Rent review 2023 - your questions answered
Updated: 14 March 2023
At the beginning of each financial year, we review our rents and service charges in line with the current rate of inflation.
After extremely careful consideration, to enable us to keep up with rising costs, we’ve decided that we need to increase rents and service charges for the year ahead. Given that inflation is currently so high, the increase to customers’ rent or service charge for 2023/24 is more than it’s been in recent years.
While this increase is below the current level of inflation, we understand that it won’t be welcomed by our customers, particularly given other cost of living challenges. However, with our costs rising all the time, and in line with the high rate of inflation, increasing our rents and charges is vital to ensuring we’re able to maintain and improve our homes and the services we provide.
How we can support you
We recognise that not all our customers will be affected by this increase in the same way. However, we have tailored support in place to help any customers who need it, regardless of their agreement with us.
So, if you’re a customer who’s worried about paying your rent or other service charges, we’d encourage you to get in touch with us to find out how we can help.
Mindful that not everyone will feel comfortable asking for help directly, we also have other options available, including a dedicated Cost of Living hub – which features a wealth of advice, hints, and tips – as well as further resources on The Hub, our customer engagement platform.
All affected customers have been sent personalised information packs which detail the changes and explain exactly what it means for them. Included in the pack are answers to questions customers are likely to have as well as a full explanation of service charges, where applicable.
We’ve also pulled together some answers to common questions below.
If you still have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling 0800 111 4013 and pressing option 2 to speak to our Income Team
Your questions answered
In the current circumstances, we understand that any increase to rent and/or other charges isn’t good news. However, as mentioned above, to enable us to keep up with rising costs, we need to increase rents and service charges for the year ahead.
Increasing our charges is essential to making sure that we, as a social housing provider, can continue to fulfil our responsibilities to keep our customers safe and secure, as well as continuing to provide – and improve – essential services, while also delivering more much-needed affordable housing.
All of the rent we receive from our customers is reinvested into our business. This helps us to maintain our homes, improve the services we provide and build more affordable housing. Much of the money we receive is spent on housing management costs and improving repairs and other key services. A proportion of our income is also spent on repaying loans from investors who’ve provided funding to help us to grow and deliver more homes. We’ll provide a more detailed breakdown of what we spend your rent on in our annual report, which will be published later this year.
In accordance with your lease, if applicable, you may be required to make service charge payments to cover the costs of services provided to you.
Your service charge is made up of several elements. Each element won’t increase at the same rate because it’s based on the actual cost of the services last year and the anticipated increase for the year ahead.
Regrettably, we’re continuing to face issues with our services which have meant that we’ve not been achieving the high standards we set ourselves in some key areas – namely our repairs and maintenance services and how we’ve been responding to your enquiries.
As you know, last year, we appointed three new contractors to deliver our voids and repairs service across our three geographic regions: Morgan Sindall Property Services in the east, Fortem Solutions in the south and Ian Williams Limited in the west.
While we’re seeing some signs of improvement, we’re still working through a significant backlog of outstanding repair jobs handed over by our previous contractor.
In addition to the appointment of the new contractors, we’ve also made several key changes to improve the service we deliver to you.
- Appointed Aaron Services as our group-wide heating, repairs, and installations contractor.
- Closer and more detailed management of our contractors to help us better monitor performance.
- Created a dedicated Repairs Contact Centre to handle repairs-related calls.
- Appointed more call-handling colleagues and expanded our Complaints Resolution Team.
- Created a dedicated Mould and Damp Team to focus specifically on repairs jobs relating to these issues.
- Introduced a queue position notification system on our phone lines to improve the customer experience when contacting us.
- Launched The Hub – our online customer engagement platform, where customers can have their say about the services we provide.
- Undertaken projects to make our homes more energy efficient, through partnership working with other organisations and grant funding initiatives.
We know it’s been a challenging few years and people are facing a range of financial pressures, including an increase in energy and food costs as well as household bills.
As always, our priority is to support customers to sustain their tenancies as 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. Find out more on our Money Advice page, call 0800 111 4013 or speak to your Housing Officer or Scheme Manager, if applicable.
We understand that you might be unhappy with these increases and consider refusing to pay.
However, your rent is legally considered to be a priority bill and should be paid before other bills such as gas, electricity, and water.
If you decide not to pay your rent, it’ll result in arrears building up on your account and we’ll then have to take action to recover the money that’s due. This can affect your credit rating and even put you at risk of losing your home.
We want to avoid this unnecessary situation as it may mean you face more debt and possibly legal fees, which would only make your financial circumstances more difficult.
We appreciate times are tough and people may be struggling to pay their bills which is why we follow a firm but fair procedure when it comes to missed rent payments or rent arrears.
If you miss a payment or fall into arrears you must get in touch with our Income Team as early as possible to discuss any difficulties and arrange an affordable repayment plan based on your income and expenditure. We’re here to help you.
If you’re struggling, we’d also encourage you to speak to our Income Team to discuss your situation or to take advantage of our specialist Money Advice Team.
Please contact one of our trained advisors using the details above to explore how they may be able to help you.
You must inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as soon as possible after these changes have taken effect.
You’ll receive a ‘to do’ notice on your Universal Credit homepage and you’ll need to complete this as soon as possible after 3 April. If you made a telephone claim for Universal Credit, you’ll be written to reminding you to call and give your new details.
You must immediately tell your local council’s Housing Benefit team about this increase before the change takes effect.
You can do this by taking your rent notification letter to your benefits office. The benefit team may also be able to accept a scan or photo of your rent review notification as evidence.
Please check with your benefit office how they’d like to receive this.
Don’t worry, your Direct Debit will be adjusted automatically. Please check your Direct Debit has been adjusted as you’d expect, and contact us if you want to query the calculation.
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.
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 24 years’ experience in welfare rights work.
Pam says she likes to approach each customer’s case as it comes, depending on individual circumstances.
Angie has been a Money Advisor for more than 14 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 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 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.
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.
Money advice service
Our Money Advice service is free to all Longhurst Group customers
Employment, Skills and Training
Our Employment and Training service can help you with finding work and improving key skills
Cost of Living support
A selection of tips and resources providing help during the current cost of living crisis