Rent Consultation – Thanks For Participating
Thanks to all our tenants who responded to our consultation this year.
This year was our highest number of responses yet with 249 tenants responding, which is 20.85% of our tenants.
We received responses from tenants;
• Across all areas of our stock
• From different property sizes & types
• Who live in properties that have reached our standard rent levels (also known as target rent) as per our rent restructure, and those who haven’t
• Who are receiving help with their rent payments from Universal Credit or Housing Benefit and from those who don’t.
• Different ethnicities and household types
Our Board met on 21st February 2022 to decide on the rent and service charges for 2022.23 and took account of all the responses and comments provided by tenants prior to making their final decision on the rents and service charges.
Consultation Results - Here’s What you Said
When asked ‘Do you agree / disagree with the proposed rent charges for 2022.23, those who responded advised;
• 121 Agreed
• 123 Disagreed
• 3 Gave no answer
• 1 Didn’t mind
• 1 Unsure
Of the 49.4% of tenants who responded that they disagreed with our rent proposal, some gave multiple reasons, the main ones being;
• Cost of Living/affordability
• Don’t understand why the increase in rent is required
• If rent is at target rent, why is it still increasing
• No major improvements for their individual property planned for 22.23
As well as the Board considering your views we would like to let you know what we are doing about the concerns and questions that have been raised:
Affordability/Cost of Living
We know that people are feeling the financial strain with the cost of living increases this year. Although we must increase our charges to cover our costs, we will continue to look at ways we can help our tenants with the cost of living increases we have all been experiencing.
In the last year we supported our tenants through our advice team dealing with 1250 separate and distinct issues for our tenants
In addition we secured funding to provide;.
• £15,000 in emergency fuel top ups,
• £5,000 in other Crisis Payments
• £10,000 in assistance at Easter and Christmas.
• 80 Digital Devices (iPads and Chromebooks) and connected 45 Households to the internet.
• 40 Sim Cards with free calls and texts
• We will be issuing £10,000 in assistance for energy costs by the end of March 2022 through our Winter Fuel Support Fund.
We are also waiting on the outcome of 51 applications we made for our tenants to the Scottish Government’s tenant grant fund.
All funding was via grants at no cost to tenants through their rents.
For the coming year we will continue to assist our tenants maximise their income and meet essential bills by:
• Maximising income through the use of benefit checks and supporting tenants to make their claims and challenge unfair or incorrect decisions.
• Providing tenants with energy advice to enable them to afford their energy bills, this includes providing small energy saving measures and maximising available grants for energy use.
• Providing emergency fuel top ups to those on prepayment meters.
• Providing crisis payments to those in need, subject to available budget.
• Providing basic money advice to minimise outgoings.
• Supporting tenants to apply for charitable grants where they are in crisis
• Looking for new funding to assist our tenants as much as we can.
• Providing additional support to those at risk of eviction through our Housing Support service
Why is the rent increase required?
As many of you have commented, the cost of living has increased. This also applies to things we need to deliver our services.
Most of our contractors who provide your repair service are smaller local companies, in addition to extra covid costs and sharp increase in the cost of materials, they have also been hit with all the same cost of living increases.
As many of you commented on, the cost of utilities, general purchases and borrowing have all gone up and continues to do so. This is the same for the contractors who carry out our works and for our office also. All of these things cost the Association more money and are unavoidable for us.
If my rent is noted as being at ‘target rent’ why is it going up?
Historically we had properties of the same type and size at different rents. We reviewed this in 2015.16 and brought in a policy to bring rents of the same size and type to the same rent but, because of the differences in the rents we didn’t think it fair to do this in one year so, we set up a 10 year ‘phasing’ for this. What this means is that if your property’s rent is below our standard rent (or target rent as it may be referred to) then you would see an additional increase over the 10 years until your property is at the same as others at the standard rent.
To give you some context, a 2 bedroom tenement flat at the standard rent would have a rent charge just now of £391.77 per month. As our Board approved a 4.5% increase for 22.23 then this property would only see a rent increase of 4.5% to £409.40.
We have other 2 bedroom tenement flats that have a rent charge just now of £357.31 per month which is below our standard rent for that size and type of property. So that rent is being phased up over 10 years to match the properties at our standard rent. This means that on top of the increase of 4.5% this year, they also get an additional increase as they are only in year 7 of the 10 year phasing. When they reach the same level in year 10 to those at the standard rent, then any future increase would be limited to the same as those already at our standard rent.
When asked ‘Do you agree / disagree with the proposed service charges for 2022.23, those who responded advised;
• 112 Agreed
• 100 Disagreed
• 36 Gave no answer
• 1 Unsure
• Why do we have a monthly bulk charge rather than just pay when we use it?
• Tenants should clean their own stairs/maintain common gardens
• Think services are expensive
Why do we have a monthly bulk charge rather than just pay when we use it?
We introduced our bulk service many years ago in response to areas being blighted by dumped bulk. We used to pay for the Council to uplift the bulk but there were often problems with getting it taken away quickly enough, so items became strewn across backcourts. In addition to this we had issues such as people not always reporting the bulk, or the Council would only uplift exactly what was on the list e.g. if 5 bits of wood reported, but there was 7 when they got there, they would only take 5.
Since we introduced our bulk service it has gone a long way to keeping the surrounding areas safe and attractive. We know that it has taken longer to get uplifts removed over the last 2 years but this has been because of covid restrictions and contractor availability with isolating. We expect things to improve this year as restrictions ease.
To try to keep costs down we encourage everyone to try to recycle what they can before putting it out as bulk uplift. But that does not appear to be happening as the volume of bulk just keeps going up year on year. There are a number of ways to recycle and if we all did our bit we can help the environment and keep bulk costs down. Go online to sites like Freecycle and Freegle to give it away for free.
We do think our bulk service is still good value for money. If you were using Renfrewshire Council’s uplift service (21/22 prices) you would pay £34.30 for 1-20 items with white goods being separate at £34.30 per item.
Tenants should clean their own stairs/maintain common gardens
Historically residents did have the responsibility for maintaining their closes and back gardens. We introduced our services in response to a decline in standards as unfortunately not everyone is able to or willing to maintain their areas. In some cases people find it difficult to afford the tools required such as a lawn mower. We appreciate that some people would prefer to maintain the areas themselves but we feel that we have to ensure there is a basic standard to be maintained to ensure our common parts are safe and attractive for all to enjoy.
If there are any issues with the standard of the work being carried out, we respond to this right away and have it dealt with. We would ask that if you have any issues with the standard of our services let us know as soon as it is an issue.
Services are expensive
Every year we go out to tender for close cleaning and bulk to ensure that we get value for money.
As with repair contractors, these local companies also have the same cost of living increases which they cannot absorb without a price increase.
For bulk the main cost is not contractor time but in the commercial cost of disposal of the increasing volume of bulk.
The landscape contract was procured from our Framework for 4 years. It had no increase for 22.23.
Planned & Cyclical Maintenance 2022.23 Feedback
Once again we only gave you details of larger planned projects for 2022.23. This is in case of any unexpected changes we have to make to our draft 5 year programme e.g. to slot in work for any new legislation. But of the 249 responses only 39 homes, including some new homes built last year, are not in for any work in the new 5 year programme.
Getting a new kitchen was a main theme in your feedback. Over the next four years we plan to do 464 kitchens in the South, West, Town Centre and Foxbar. 290 of these are in 2022/23 and surveys are about to start.
We know that covid caused a lot of disruption to plans to carry out various contracts and the knock on effect of the timing of work. Unfortunately, the situation has worsened this year as contractors have had staff shortages, and both material shortages and material price increases. Not all contractors have been able to continue with our contracts. Some tender prices have come back much higher than expected. That is now the reality for planned maintenance contracts that we have to deal with.
Where we have to replace a contractor, e.g., for bathrooms, we are doing so and we have adjusted our programme to still carry out the work we promised even if it slips into 2022.23 and has to be done as well as the new work for that year.
We are coming towards the end of the work required by new legislation-for fire safety and for electrical safety. Your safety is a priority and therefore our Board has approved forced access to ensure that this work is now completed for anyone who has not co-operated to date.
Thank you again for your feedback and questions, we hope this information will be of assistance to you. If you contacted us with a specific question or about any repair or service, we will respond to you directly.
If you have any further queries please contact us;
Benefit/Energy Advice: email@example.com Tel. 0141 889 7105 (select option 7)
Rent & service charges; firstname.lastname@example.org Tel 0141 889 7105 (select option 7)
Safe in your Home leaflet: email@example.com Tel 0141 583 4100