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Rent increase

As you may now know, from April, the amount of rent you pay as a Longhurst Group customer will increase. We appreciate that you may have a number of questions about this and so we’ve gathered together a list of queries and provided you with all the information you need to know.

Rent increase - your questions answered

Updated: 22 February 2022

Your questions answered

Why are you increasing my rent?

We understand that any increase to rent is not good news. However, like many other housing associations and in line with the guidance provided by the Government, we’ve taken the decision that we need to increase rents.

Customers who are affected by the increase have all been sent a letter which confirms what this means for them.

By how much are you increasing my rent and how have you calculated this?

In order to calculate the increase in rent, we have to use a formula which is set out by the Government and takes into account the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This is used to measure inflation by tracking the changes over time in the prices paid by consumers for goods and services, including housing. 

In line with Government legislation, rents will increase by up to CPI plus one percent for many of the customers that the rent increase affects.

However, for our Shared Ownership customers, the government formula is calculated using the Retail Price Index (RPI). This formula is up to RPI plus 0.5 percent.

Affected customers have been sent letters to confirm exactly how much this will be for them, depending on the kind of tenancy they have with us.

How will you spend the additional rent?

It’s really important to say that we are a not-for-profit organisation and therefore all money we generate is reinvested into our services and delivering our Improving Lives strategy. We rely on rents to help us maintain and invest in our homes and communities while providing additional support services.

Additionally, like many companies across the country, we’re under additional external pressures due to rising costs that are outside of our control.

We commit to providing a full breakdown of how we will spend your rent over the next 12 months. We’ll do this in our annual report which we’ll share on our website.

I pay a service charge, do the same increases apply?

Service charges may increase but the same formula of CPI plus one percent won’t apply. Please be assured that we will only set service charges in line with our service charge policy. The service charge cost will be based on the actual cost of the service last year.

What do I do if I can’t afford the increase?

As always, our priority is to support customers to sustain their tenancies and we want to help prevent rent arrears as much as you do. We have a team of highly-skilled and dedicated Money Advisors, who are trained to ensure you maximise your benefits, help you manage your finances and support you through any change in circumstance. Please take advantage of this service now to help you prepare well ahead of the rent increase. For more on our Money Advice Team, click here (longhurst-group.org.uk/money-advice), call 0300 123 1745 or speak to your Housing Officer or Scheme Manager, if applicable.

What if I refuse to pay?

We appreciate you might be unhappy with the proposed rent increase and consider refusing to pay. If you take this decision, unfortunately, it’ll result in rent arrears building up on your account and we’ll then have to take action to recover the unpaid rent that’s due which could mean that you lose your home.

We want to avoid this unnecessary situation as it may end up with you facing more debt and possibly legal fees, which would only make your financial circumstances more difficult. We’d really encourage you to speak to our Income Team to discuss your situation and to take advantage of our specialist Money Advice Team and contact one of our trained advisors using the details above to explore how they may be able to help you.

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?

No. Now that we’ve informed you of the new rent, you’ll need to inform them of this via the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) portal by updating your UC journal after the rent increase has been applied. It’s really important that you do this as soon as possible as we’ll then be asked to verify the increase. If we receive your housing benefit directly from the council, you must contact your local authority directly to inform them of the change.

If you need any support with this, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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 Money Advisors who can help you budget for the increase.

I don’t claim benefits; do I have to adjust my Direct Debit with my bank or will you do this automatically for me?

Don’t worry, your Direct Debit will be adjusted automatically – you don’t have to do anything.

What can you do to support me?

As well as our team of specialist Money Advisors – who are here to maximise your benefits, help you manage your finances and support you through any change in circumstances – we also have our in-house Employment and Skills Service and a wealth of resources on our Customer Wellbeing Hub.

The Hub, which is available on our website, features a wide range of resources that helps to support your financial wellbeing, including access to independent debt advice. Please visit longhurst-group.org.uk/wellbeing to find out more.

What changes are you making to address your current performance issues?

As we acknowledged in our recent communication to customers, we’ve been having some issues with our services which have meant that we’ve not been achieving the high standards we set ourselves in some really important areas, namely our repairs and maintenance services and how we’ve been responding to your enquiries.

However, we’ve been working hard to improve things and we’re pleased to say that we’re starting to see some improvement.

We’ve recruited more colleagues into our Customer Services Team and, as a result, our call handling statistics are improving and wait times are reducing.

However, we still have a significant number of outstanding repairs that need to be completed and we’re working closely with Mears, with the support of other contractors to resolve the issue.

We’re currently in the process of procuring a new contractor to deliver our repairs service, but in the interim, we’re pleased to say that we now have in place additional support from other contractors to bolster our continuing efforts to reduce the number of outstanding repairs.

We’re confident that the changes we’re making will help to get things back on track and ensure that you’ll receive a better standard of service in the near future.

If you have any further questions, please call 0300 123 1745.


Here to help

Money Advice Service

Did you know that we have a dedicated team of Money Advisors who are here to help if you’re struggling with your finances? Based across our operational area, the team work closely with our customers to ensure that they’re receiving the benefits they’re entitled to, properly tackling any debt they might have and provide additional support with budgeting.

Meet our advisors

While our advisors are spread across our operational area, depending on your circumstances, they will be happy to visit you at home, speak to you over the phone or arrange for you to visit one of our offices.

Pam Malhi

Pam Malhi - Money AdvisorPam is based at our Birmingham office.

Previously a Welfare Rights Officer at the local authority helping people claim benefits and challenge poor decisions, she became a Money Advisor after taking a secondment to the role from her job as an Income Officer at Longhurst Group.

In total, she has 23 years’ experience in welfare rights work.

Pam says she likes to approach each customer’s case as it comes, depending on individual circumstances.

Angie Noble

Angie is based at our Peterborough office.

She has been a Money Advisor with us for more than 13 years, having previously worked in Supported Housing. Angie prefers to meet customers on a face-to-face basis as she feels it has a more personal feeling and helps her to get to know the customer better. Angie is a firm believer that everyone needs help from time to time and that it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Some of the regular cases Angie comes across include issues with Universal Credit, sorting out new benefit entitlements following the death of a partner and dealing with a range of Housing Benefit enquiries.

Penny Jeffers

Penny Jeffers - Money Advisor

Penny joined Longhurst Group in November 2021 and has worked directly with tenants in housing for over 20 years.

Her roles have included Tenant Inclusion Officer, Welfare Reform Officer and Money Advisor. She is a qualified member of the Institute of Money Advisers (IMA).

Penny has significant experience both as a money advisor and a money coach, providing welfare benefits, budgeting and debt advice, guidance and support.

She enjoys helping customers to identify opportunities for maximising their income or reducing their outgoings, and supporting them with claims, appeals, and grant applications.

Penny aims to build a relationship of trust with customers, identifying the most appropriate solutions and breaking these into manageable bite-size chunks. Agreeing a way forward based on the customer's individual circumstances is key to success.

Penny also enjoys developing and delivering coaching on a range of money advice topics. Examples include switching energy suppliers, benefits for older people, healthy eating on a budget and Christmas on a budget, to name just a few.

Penny says the best part of her job is the satisfaction she gets from helping people to overcome their money worries and seeing them end up in a better place financially.

Penny would advise anyone with money worries to contact the Money Advice Team straightaway – you’d be surprised at the advice or guidance they are able to offer.

Stuart Dearden

Stuart is based at our Boston office.

He spent more than 20 years working for the Department for Work and Pensions, becoming increasingly disillusioned with the way the benefits system put obstacles in the way of those who needed the support.

He left the DWP and after some time with Citizens Advice, he joined Longhurst Group to take on a fresh challenge and to help improve lives.

Stuart believes in face-to-face meetings with customers and that by seeing them in their home environment helps to give him an idea of what matters to them and what their priorities are. He believes people are more relaxed and open in their own homes.

If this approach doesn’t suit a particular customer, Stuart is happy to talk over the phone but whichever way first contact is made, he is keen to build trust and show the customer that he is there to help them.

Stuart says many customers he sees experience difficulties with the benefit system, so a lot of his time is spent trying to pick a way through the problems of Universal Credit and PIP. This ranges from seeing if somebody is eligible to receive a benefit, right through to claims stages and challenging decisions.

He also helps customers sort out payment arrangements when they have fallen behind on their essential bills such as Council Tax or utility suppliers.

Stuart enjoys the feeling of helping to bring even a few extra pounds into a household so that they can manage life a little easier.

    

  Find out more

  Longhurst Group's free money advice service

  0300 123 1745
Press option 2 for the Income Team, then option 2 to speak to an advisor and ask for the Money Advice Team.

Employment and Training Advice

We can also provide you with tailored support if you are looking for work. With a background in recruitment and career advice, our Employment and Training advisor Rob Friday can help you with the steps you need to take to find work or education opportunities.

This can include training and work experience to suit your needs, as well as CV writing, interview practice and a range of tried-and-tested job-hunting techniques.


Counting cash

‘Money advisor worked miracles to improve my family’s lives’

Mum of two Lisa Anderson had heard so many scare stories about Universal Credit that she had avoided applying, meaning she and her family were living off just £80 a week and facing the very real prospect of losing their home. However, that all changed when she reached out to our Money Advice Service for help. From living on £80 a week, thanks to our help, the family’s income was boosted by an extra £277 a month.

  Read Lisa's story in full

“They’re miracle workers. “It’s really got us sorted and I can’t thank them enough. They genuinely do seem to care and it’s not just as though they’re doing it for a job. To anyone else in my situation, my advice would be to go for it.”

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