Your home

Your home

Here you will find information about your tenancy or lease, gas safety, reporting a repair, the handyperson service and the council's plans for home improvements.

Your home

We are committed to offering you choice when looking for your new home.

Homefinder

Northumberland Homefinder is Northumberland County Council’s housing allocation service. It is a partnership between the council, Bernicia, Isos and Four Housing.

Anyone aged 16 or over can apply to join the housing register however, if you have rent arrears with your current or a former landlord, have committed anti-social behaviour or are subject to immigration control, you may not be able to access housing through this scheme. First you will need to be registered with the service. You can complete an application form online or obtain one from any of our offices.

If you need help to complete the application form or have any queries, you can contact Northumberland County Council on 0345 600 6400.
Locations

Council properties are available in the following areas of Northumberland:

Alnwick

  • Acklington
  • Alnmouth
  • Alnwick
  • Amble
  • Elsdon
  • Embleton
  • Felton
  • Glanton
  • Harbottle
  • Hauxley
  • Lesbury
  • Longframlington
  • Longhoughton
  • Netherton
  • Newton-by-the-Sea
  • Powburn
  • Rothbury
  • Shilbottle
  • Thropton
  • Togston
  • Warkworth
  • Whittingham

Blyth

  • Avenues
  • Bebside
  • Benridge/Cottingwood
  • Blyth Street
  • Bob Elliot House
  • Bolam Avenue
  • Bowes Court
  • Brockwell Court
  • Chamberlain Street
  • Collingwood Grange
  • Cowpen
  • Cowpen Farm
  • Cowpen Quay
  • Crofton
  • Delaval/Marlow
  • East Cramlington
  • East Hartford
  • Eastfield Lea
  • Eastfield grange
  • Hall Close Glade
  • Hodgson Road
  • Holywell
  • Isabella
  • Lanercost Park
  • Lilac and Laburnum
  • Links View
  • North Farm
  • Nye Bevan House
  • Park View
  • Mayfield:
    – Dale
    – Glade
    – Grange
  • Nelson Village
  • New Delaval
  • New Hartley
  • Newsham
  • Patterson House
  • Poets/Newsham Road
  • Seaton Sluice
  • Seaton Delaval
  • Seghill
  • Shipyards Flats
  • Solingen
  • South View
  • Sunnyside
  • Wansbeck
  • West Court
  • West Bourne
  • Wheatridge

Allendale

  • Denefields
Mutual exchange
If you are already a tenant, another way of moving house is by swapping homes with another tenant – this is called a mutual exchange. 

You can apply for a mutual exchange online at the HomeSwapper website.

Once you have registered, you will be able to view matches online and HomeSwapper will send you emails with details of suitable exchange partners.

If you do not have access to the internet, HomeSwapper will send you details of suitable exchange partners via your mobile phone or you can contact us for assistance.

This document will provide you with more information.

For more information about mutual exchange, call Shannon Parker on 01670 542424.
Making improvements to your home
If you would like to make changes to, or improve your home (apart from decorating), you must get our written permission first, before any work starts.

Examples of improvements are: 
  • Fitting a new kitchen, bathroom, shower, gas fire or heating system.
  • Installing electrical sockets or new light fittings
  • Fitting a new front door or windows
  • Painting the outside of your home
  • Putting up a shed or greenhouse, or making a driveway or pavement crossing
  • You cannot Artex your walls or fix polystyrene tiling to your ceilings
For a full list go to our Tenant Improvement Guidelines 

If you do undertake any improvments to your home, you will be responsible for maintaining new fixtures and fittings for 12 months. If your improvements were done by a private contractor they will normally be covered by a guarantee or manufacturer's warranty.

If you leave your home, you will be able to remove the new fittings, but we will charge you the full cost of putting the property right if you do not leave it in its original condition.

You can apply for our permision by downloading a Home Improvement Application Form. Once complete hand it in to your nearest customer information centre. If you have any problems please contact us on (0345) 600 6400.

If permission is granted, we will consult with you and let you know if there are any health and safety issues and whether any of the work requires special approval such as planning permission, or building regulations. If we need to discuss it with you further, we will make an appointment with you.
If we refuse permission, we will give you an explanation why. Usually permission is only refused if we consider the work would make the property unsafe or devalue it.


Compensation for Improvements

All tenants have the right to compensation for improvements to their home (if they were started on or after 1st April 1994) when you leave your property. We will tell you at the time of application whether you qualify and will visit you during your 4 week notice period to give you advice and help towards your claim. You are unable to get compensation if you are buying your home through the Right to Buy scheme.

You can claim compensation for the cost of materials such as fixtures and fittings and reasonable labour costs. Compensation does not cover appliances such as cookers or fridges, or you own labour costs. Only improvements for which you have our full permission can be compensated.

You can claim a minimum of £50 and up to a maximum of £3,000 for each improvement you make. We may deduct money owed to us when your tenancy ends.

We can refuse your claim if you claim for an improvement you haven’t made, or claim for more than the correct amount.

If we refuse your claim, you have the right to appeal and should get advice from a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau
 
 
 

Your tenancy

All new tenants receive a visit from a neighbourhood liaison officer within two weeks of moving in. This is to check that they have settled in and there are no problems.

At the visit we will fill in a form, covering issues such as rent, repairs and housing benefits. There will be time for the new tenant to ask questions and find out about the services we provide.

Tenancy services
Many residents have reason to contact us on matters regarding their tenancy, whether this is to give notice to terminate a tenancy, to inform us of the death of a family member, or any other change in their personal circumstances. 

On any of these matters we encourage tenants to contact us for help and assistance at the earliest opportunity.

Tenants of Northumberland County Council can also join the national mutual exchange scheme if they wish to move to another part of the country.

This is called HomeSwapper and this service is free of charge. For more information, go to the section above.
Breaches of tenancy
Every tenant must agree to a set of terms and conditions while living in a council property.

The housing team deal with many different forms of breaches of tenancy, including subletting and unkempt gardens. All reports are dealt with within set timescales.

For antisocial behaviour complaints you can contact the antisocial behaviour intervention officers on 01670 542424.
Garage lettings
We hold waiting lists for a number of sites across the areas we work in. Garage waiting lists are reviewed every year. Letters are sent to each applicant to see if they wish to remain on the list. If applicants fail to respond to these letters they may lose thier place on the waiting list.
Furniture packs
We can supply furniture to tenants to help them set up their homes. The service is available to tenants when they first take a tenancy or existing tenants.

The furniture is supplied in exchange for a weekly payment that is added to your rent. Those who have a furniture pack may be eligible for help in paying the charge through housing benefit.
Supporting residents
We work in partnership with a number of agencies to meet the needs of vulnerable tenants and make referrals where necessary to these agencies who offer different types of support.

We also administer a support directory for use by staff and residents which contains contact details of these agencies and the support they offer.

Your lease

A leaseholder is someone who owns a lease and does not own the land around their home or the building that their home is in.

If your home is a flat or maisonette, it is part of a larger building which is divided into individual units. There will usually be another property above, below or next to yours, but still within the same building.

In a flat or maisonette each property is not independent, they may share a roof, foundations, entrance halls and stairs.

Northumberland County Council owns the land and the building that your home is in and is the freeholder of your building. They are required to maintain the exterior of the building and any common areas.

You must pay towards the costs of managing and maintaining your block, estate and grounds – this means that you will be charged for any repairs carried out to the structure or communal areas of your building.

For further information contact Marie Bradley, Leasehold Services Officer, on 01670 622906 or email marie.bradley@northumberland.gov.uk. Her usual working hours are Tues-Thurs 10am-5pm. 

What is the lease?
The lease is a legally binding contract. When you purchase your flat or maisonette through the Right to Buy scheme,  you buy the right to live there for between 99 and 125 years.

If you buy your home on the open market, the seller will  transferred their rights and responsibilities to you under the lease for the rest of its term, Including the agreed service charges. The length of the lease reduces over time from the date when it was originally granted.

The lease sets out the relationship between the landlord and the leaseholder and details each parties rights and obligations.

The lease is between you, the leaseholder, and the landlord Northumberland County Council.

It contains similar conditions to the tenancy agreement for our tenants, to make sure that the actions of residents do not cause a nuisance to others or cause damage to the building.
Terms of your lease – roles & responsibilities

Your responsibilities

You must:
  • pay the ground rent, service charges and major works costs, when requested
  • keep your home in good repair and condition and maintain any garden which you are responsible for
  • not do anything which might cause damage, be a nuisance or disturbance to other residents in your building, or neighbouring buildings
  • not make any structural alterations or additions unless you have permission, in writing, from us first
  • allow us into your home to carry out repairs to your flat or other parts of the building, or to neighbouring properties
  • take responsibility for any overflows
  • not put up a TV aerial or satellite dish outside your home or on the building
  • not use your home for running a business
  • not leave your property empty for more than 30 days
  • tell us if you are going to sublet your property

Our responsibilities

We are responsible for the main structure of the building, the shared parts and any shared services to your building or estate. These will depend on where you live and the type of property in which you live, but may include:
  • outside walls
  • inside structural walls
  • roofs, foundations, timbers, joist beams, chimney stacks, gutters, rainwater and soil pipes
  • window frames
  • lifts
  • door entry systems
  • estate lighting
  • block lighting (entrance halls, stairways etc)
We must:
  • send out annual service charge invoices
  • arrange the buildings insurance for your property and recharging the premium as part of the annual service charge
  • carry out all external repairs, maintenance and major works and recharge a share of the cost of this work to you
  • leasehold service charges
Service charges
Service charges are your share of the costs of services provided by us to your block. What you pay for depends on the location of the property and the different services provided to the building you live in. 

The service charge is based on our financial year, which runs from 1 April to 31 March. You will receive your estimated service charge invoice in March/April, which covers what we think your share of the cost of services will be for the coming year.  When you receive your estimated service charge invoice you need to pay this in full, or a payment plan needs to be arranged. Please contact your Leasehold Service Officer on 01670 622906 to arrange this.

Around September, we will send you your actual cost, from the previous year. This will show the difference between you estimated cost and the actual cost. Your account will be adjusted to reflect this.

Why do I pay an estimate?
We have to charge an estimate because we do not know in advance how much the cost of providing the services will be.  Some charges, for example, routine repairs, are difficult to predict because we do not know what repairs will need to be carried out, how many or how often.
If the estimated charge was more than the actual charge, we will put a credit on your service charge account for the difference. If the estimated charge is less than the actual charge, we will put a debit on your account which will need to be paid for.

The costs are shared equally among all the flats in the block. For example, if there are 10 flats in your block and seven of them are rented to council tenants and the other three are leaseholders, each leaseholder will pay a tenth of the cost and we will pay seven-tenths for our tenants.

What happens if my account is in credit?
Any credit will stay on your account; it will be offset against your estimated invoice when it is issued the following year. Alternatively you can request a refund.

Payments

How long do you allow me to pay?
You must pay within 10 working days of issue of your invoice. 

I can’t afford to pay. 
Payment plans can be arranged through your Leasehold Service Officer.

What will happen if I don’t pay?
If your invoice is not paid on time recovery action will be taken. If you are struggling with debts please tell us. It is important not to ignore the situation as non-payment is taken seriously and could result in a Court Judgement against you and loss of your home.

For more information on leaseholder service charges click here
Buildings insurance for leaseholders
We arrange the buildings insurance cover under a blanket policy for all our leasehold properties. It is a condition of your lease that we arrange the buildings insurance cover.

The insurance runs from 1 April to 31 March and the premium is based on the cost of rebuilding your flat. This is called the sum insured and is different from the market value.

If you sublet your flat or leave it empty for more than 30 days you must let us know as this could affect your insurance cover, it could make your policy invalid if you were to make a claim. Please contact your Leasehold Service Officer for a sublet form on 01670 622906 or download a copy here.

From April 1 2017 the policy is with Zurich Municipal policy number OLA-08U006-0013

Many leaseholders believe that the council automatically insures their furniture, belongings and decorations against fire, theft, vandalism or water damage such as burst pipes – this is not the case.  We strongly advises all leaseholders to take out household contents insurance.

To read our insurance policy click here
Repairs, maintenance & improvements

Who is responsible for repairs?

You are responsible for decoration and for repairs to all fixtures and fittings inside your home, for example, heating systems, kitchen and bathroom fittings, and doors and door frames.

We are responsible for repairs and maintenance to the structure of your home.

Any repairs that have been carried out to your flat or the building will be charged for and included on your actual service charge invoice for that year.

Repairs that we are responsible for:

  • roofs, drains, gutters and pipes on the outside of your home
  • outside entrance doors (but not the front doors of individual flats)
  • window frames and sills (not including glass)
  • outside paint work
  • paths and steps (back and front)
  • boundary fences (except some where you or a neighbouring owner are responsible)
  • chimneys and chimney stacks
  • stairs and landings
  • garages and outbuildings, including drying area
  • installations, fixtures and fittings
  • shared water pipes, water tanks, gas pipes and electrical wiring
  • light fittings in shared areas
  • controlled door entry systems
  • decorations in shared areas
  • central heating system or hot water where you do not have your own independent system
  • exterior brickwork
  • lifts
Repairs that you are responsible for:
  • All repairs to the inside of your flat, including your front door, glass in your windows and all fixtures and fittings, any boundaries marked with a ‘T’ on your lease plan.
  • If you have gas heating appliances you are responsible for getting them serviced annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. We also require a copy of your certificate as proof of completion. NCC offer this service to Leaseholders £45.00 + Vat.
Subletting
You can rent out your home to someone else, but you will remain responsible for the property. You must tell us the arrangements and give us an alternative correspondence address for you as well as details and contact number for your tenants in case of an emergency.

The insurance company need to be informed of any changes failure to do this could make a claim invalid. If you have a mortgage, it may be a condition of your mortgage, to get permission to let your home.

To inform us of a change you can download our subletting form here or contact your Leasehold Service Officer on (01670) 622906.

You are still responsible for payment of your annual service charges as well as making sure your tenants behave and do not cause a nusiance to neighbours.

If you sub-let your flat and it has any gas appliances in it, the Gas Safety (Installations and Use) Regulations 1998 apply to you. As a landlord this means, that you have a duty by law to your tenants, to ensure that a gas safety check is carried out every year, and that your appliances are properly maintained. NCC require a copy of your certficate.

NCC offers a Gas Safety check to leaseholders for £45 +VAT. 
Selling your property
You can sell your property at any time. It is known as assigning the lease. If you bought your home under the Right to Buy scheme, you may need to repay all or part of the discount you received, should you sell in the early years after your original purchase.

You must also ensure that any prospective purchaser is aware of the leasehold nature of the property.

For more information on selling your home please read our FAQs 

Reporting a repair

If your repair is an emergency, please phone 01670 542424.

All other repairs will be prioritised according to their nature. For further information go to our repairs and improvements section above.

Gas safety

Homes for Northumberland directly employs its own gas engineers to ensure gas appliances in our properties are safe and efficient. Our gas engineers carry out periodic testing along with the regular safety tests as required by law.

Every year about 14 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues which have not been properly installed or maintained. Many others also suffer ill health.

We aim to provide an excellent gas safety service to our customers through our continuous programme of planned services and safety checks to prevent problems occurring.

What should I do if I smell gas?
  • Turn off your gas supply immediately.
  • Find the lever next to your meter and move it one quarter of the way round, either right or left, until the gas stops.
  • Once the gas has been turned off, open the windows and doors to let in plenty of fresh air.
  • Do not turn any electrical switches on or off, light matches or lighters, or smoke.
  • Immediately ring Transco on 0800 111999. They will come to your home within one hour and make it safe.
Your gas safety check
Because it is important to keep your gas appliances in perfect working order, we need you to be at home when our gas engineer calls to carry out your gas service.
What will happen during the safety inspection?
During the safety inspection we will service and repair all the gas appliances that we own in your property and identify any faults with your own appliances, such as your cooker.

You can then arrange to have any necessary repairs carried out.

Our engineer will explain what work has been carried out and get you to sign the gas safety certificate.

If any additional work is required which cannot be carried out during the service we will contact you to arrange a mutually convenient appointment to carry out the work.

Appliances that are serviced regularly are less likely to break down. Just think how inconvenient it will be if your heating system breaks down unexpectedly – no heating and no hot water.
Gas appliances
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 place a duty on landlords to make sure that appliances and flues are kept in good order and checked for safety at least once every 12 months.

Landlords must also keep a record of previous safety checks and issue the current record to the tenant.

Tenants moving into new accommodation should:
  • check that air vents are present, open and not blocked in rooms that have gas appliances
  • ensure that safety checks were carried by a ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer
  • not use any gas appliances which they think may be unsafe
  • not attempt do-it-yourself work on appliances
Solid fuel appliances
Solid fuel heating systems can also pose a danger from carbon monoxide poisoning if they are not serviced correctly.

Tenants should:
  • check that air vents are present, open and not blocked in rooms that have solid fuel appliances
  • check that chimneys and flues have been swept in the last year – even if burning smokeless fuel
  • ensure that ash has been emptied regularly – if ash is allowed to build up, the fire may not burn properly and this may also damage the appliance
  • have appliances regularly serviced by a qualified heating engineer
Responding to dangerous situations

Contact our customer services centre on 01670 542424 if you notice any of the above danger signs.

If you need to contact the gas service section to arrange an annual gas service, please contact them direct on 01670 623639, or if you have any concerns about gas safety in your home, please contact us on the number above or alternatively you can send a SMS text message to:
  • 07950 08 09 08 – Type the word Repairs and then your message.

Electrical safety

Electricity is everywhere in our homes, and it’s a very useful part of our lives. Yet it only takes one old or poorly wired plug to prove just how powerful it is.

The wires don’t even need to touch for a spark to jump and a fire to start. Don’t get too casual with electricity. Just because there’s no flame doesn’t mean there’s no fire risk.

Planning to carry out electrical work at home?
  • From 1 January 2005, people carrying out electrical work in their homes and gardens will have to follow the new rules in the building regulations.
  • The new rules have been introduced to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and fires caused by faulty electrical installations and to make it harder for ‘cowboy builders’ to leave electrical installations in an unsafe condition.
  • The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a helpful guide “New Rules for Electrical Safety in the Home”.
Dealing with electrical fires
  • The basic rule in fires is that you should put people’s safety above every other consideration. But if a fire has just started and hasn’t spread, you may be able to tackle it. With electrical fires, it’s vital that you do things right.
  • Pull the plug out or switch off the power at the fuse box. This may stop the fire immediately.
  • Smother the fire with a fire blanket, or use a dry powder.
  • Never use water on it.
  • If the room is filling with smoke get straight out of the building. The most common cause of deaths from fire is fumes or smoke. You can be affected extremely quickly.
Useful advice on what to be alert for, what to check and what not to do

Danger signs

  • Badly wired plugs – wire plugs correctly or, if in doubt, get a qualified electrician.
  • Use the right fuse – it is designed to stop overheating. If the wrong fuse is fitted and there’s a problem, a fire could occur.
  • Fraying power leads/repaired power leads – throw away damaged cables.
  • Overloaded sockets – if you plug too many appliances into an adaptor you could overload the socket.
  • Water near electrics – don’t let cables or plugs get wet.
  • Cables in vulnerable positions – don’t leave power leads where they can be tripped over.
  • Toaster – keep the toaster clean and away from curtains.

How many appliances are on?

  • At night how many of your appliances are using electricity?
  • Obviously the fridge and freezer, the clock on the cooker, the TV and video on standby, the alarm clock, the mobile being recharged.
  • How many are plugged into live sockets that don’t need to be? The stereo, the kettle, the radio, the computer - each one is connected to enough power to start a fire instantly.
  • At night, check your electrics and unplug any appliances that do not need to be on.
Electrical safety

Fires and heaters

Electrical heaters use a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat – treat them with great care.
  • Keep them clear of curtains and furniture.
  • Sit at least three feet (one metre) away.
  • Buy them from reputable shops.
  • Don’t dry washing on or near heaters, or on fire guards.
  • Don’t cover the air grilles of storage heaters, fan heaters and convection heaters.
  • Use a fireguard with a radiant fire, permanently if you have children. 

Electric blankets

Electric blankets cause more than 500 fires a year.
  • You should replace your electric blanket at least every 10 years.
  • Don’t fold electric blankets – it can damage the wiring.
  • Always follow the instructions.
  • Only leave a blanket switched on all night if it has thermostatic controls for safe all-night use.
  • Don’t get blankets wet, and if your blanket does get wet, don’t use it. Never switch it on to dry it.
  • If your blanket (or its flex) shows any danger signs, (scorch marks, exposed elements, worn flex, loose connections) you should have it checked or replaced.
For more information on electrical safety tips, click here.