Rent, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit and Service Charges
Paying your rent is your main responsibility as a Sanctuary Housing resident. It is important that you pay your rent and any other charges on time, in line with your tenancy agreement.
Your rent is calculated according to six factors:
- The size of your home
- The location of your home
- The date you first let your property
- Your tenancy agreement
- Laws laid down by Government
- Whether your home is classed as social housing or affordable rent.
Sanctuary owns and manages social and non-social housing properties that are available to rent. The type of rent you pay will depend on your property and your tenancy agreement or lease.
Social Housing Rents
- Formula/Target Rent - Introduced by the government in 2001. It is calculated using a formula based on local income levels and the property’s relative value and number of bedrooms
- Affordable Rent - Introduced by the government in 2011. It is calculated based on 80 per cent (inclusive of eligibility for housing benefit service charges) of the market rent of an equivalent property
- Fair Rent - Tenants with fair rent protection will be charged the lower of formula rent or the rent set by the Valuation Office Agency (Rent Officer).
Non-Social Housing Rents
- Intermediate Rent – This is calculated at a rate higher than social rent, but lower than market rent
- Shared Ownership Rent - Buyers purchase a share of the property and pay rent on the remainder
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 or modernise your home or to build new social housing.
The rent you pay changes in line with inflation each year. The full details are set out in your tenancy agreement.
- Who will amend my Direct Debit for rent changes?
We will advise your bank of any changes to your rent.
- Who will amend my Standing Order if my rent changes?
You will need to contact your bank to make any changes to a Standing Order
- I receive Housing Benefit. What do I do about rent increases?
Please send a copy of the rent increase letter you receive to your Local Authority Housing Benefit section. We will also let the Housing Benefit department know about any changes.
In recent years there have been a number of changes to how housing benefit is awarded. These changes may have an impact on the amount of benefit you can claim and may mean you are no longer able to afford the property you want to rent or are currently renting. You should seek advice immediately if any of the welfare reform changes are affecting your ability to pay your rent.
Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds
Since 1 April 2017, some 18 to 21 year olds claiming Universal Credit are no longer entitled to help with housing costs.
The change only applies in Universal Credit full service areas. The following 18 to 21 year olds are still able to get help with their housing costs:
- Those receiving Universal Credit housing costs prior to 1 April 2017 until they move off Universal Creditor cease to claim those housing costs
- Certain vulnerable residents
- Those unable to live with their parents
- Those claiming as a couple
- Those who are not subject to all work-related requirements for receiving Universal Credit
- Those who are in work, subject to minimum earnings
- Those who have recently left work, subject to minimum earnings (In this case the help is available for a limited period)
Young people on Housing Benefit are not affected unless they stop claiming Housing Benefit, then at a later date make a claim for housing support through Universal Credit.
More information can be found at: www.gov.uk/guidance/housing-costs-for-18-to-21-year-olds (this link will open in a new window).
If your home is considered too large for you under the new Government rules, you will have your Housing Benefit cut if you have a bedroom that you are not using. The new rules allow one bedroom for:
- A couple
- A person who is 16 or older
- A child
- Two children of the same gender until their 16th birthday
- Two children of different genders until their 10th birthday
- A child who cannot share a room due to disabilities (and is receiving relevant benefits)
- Each member of a couple who cannot share due to disabilities (and at least one member is in receipt of relevant benefit)
- A person who stays overnight to provide care (to a person receiving a relevant benefit)
What will you lose?
One spare bedroom - 14% of your eligible rent is cut from your Housing Benefit
Two or more spare bedrooms - 25% of your eligible rent is cut from your Housing Benefit.
In Autumn 2016, the benefits cap was reduced. If you live in Greater London, the cap was reduced to £23,000 for couples with/without children and to £15,410 for single people without children. If you live elsewhere in the country, the cap was reduced to £20,000 and £13,400 respectively.
The benefits included in the cap are: Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.
If these benefits total more than the yearly allowance, then Housing Benefit is reduced to bring your income under the cap. This is equal to £442.31 per week for couples/families living in Greater London and £384.61 per week for couples/families living elsewhere in the UK.
Please contact your local Income Officer for details regarding exemptions to the Benefit Cap.
For more information about the benefit cap changes, visit the GOV.UK website (this link will open in a new window).
Universal Credit is a new single benefit for working-age people. It replaces means-tested benefits, such as:
- Income support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Tax credits
- Housing Benefit
Universal Credit will be paid monthly in arrears to only one member of the household unless certain exceptions apply. You will be expected to manage a budget and pay rent costs direct to your landlord. It is expected that a claim will be in payment after 6 weeks of making it.
Universal Credit will mainly affect working age people, however for mixed age couples; where one partner is of working age and the other has reached Pension Credit qualifying age, they will have to claim Universal Credit rather than Pension Credit.
Universal Credit is being rolled out gradually across the country and is expected to cover all benefit claims by 2018. View Gov.UK's Universal Credit and You factsheet publications.
How do I make a claim?
Claims for Universal Credit can only be made online in one session. Therefore, it is important to have all the relevant information to hand before you start the application process as claims cannot be saved for a later date.
Your Universal Credit or Housing Benefit claim is your responsibility.
If you are claiming or being paid Universal Credit 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.
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 a copy of your rent review 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.
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, lifts, etc. plus 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. If applicable to your property, a service charge schedule is 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.
However, the position may change, for example, if there are new contractors or if new services are introduced. The starting point for our estimate is what we have 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.