Coronavirus: Protecting tenants and staff and maintaining quality customer service Update
Following my communication to all tenants dated 27th March 2020, I have set out some further considerations to keep tenants informed of the current position as we continue to respond to Coronavirus.
- Our reception and offices remain closed to all customers and our staff are working from home
- We will continue to undertake emergency and essential repairs
- We will continue to carry out health and safety related works including gas servicing in line with Government advice
- We will continue to respond to customer calls, emails, letters, social media enquiries and texts and talk to you about your tenancy and provide any necessary support through our housing teams
- We are continuing to ask our customers to tell us know if they are self-isolating or have a confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) so that we can agree arrangements to deliver essential services safely
Over the last 2 weeks our Housing Teams have been contacting as many tenants as possible to offer advice and support where we can. During the coming weeks we will continue to expand on this contact with you.
When Albyn Housing staff contact you, they will always ask you a set of security questions related to your tenancy to ensure we are safeguarding your information.
Suspension of the planned rent increase from 01 April
I am pleased to confirm that the Albyn Board has decided that the planned rental increase of 2.7% notified to you on 25 February 2020 will be suspended until 30 September 2020. At that point, the Board will review the status of the suspension with reference to the circumstances at the time.
You are therefore required to pay the rent that was in place prior to this notification.
Service Charges will remain at the levels informed to tenants in the Yearly Review of House Charges – 1 April 2020 letter dated 25 February 2020. Charges may have been increased for some tenants in line with the agreement made following tenant consultation with the service charge levels being implemented from 01 April 2018. The 2020/21 year is the last year of this three-year commitment.
How we will implement the change
Your rent account will still be debited with the revised rental charge, but we will apply a credit equivalent to the 2.7% increase each month until the end of September 2020.
What you should do
You should pay your rent as normal but at the level in place prior to the notification of the increase.
- If you pay by Direct Debit, you should notify us if you want to change your payment
- If you pay by Standing Order you will need to amend your standing order amount directly with your bank
- If you pay by Allpay, you should pay the revised amount.
If you want clarification on the amount of rent that you are required to pay, please talk to your Housing team on 0300 323 0990 (North) or 0300 3230991 (South).
If you are in receipt of Universal Credit and claim housing costs you will only need to report a change in what you pay if you have a service charge and this has been increased. Our Customers Services Team have been trying to contact all our current tenants who have a claim for Universal Credit to let them know if they have to update their journal but if you are not sure what you need to do please get in touch so your claim can be updated as soon as possible.
If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit, we will be contacting The Highland Council to advise them of the changes, and you should receive an award letter shortly. If you were in receipt of full Housing Benefit, it is likely that your rent will continue to be paid in full. However, if you had to pay towards your rent you should continue to pay as before, and we will let you know if there is a change as soon as possible.
Tenant Hardship Fund
The Board also confirmed its decision to create a limited fund to support tenants in significant difficulties as a result of the coronavirus pandemic through a hardship fund.
This fund will provide £200,000 to support tenants most impacted by the effects of the pandemic.
The criteria for making an application to the fund and details of how you can apply are available by contacting your Housing Team either by email or phone:
North – firstname.lastname@example.org 0300 323 0990
South – email@example.com 0300 323 0991
The fund will make awards based on the merits of each application and provide support only where you meet the specified criteria set out in the application.
It is important to stress that the fund is limited and may not be able to support all of those who may need to access it.
Tenant Contact Details
During these challenging times, it is important that we have current and up to date contact details for all of our tenants. Where you have access to a mobile phone text number or an email address, we would encourage you to tell you Housing team if you have not already done so. This will make it easier for us to get regular communications out to you in a more efficient and effective manner due to the current lockdown.
During the past week, the team at Albyn have been working on a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) which have been provided to you as part of this update. They will also be available on the Society’s website for those with internet access.
I want to reassure all tenants that we are here to provide support and advice wherever we can to enable you to get through this period as smoothly as possible. If you have queries or questions in relation to your home or your rent, please contact your housing office team.
With best wishes
Chief Executive, Albyn Housing Society