Hello and welcome to my February blog. This month, I want to talk to you about how Southway has come to the decision to apply a rent increase in April 2020, when new rules come into effect.
Why are rents changing?
Southway has reduced its rents by 1% every year for the last four years, following government legislation.
From April this year, the government has said housing associations can increase rents in line with its new rent standard. This allows for a ‘cost of living’ increase of 1.7%, plus an additional 1%. Rent increases will happen right across the social housing sector as landlords raise rents in line with this new government standard.
After careful consideration and consultation with our Board, Southway will be applying this 2.7% rent increase in April 2020.
How has Southway come to this decision?
Over the last four years when rents reduced, Southway had to reduce many of its services and limit the amount of investment we carried out, which couldn't continue.
Even after applying an increase, our rents will still be competitive and they will be lower in April 2020 than they were in 2015.
The increase therefore means we can keep rents affordable for our tenants, while being able to meet the increasing costs of maintaining homes, neighbourhoods and the environment, and delivering services and new homes.
What does rent pay for?
Your rent provides the funding for us to maintain homes and neighbourhoods and deliver essential services, and the increase will mean that we can invest more into these areas and into our communities.
This year we plan to spend £7m on repairs and home improvements, and more than £40m investing in new properties. We will be able to maintain our existing service standards in all areas and invest in areas that tenants have told us are priorities, like the ASB service.
We will also spend over £1m on community projects, advice and support, as we place huge importance on being able to provide these added-value activities for tenants and communities.
What will this increase look like?
At the end of February, we will write to you to confirm exactly what your new rent will be. For context I have also included two examples of a 2.7% increase below:
EXAMPLE (based on average rents):
|Social rent (weekly)||Affordable rent (weekly)|
|Rent in 2020/21||£97.64||£118.17|
|Increase||+ £2.57||+ £3.11|
What if I can’t afford the increase?
If you’re worried about the rent increase and would like some advice, please contact us. Our priority is always to help you to maintain your tenancy and not fall into rent arrears. We have supportive and dedicated staff in our Income and Advice Teams, who are here to help you manage your finances and maximise any benefits you are entitled to.
You can find useful information on money and the sort of support we offer here.
What do I need to do?
You will need to start paying the new rent stated in your February rent letter from April.
The new charge is in place from 6th April, but this is a rent free week. So unless you are in arrears, you will pay your new rent from 13th April 2020. If you are in arrears, you will pay your new rent plus an amount towards your arrears from 6th April.
If you pay by Direct Debit and/or Housing Benefit: these will be adjusted automatically to the new rent.
If you pay by standing order: you will need to adjust your payment yourself through your bank. Southway's details are here.
If you pay by Universal Credit: you need to pay the new rent and report your rent increase to the DWP through your online UC account on 6th April or as soon as possible after – no later than the end of your monthly assessment period. Even if you get your Universal Credit paid directly to Southway, you will still need to report the increase.
Remember to keep hold of your February rent letter so that you have all the details you need in April.
I understand that you might have views on this decision and I always welcome and respond to feedback; you can reply to this blog below or contact us in the usual ways.
I would also like you to know that at Southway, we pursue the best possible Value for Money for tenants from our homes and services. If you have any thoughts on how we can offer better value from a service we provide, or how we can help support you with managing your money this year, I would like to hear them from you.
- If you have any other questions, try our Rent increase FAQs.
- To find out more about the government’s rent standard, go to www.gov.uk/government/publications/direction-on-the-rent-standard-from-1-april-2020.