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Explanation of rent and service charges from 5 April 2021 for flats

This year your basic rent will be increased by Consumer Price Index (CPI), as at 1 September, of 0.5% plus 1%. We fully understand that any increase to your rent will not be good news as these are unpreceded times with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on households.

We have carefully considered the rent increase and we believe that in order to deliver our commitments as set out in the Corporate Plan we need to maximise the money we receive from rents and apply the increase. If we keep your rent as it is, we are unable to deliver our commitments and would have to make some tough choices such as build less properties or not build at all or to invest less and to do less in your neighbourhoods. We have ambitions to protect our assets and neighbourhoods and to plan for future generations of your families who choose to live in Stevenage and our homes.

There may be an increase to your service charges and water charges unless you have a water meter. The water charge increase is calculated by the water company and sent to us each year in February.

Service charges may increase but the same CPI formula will not apply. We set service charges in line with our Rent and Service charge setting policy. The policy states that we will set charges appropriately to cover the cost of providing the service to you.

The council letter notifying you of the changes to your rent amount will provide you with a detailed breakdown of any service or water charges and shows you the total amount due for your home.

Your total rent payments

The total amount you are required to pay each week is calculated by adding together the basic rent charge and water charges for the whole year. The total is then divided into 50 equal payments. This amount is the weekly rent we charge for you to live in your home. Your rent is payable weekly in advance, each Monday. This allows for two rent catch-up weeks each year.

The rent catch-up weeks give you the opportunity to catch-up with your payments if you owe rent. The rent catch-up weeks are the last week in December 2021 (week beginning the 27 December 2021) and the last week in March 2022 (week beginning the 28 March 2022). If you do not owe rent, you do not need to pay rent on either of these weeks.

If you pay your rent by direct debit your payments are calculated on a monthly basis; therefore we will collect the monthly payment as usual in December 2021 and March 2022. You do not need to do anything.

Basic rent

This is the weekly amount you pay for landlord services, including basic repairs and improvements to your home. This varies from property to property and the set weekly amount is in your Formal Notice of Rent Changes letter.

Management fees

A few of our properties are charged a management fee. The management fee (where applicable) is calculated using the actual costs of providing and delivering essential and obligatory services in flat blocks by an appointed management agent.

Changes to service and other charges from 5 April 2021

If you live in a flat block, or your home is attached to an independent or Flexicare housing scheme, your charges include a contribution towards the upkeep of the communal areas of that building. These charges apply whether you use the communal areas or not.

These charges will be shown separately on the rent notice. The charges will reflect the actual cost of providing the service.

Services covered 

Chargeable Service What it covers
Caretaking and cleaning services Cleaning of communal areas, removal of fly tipping, etc.
Communal block repairs This charge covers repairs to communal areas in flat blocks. This includes items such as communal glazing or repairs to handrails
Communal block electrics The cost of the electrical supply for communal lighting
Water charges Included in your rent notification
Grounds maintenance Grass cutting, weeding shrub beds and clearing litter in landscaped and communal areas around blocks of flats and independent / flexicare schemes
Window cleaning service charge Covers the cost of providing communal window cleaning
Estate service charge This charge covers the cost of repairs, estate lighting, ground maintenance and cleansing of the areas and roads around your flat block
Heating charge Communal heating fuel supply costs (often in sheltered schemes / tower blocks)
Equipment usage charge An amount collected for use when equipment, such as door entry system is in need of repairs or replacement
Support charge (optional) To provide a Specialist Housing Officer after April 2021 to offer help, support and advice alongside emergency assistance and when required
Careline charge (optional) Covers the cost of the Careline alarm service
Community Support Charge (optional) Covers the cost of the visiting and support service provided by supported housing officers
Pest control Covers the cost of dealing with pest infestation in communal areas
Management fee Covers the inclusive costs of providing and delivering essential and obligatory services in flat blocks by an appointed management agent

Special Purpose Equipment (SPE) Service Charge

We will be implementing a new ‘Special Purpose Equipment Service Charge’ during the summer of 2021. This charge is for equipment that has been specifically requested to be installed for or on behalf of the tenant, their family or registered occupant of the property. This includes stair-lifts, hoists, through floor lifts, platform lifts, step lifts, rise & fall sink/basin units, scooter stores, shower toilets, automated garage / window / door entry systems etc.

The SPE service charge will go towards the service, maintenance and repairs of the equipment. Tenants will not be charged for the equipment itself or the costs associated with installing it.

This new Service Charge will not apply to ‘Special Purpose Equipment’ fitted for Children (under 16) or certain young people (aged 16 - 20) and, where this service charge does apply, will only be charged for a maximum of 2 items per property.

You may be able to claim additional Housing Benefit to cover all or part of this new service charge or you may already be in receipt of payments allocated for any such charges through their Universal Credit, PIP, ESA, Attendance Allowance or DLA benefit, if not the Council may be able to assist with advice or applying for these benefits.

If the new SPE service charge applies to you, we will be in contact with you shortly.

Housing Benefit and Universal Credit

How do these changes affect my housing benefit and Universal Credit Housing cost claim?

If you claim benefit, the heating charge and water charge are not covered by housing benefit and Universal Credit Housing cost. You are required to make these payments yourself.

I claim Universal Credit: will I have to re-apply and will this result in weeks of delays in my rent being paid and accumulating rent arrears?

We appreciate that completing a Universal Credit claim can be very stressful and facing weeks of delays for any benefit payment is something we want to avoid. Please be assured you will not have to complete a brand new claim with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Once we write to inform you of the new rent you will simply need to inform them of this via the DWP portal after the rent increase has been applied. It is important that you do this before 5 April 2021 as we will then be asked to verify the increase on the landlord portal.

What if Universal Credit doesn’t cover the rent increase?

If your Universal Credit allowance isn’t increased to cover the additional rent increase, we strongly recommend that you make an appointment to see one of our specialist Welfare Benefits and Debt Advisors who can help you budget for the increase.

Where can I get some debt and budgeting advice from?

We have a dedicated specialist money and debt advice team working alongside the rent/income team who are trained to ensure you have maximised your benefits, help you manage your finances and support you through changes in circumstances. We encourage you to take advantage of this service.

Garage rents

If you rent a garage, you will be notified separately about any change in the standard garage rent charge. Please see our garages pages for more information.

Council Tax

Your council tax is paid separately to your rent. Any changes to your council tax will be sent to you separately. You will receive this during March 2021. If you are in receipt of UC Housing costs and housing benefit, you may be  eligible for Council Tax support, please contact the Benefit services on 01438 242875 or email: revenues@hertspartnership-ala.gov.uk.