Rent and service charge update

You may have heard in the news about rents for social housing being reduced by 1% per year for four years. If you were a tenant with us in April 2016, you will have already had a 1% reduction, and the rent statements issued in February 2017, will show your rent for April 2017 onwards as being reduced by a further 1%.

For one year only from April 2016, the rent of Sheltered (also known as retirement living), Extra Care and Supported properties was not reduced and instead received an increase in line with what is known as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which was -0.1%, plus 1%, which was the formula previously agreed with Government, meaning an increase of 0.9%. This exemption has now ended for most of these properties.

Rents

Your rent is worked out due to various different things including:

  • Where you live
  • The size of your property
  • The type of tenancy, for example secure tenancies issued pre Jan 1989 follow separate Valuation Office Agency guidance and have their rents reviewed every 2 years and any proposed changes have to be registered with the rent officer, who can determine what rent should be charged. The rents for these tenancies may change at a different rate to other tenancies.
  • The type of accommodation, for example whether it is general needs housing or specialist accommodation. Some properties that were newly let from November 2011 will be let on an affordable rent basis. This means that the rent and service charge calculated will be a percentage of the market rent at initial let.

As described above, your rent will depend on a variety of factors, including the calculation method at your tenancy start date. Your neighbour may have a different calculation and may pay different rent as a result.

The easiest way to think of the Consumer Price Index is as a very large shopping basket containing all the goods and services bought by households. The price index estimates changes to the total cost of this basket.

Your Housing Benefit claim is your responsibility. If we receive housing benefit direct from your Local Authority, we will also notify them of the change to your rent and service charge (where relevant).

However, you must always send your Local Authority Housing Benefit department, a copy of this letter to make sure they pay you the correct amount of Housing Benefit. You should talk to the Local Authority straightaway if you think you are getting the wrong amount of benefit. If you do not tell them about this change, you could lose benefit to which you are entitled or have to pay back any overpaid benefits.

If you are claiming or being paid Universal Credit then you must send the Department for Work and Pensions a copy of this letter to make sure they pay you the correct amount. If you do not tell them about this rent change, you could lose benefit to which you are entitled or have to pay back any overpaid benefits.

Your rent is used in the following ways:

  • To pay for repairs and maintenance (those which are the landlord’s responsibility);
  • To manage your housing service;
  • To pay for buildings insurance;
  • To repay money borrowed by Sanctuary Group to build new homes or modernise your or other people’s homes.

Service Charges

You pay a service charge if we provide you with services for the upkeep of communal areas such as gardening, window cleaning, door entry systems or lifts as well as an administration charge to cover the cost of managing these services.

We can provide you with details of the services and charges which apply to your property.  A service charge schedule is usually provided with your rent review letter.

Each year we set a service charge budget for each scheme or group of homes.

The budget is our estimate of what we expect to spend on the various services. The starting point for our estimate is what we have actually spent in recent years and what we anticipate the cost of the services will be in the year ahead.

We cannot know in advance the exact amount of money we will spend on your service in the next financial year. The routine charges are calculated using the last known actual charges, plus an allowance for inflation and known future costs.

If you disagree with any part of your service charge it is important that you contact us. You will need to tell us:

  • What part of the charges you disagree with for example ‘the non-contract maintenance to the door entry system’;
  • What amount you are disputing, for example ‘it cost £9.08’;
  • Why you are disputing it, for example ‘the block of flats I live in does not have a door entry system’.

With this information we will be able to investigate the issue(s) for you but it may take some time:

  • We will investigate your concerns;
  • We will give a full response;
  • If we agree with you, we will tell you what we are going to do to put things right.

Tell us if you are not happy about the services you receive by contacting our Customer Service Centre number printed on your rent letter. Please note that in order to obtain free phone rates, please use the ‘0300’ number from a mobile phone and ‘0800’ from a landline phone.

Supporting People

Supporting People funding provided by local authorities offers some people help to stay in their own home or in specialised schemes. The funding has been withdrawn by many local authorities, however where it is available, generally people that qualify for Housing Benefit do not pay support charges. The Supporting People team will need evidence that Housing Benefit has been awarded. Others may have to pay but can request what’s called a ‘fairer charging’ assessment.

Fairer Charging

This ensures that amounts charged for care and support reflects people’s income, including disability benefits and allow for disability related expenditure. The assessment will identify how much you can afford to pay.