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.
01 What next after SFA?
AFF understands how daunting the prospect of leaving military accommodation can be for many families after Service. In this section, we aim to provide you with information to ensure obtaining suitable housing for you and your family is as smooth as possible.
Whilst many families find that their last posting is away from their support network, it’s not always possible for them to move back to their preferred area for many reasons, while other families see it as an opportunity to put down roots in new locations, having moved regularly, and are looking for new adventures.
We are also aware that sometimes, leaving your SFA is due to other reasons, relationship breakdown, being discharged from the Army and a change in circumstances. This section provides information on all these situations and how to obtain relevant guidance from both AFF and outside agencies.
We would strongly advise that you start to look at your options at least three years before you are due to leave the Army, taking into consideration house prices for purchase or private rental, location, schooling at all stages, employment and potential commuting time for all members of the family.
Please look at our Transition page for more information.
If you have any questions regarding civilian housing, please contact our Housing team on firstname.lastname@example.org
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02 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, see gov.uk/government/publications/improving-access-to-social-housing-for-members-of-the-armed-forces/improving-access-to-social-housing-for-members-of-the-armed-forces.
Read AFF’s 2017 AFF brief.
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 email@example.com.
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 & Allowances team on firstname.lastname@example.org
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04 Advice on civilian housing
Service leavers and their families who need information on civilian housing options should contact Veterans UK’s Defence Transition Services (DTS) team.
Following a review carried out as part of the MOD’s Strategy for Our Veterans, the services provided by the Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) have been transferred to DTS, part of MOD’s Defence Business Services (DBS).
The JSHAO phone line is no longer in operation and emails to the JSHAO email address will be re-directed to DTS. The MOD Referral Scheme has also moved to DTS to administer.
DTS will also deliver virtual briefings to help Service personnel and their families understand what their accommodation options are once they leave Service.
How do I contact DTS?
If you need support and further information on civilian housing options, information and guidance is available on gov.uk. Alternatively, you can contact the DTS team via: DBSVets-DTS-Central@mod.gov.uk.
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05 Leaving SFA as a divorced spouse/separated civil partner
Despite recent changes as outlined above, AFF is aware that many councils currently don’t consider divorced spouses/separated civil partners to be part of the Armed Forces community and won’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.
If you are experiencing issues accessing social housing as a result of the above, contact AFF at email@example.com
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06 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, see gov.uk/government/news/help-to-secure-a-rental-home-the-mod-tenancy-deposit-loan-scheme
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07 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 DTS via email at DBSVets-DTS-Central@mod.gov.uk for more information.
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08 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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09 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, DTS 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 email DBSVets-DTS-Central@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 DTS 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 DTS via email DBSVets-DTS-Central@mod.gov.uk.
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10 LAUNCHPAD: a perfect transition solution
If you are looking to settle in the North of England 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 are helping resident veterans and their families to find jobs, houses, training and other support, as required. Read LAUNCHPAD – a perfect transition solution for further information.
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11 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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12 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. See our Military Allowances page to find out more.
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13 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.
Former 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 to email@example.com
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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. See our Money Matters page for more information.