Rent Changes Your questions answered

Our aim is to keep your rent as low as possible while making sure we have enough money to deliver our services. Last year (in April 2020) the government allowed us to increase rents after four years of rent reductions. From 1 April this year, we’re making another small increase and your rent will go up by 1.5%.

To find out why we’re increasing your rent and how to get support, we’ve put together some useful questions and answers.

Why are rents going up?

We want to keep rents affordable while making sure that Bolton at Home remains financially stable. The rent you pay for your home is our main source of income. We use your rent to pay for repairs, safety checks on your home, major improvements such as new kitchens and bathrooms, and a range of other valuable services such as helping tenants into work, dealing with anti-social behaviour, and supporting families on lower incomes.

The 1.5% rent increase will enable us to do more – such as upgrading more homes and creating community projects that improve the lives of our tenants and residents. We’re hopeful that the current government restrictions will start to ease soon and when they do, we’ll be ready to resume our full portfolio of services.

The increase also takes into account a rise in the cost of living (also known as inflation). As prices go up, each pound we receive in rent becomes less valuable because it pays for fewer goods and services. A cost of living increase means that we can continue to provide high-quality services.

How has the rent increase been calculated?

The increase has been set by the government. The 2020 rent standard allows rents to increase every 12 months from April 2020 until March 2025 by 1% plus a rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – this is the cost of living as explained in the previous question. The government expects us to follow this specific formula to calculate and set our rents. The relevant CPI measure is taken from September the previous year, and in September 2020 the CPI was 0.5%. This means that all social landlords can increase rents by 1.5 % (1% plus 0.5%).

It’s true to say that tenants in Bolton have historically paid lower rents compared to other parts of Greater Manchester. As other social landlords also raise their rents by 1.5%, the cost of living in a Bolton at Home property compares very favourably with a similar home elsewhere in the region.

What will my new rent be?

We’ll write to you to let you know how much your rent will be before the increase on 1 April 2021. If you already pay us by direct debit, you don’t need to do anything. We’ll automatically amend your direct debit to the new amount. If you pay by standing order, you’ll need to tell your bank that the amount has changed. You can check that this has been done by looking at your bank statement.

Will I get extra housing benefit?

If you get housing benefit you might be able to get extra money to pay for your rent increase. Tell the housing team at the council about the increase before it starts. They might ask you to send them a copy of the rent increase letter from us.

If you’re receiving Universal Credit (UC), you must update your claimant journal after 5 April 2021 with the changes so that your UC is adjusted accordingly. Some charges may not be eligible for UC. Failure to update your journal will result in you not receiving the correct housing costs.

You stopped doing routine repairs because of the pandemic so why put my rent up?

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve continued to deliver essential and emergency services as these are vital for keeping you safe in your home. The impact of COVID-19 has brought challenges for all of us. As a business, we’ve worked hard to navigate an ever-changing situation while putting the safety of our tenants and staff first. This has meant that we’ve had to put a temporary hold on routine non-urgent repairs.

We know that the last 12 months have been difficult for many of you. We’ve adapted our services to focus on helping those who are isolated, vulnerable and struggling financially. Our staff have, and still are, providing support to hundreds of people through regular welfare calls, food deliveries, financial advice and mental health support. As a result, the pandemic has created some unplanned operational costs.

If you’re waiting for a repair, we’re sorry that we haven’t been able to come to your home and fix it. We appreciate your patience and we want to assure you that our full repairs and maintenance service will return to normal once it’s safe to do so.

You’re building more homes for sale – is that where my rent money is going?

Bolton, like other towns across the country, has a severe shortage of affordable homes to both rent and buy, and we’re keen to play our part in increasing the supply.

We’ve been able to build more homes because the government has made more funding available for both social housing and homes for sale. The government is keen to help more people onto the property ladder and provides a number of schemes to make buying a home more affordable, such as shared ownership. Some of you have been able to buy your first home with us through schemes like this.

We rely on government funding to build new homes and our target is to provide 1,400 homes by April 2024.

Will my rent keep going up?

The government has set its rent standard until 2025 when it will review its policy again. This means your rent could go up over the next four years using the same formula of 1% plus CPI (cost of living). We don’t know what the CPI will be in the future but the Bank of England has a target of keeping CPI at no more than 2%.

I’m worried about the increase – how can I get help?

If you’re struggling to pay your rent, please let us know as soon as possible. It’s better to deal with the problem straight away rather than letting rent arrears build up.

Our friendly Money Advice Team offers free, confidential advice. You can call us on 01204 328000.

If you have a question that isn’t covered in this article, contact us on 01204 328000 or email: info@boltonathome.org.uk

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