes at all, and if that is the case and the owner has no further residences other than the property he/she owns, then it will not be necessary to nominate that property as the main residence for PRR purposes.
So, if you have lived in SFA, own a house that you intended to move back into at some time, and have never let it out, and sell it, you will pay no CGT. If you have let it out, if you own more than one property or if you have privately rented at any time then these factors will affect your relief and you may have some CGT to pay.
If you have any doubts, contact your local Tax Office for more information.
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14 Bedroom Tax
Whether or not a member of the Armed Forces lives at home with their parents is a matter for the local authority (LA) to decide based on all the available facts. Click here for more information.
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15 The Services Cotswold Centre - a temporary housing solution
If you have been the subject of emergency evacuation from overseas or you are in transit between postings, retiring, or you have welfare housing issues; the Services Cotswold Centre at Corsham provides a secure, affordable, place to stay.