Rent Consultation 2023
Our Rent & Service Charges Consultation– Feedback
Thanks to all our tenants who responded to our consultation this year.
This year was our highest number of responses yet with 270 tenants responding, which is 22.56% 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 are still in our phased rents programme
· Who receive help with their rent payments from Universal Credit or Housing Benefit and those who do not
· Different ethnicities and household types
If you asked us a specific question relating to your individual circumstances you should have received contact from one of our staff. If you had a query and haven’t had any contact yet, please let us know. You can do this by emailing email@example.com or by telephoning us on 0141 889 7105 (select option 0)
Consultation Results – Here’s What You Said
When asked ‘Do you agree / disagree with the proposed rent increase for 2023.24, those who responded advised;
· 85 Agreed
· 177 Disagreed
· 8 Gave no answer
Of the 65.5% of tenants who responded that they disagreed with our rent proposal, some gave multiple reasons, the main ones being;
· Cost of Living/affordability
· No major improvements for their individual property planned for 23.24
Our Board’s Decision
Our Board met on 20th February 2023 to decide on the rent and service charges for 2023.24 and took account of all the responses and comments provided by tenants prior to making their final decision on the rents and service charges.
The Board had to consider how the Association can deliver its services and investment in our properties while considering what tenants can afford. The Association is a not for profit organisation. We don’t have any shareholders who make profit, any funds after paying our costs is invested in our properties to allow us to provide quality accommodation.
The Board voted and agreed to reduce the rent increase from the 6% proposed to 5.5% (based on properties at our standard rent. For properties still in our rent harmonisation project, they will see a slightly larger increase)
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:
We know that people are feeling the financial strain with the cost of living increases. 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 1200 separate and distinct issues for our tenants, covering benefits, energy and money advice.
In addition, we have secured funding for the next year to provide;
· £55,000 to provide direct assistance to households struggling with their energy,
· £25,000 to support households in need
· £2,500 in assistance to families at Christmas
· £5,000 to provide decoration vouchers to households in need.
All funding is 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 assist them to afford their energy bills, this includes promoting small energy saving measures and maximising available grants towards energy use.
· Accessing grants towards emergency fuel top ups to those on prepayment meters.
· Accessing grants towards 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
· We will continue to look for additional funding to provide support for our tenants
· Providing additional support to those at risk of eviction through our Housing Support service
Why is a Rent Increase Required?
Each year, the Board must consider how much income it will need to provide services to our tenants and investment in our properties both in the short and longer term. We consider the costs for items such as materials, labour, utilities, loan interest payments and our own staffing to determine what income we will need.
As many of you have commented, the cost of living has increased. This also affects the costs incurred by the Association. All these things cost the Association more money and are unavoidable for us.
When asked ‘Do you agree / disagree with the proposed service charges for 2023.24, those who responded advised;
· 87 Agreed
· 123 Disagreed
· 60 Gave no answer
· Why do we have a monthly bulk charge rather than just pay when we use it?
· Services provided are not good quality
· Services are expensive
Our Board approved the charges for our services for 23/24. These charges are based solely on the costs we incur from contractors to deliver these services. We do not generate any profit from these services. They are provided solely to ensure minimum standards are maintained for our properties.
For those properties that are serviced by our common heating system, only the costs currently charged by the utility company are passed on to tenants. We do not generate any profit from this service.
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 regarding service charges;
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 and unfortunately not all tenants taking responsibility for reporting their own items. Even now with our service in place, not all tenants take responsibility to report their bulk items for uplift and items are left in backcourts creating unsightly areas.
We do think our bulk service remains good value for money. If you were using Renfrewshire Council’s uplift service (22/23 prices) you would pay £35.35 for each uplift of 1-20 items with white goods being separate at £35.35 per item.
To try to keep costs down we encourage everyone to try to recycle what they can before putting it out as bulk uplift. 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 are pleased to be able to retain our bulk prices for 23/24 at 22/23 levels.
Don’t think Services provided are good quality
We provide all tenants who receive any of our services with details of the specification of the works to be carried out.
We carry out regular inspections to ensure contractors are providing the level of service expected. In 23/24 we will be introducing an email/text alert to let you know when we have inspected a service in your close and our findings. We hope this will encourage tenants to give us their feedback promptly so we can ensure that our contractors are providing a high standard.
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
As with repair contractors, our contractors delivering our services have also had the same cost of living increases which they cannot absorb without a price increase.
We regularly review our service contracts to ensure they are the best value for our tenants. All our service contracts will be tendered for 2024/25.
Planned & Cyclical Maintenance 23.24 Feedback
Again, we only gave you details of larger planned projects for 2023/2024. This is in case of any possible changes we have to make to our draft 5 year programme e.g. to slot in work for any new legislation or new immediate priorities.
We advised previously that contractors and the construction sector generally are still suffering from a really serious shortage of staff labour. Unfortunately, the situation has worsened again this year as contractors also face rising fuel, energy and inflation increases which have meant some contractors we worked with have become insolvent and contracts had to be terminated. This impacted the delivery of the kitchen replacement contract. Additionally, tender prices have come back much higher than expected.
The reality now for this coming year for planned maintenance contracts is that we have to be realistic about what the Association can deliver for tenants, given the challenges we will continue to encounter. New priorities for the stock in relation to replacement windows and common gas heating has meant the proposed kitchen contract has had to be moved to later in the 5 year programme.
From your feedback, new bathrooms, windows and kitchens continue to be the main theme. Over the next five years we are hopeful the labour shortages and inflation increases subside. We have therefore allowed for a slightly scaled back year of work in 23/24 than we would normally do, with planned replacement works increasing largely in the following years.
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.
Any further queries?
If you have any further queries please contact us;
Benefit/Energy Advice: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 0141 889 7105 (select option 7)
Rent & service charges; email@example.com Tel 0141 889 7105 (select option 7)
Planned Maintenance firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 0141 583 4128
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