Chorus Homes is sending out letters from the 10 February 2020 to many of our residents to inform them of their rent changes from April 2020.
For some residents, the letter will also include a ‘Notice for a Rent Increase’. This document will explain what the new rent and any service charge will be and what to do if you do not accept the increase. This document is called ‘Form 4’.
We want to help you understand the changes to your payments and help you to be ready for these changes. We appreciate you may have questions about the changes and have included below some of the questions that are asked most frequently by customers.
You can view the schedule of service charges by clicking here.
How are my charges calculated?
The amount you pay will depend on the type of tenancy and agreement that you have. If you are unsure, please check your tenancy or lease agreement.
Social housing (General Needs)
Social housing (General Needs) rent charges are regulated by the government. In April 2020, the government policy allows for charges to increase by a maximum of 2.7% (the September 2019 Consumer Price Index of 1.7% + 1%).
Affordable tenancy rents are set at 80% of the local market rent when a new tenancy is issued. These rents are also regulated by the government and can increase by a maximum of 2.7% in April 2020. If there are any chargeable services provided they are included within the overall rent.
Specialised supported accommodation and temporary accommodation There are exemptions to the government regulation for some tenancies such as specialised supported accommodation and temporary accommodation. For these, a very small number of customers will see an increase in their rent charge of up to 3.4% (the September 2019 Retail Price Index of 2.4% + 1%).
Other exceptions include customers living in some student accommodation, registered nursing care, care homes and refuge units.
Market rent, mortgage rescue and shared ownership
The rent review applied to market rent, mortgage rescue and shared ownership properties will be determined by the relevant clause within your lease or tenancy agreement. This will say what increase can be applied to the charges.
Garage & Car Park Bays Rents are reviewed in line with market conditions. This year rents for our garages and car park bays are being increased by 1.7%.
What are service charges?
Service charges are for services provided to you. They are affected by costs of employment, overheads and inflation rates. We do not make a profit on service charge costs.
Service charges may include ground maintenance, landscaping, cleaning communal areas, utilities (gas, electricity, water and telephone) fire safety equipment, lift maintenance, neighbourhood warden service, electricity for communal areas or communal window cleaning.
A service charge applies to all property types including houses and flats that receive a service. A full breakdown of the service charge, including costs will be included in your letter.
How is my service charge set?
The service charge you pay is based on how much these services cost us to provide to you. The cost is split between the residents who receive the services. We always aim to get the best value for money from our contractors and the way we manage the services provided.
I don’t think I receive the service you are charging me for?
You don’t need to have used the service for it to be available to you, for example, if you live on the ground floor of a block and don’t use the lift, you will still be charged for the upkeep and maintenance because the cost is split fairly between all residents in the block.
Why is my service charge less/more than last year?
The service charge is based on what it actually costs us to provide the services and facilities to your home. We always aim to get the best value for money from our contractors and the way we manage the services provided. As a result, the costs can sometimes increase or reduce and this saving is passed on to you.
Are service charges paid for by Housing Benefit?
For customers who receive financial assistance with their rent, service charges can be eligible for housing benefit (HBE) or ineligible for housing benefit (HBI) and only those charges eligible will be taken into consideration when assessing any entitlement you may receive.
If you receive housing benefit, the service charges will have been assessed in line with housing benefit regulations.
Are service charges paid for by Universal Credit?
For those in receipt of Universal Credit (which includes a housing cost element) there may be some variances to what is and isn’t an eligible service charge. If there is a query with any of your service charges eligibility you should refer to your Local Authority or Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) in the first instance.
What if I can’t afford to pay the new payment?
We want to support customers who may need help as a result of the changes to charges. Please contact our Income Recovery Team on 0345 266 9760 (selecting option 1).
Why are you increasing the rent on your properties?
Rent is our main source of income and helps to pay for maintenance, repairs, and housing management, as well as supporting us to continue investing in communities. Generating income from rent enables us to offer a range of housing, care and support.
Why has my rent charge gone down in previous years?
Social housing rent charges are regulated by the government. Between 2016 and April 2020 rent charges were reduced each year by 1% in line with government policy. Your charges may have still changed in previous years due to changes in service charges.
Why do I have a different charge to my friend/neighbour?
The total rent you pay will depend on the type of property and tenancy that you have. We have different property and tenancy types and tenancy start dates within the same areas. This will result in differences in rent charges where the properties and tenancy types are not the same. Your rent will be compliant with the terms on which the property was let to you.
Why have my personal or communal utility charges increased?
Annual charges are based on the usage taken from meter readings and allow for inflation and contract prices set by the utility companies.
Why do I have new charges?
This may be for an existing service not previously included in your service charge, or a new service requested by your local housing team to improve your communal services, for example, landscape improvements.
What is the administration charge for?
This is to cover management costs such as staff time, systems and offices in order to deliver the services provided. This is calculated at 15% of the total service charge.
What is the landlord’s contribution?
This is your landlord’s contribution towards the cost of your rent and service charges which has been agreed for the financial year 2020/2021.
I am a homeowner, why are charges included?
The following services are charged to homeowners
What are the benefits of paying my rent by Direct Debit?
For most people, paying by Direct Debit offers the easiest way to pay their rent on time. It is easy to set up and flexible as you decide the collection date and how often you pay (weekly, fortnightly, four weekly or monthly). You can decide. Please call our Income Recovery Team on 0345 2669760 (selecting option 1). If you pay your rent in full by Direct Debit and you are notified of a rent increase, you do not need to do anything, as the new amount is collected automatically.
I am claiming Universal Credit, do I have to inform them of the changes in the rent?
You must contact the Department for Work and Pensions and notify them of the changes to your rent and other charges.
I am in receipt of Housing Benefit, do I have to inform them about the changes to my rent?
If you receive Housing Benefit, you do not need to tell your local council about the changes to your rent. We will inform your local council about the changes to your rent. Once you have been notified about your new Housing Benefit entitlement award, if you still have any queries, please contact our Income Recovery team on 0345 266 9760 (option 1)
I’m worried about paying my rent. What should I do?
If you are having financial problems or money worries, please get in touch with us. This will make it easier for you to manage your situation. We will look at your individual circumstances to work out the best option for you.
You may be able to set up a payment plan so that you can pay off a small amount on a regular basis to help you clear your arrears. We can help you work out what will be a manageable amount for you to pay.
It is vital that you keep up with your rent payments, or you could risk losing your home. So please talk to us, if you are having difficulties. Please call our Income Recovery Team on 0345 2669760 (selecting option 1).
The following schedule is a full list of charges applicable to Chorus Homes properties.
Collecting Rent Services Charges Service Standard
Our purpose is to ensure income from all our tenures is maximised by delivering a proactive, customer focused and a performance driven service to our customers in the changing environment of Welfare Reform.