Rent increase frequently asked questions | Colchester Borough Council

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Rent increase frequently asked questions

Information about Colchester Borough Council's rent increase and the support available to affected tenants.

IN THIS ARTICLE

  • Summary of the rent changes and frequently asked questions

Rent setting - summary

From April 2020, the Council applied the Government’s new Rent Standard allowing the rents that Colchester Borough Council tenants pay to increase by the rate of inflation, known as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1%. This followed four years of rent reductions where the rents paid by tenants were reduced by 1% each year.

In the four years that the rent reduction applied, the average Colchester Borough Council rent reduced from £87.28 in 2015/16 to £85.28 in 2019/20. The increase applied from April 2020 meant the average rent for 2020/21 was approximately £87.50.

The Council has agreed to continue to implement the increase for the 2021/22 rent year in line with the Government’s policy meaning rents will increase this year by 1.5% (CPI was 0.5%). The increase will come into effect from Monday 5 April and will mean the average rent for 2021/22 will be approximately £88.81.

This is not a decision that has been taken lightly and we are aware this could have significant impacts on some of our tenants. To help give residents a clearer understanding of the decision, how the additional rent will be used and the support available for tenants we have developed some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below.

Why are you increasing my rent?

We fully understand that any increase in rent will not be good news. However, we are committed to ensuring our tenants get the best possible support from the council and our housing management company Colchester Borough Homes (CBH).

Following the change in Government policy from April 2020, we are able to increase rents by the rate of inflation (CPI) + 1%. The CPI figure was announced by the government on 21 October 2020 and was 0.5%.

We have not taken the decision lightly, but increasing the rents will help us fund our commitments to repair and improve your home and the other properties we rent to tenants, further helping develop a better Colchester.

How much is my rent increasing by and how have you calculated this?

Rents will increase by inflation (CPI) + 1%. CPI was announced in October as 0.5% so the total increase will be 1.5%.

This means, for example, in 2021/2022 the average rent will increase from £87.50 to £88.81 an increase of £1.31.

This compares favourably with rents charged by local housing associations and privately rented homes. For example, the average weekly rent in 2019 was £102.02 for housing associations and £184.00 for privately rented homes.

When does the new rent start?

The new rent will take effect from Monday 5 April. The Rent Notice letters will be sent out to all tenants in early March.

Will the rent increases affect my Universal Credit payments?

If you already claim Universal Credit you will not need to complete a new claim with the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP). Once we write to inform you of your new rent, you will need to inform the DWP of the change in rent using your online Universal Credit Journal after the rent increase has been applied.

As the new rent increase will start on Monday 5 April 2021 you will need to inform the DWP on or just after this date as we will then be asked to verify the increase on their landlord portal.

What if Universal Credit does not cover the rent increase?

If your Universal Credit allowance is not increased to cover the additional rent increase, we strongly recommend that you contact the Financial Inclusion Team and one of our specialist advisors will help you with budgeting for the increase. You can contact them by emailing FIT@cbhomes.org.uk.

I claim Housing Benefit, will this cover the rent increase?

If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit the amount you receive will automatically be amended from 5 April 2021, when the new rent year starts. The rent notice you receive will show the amended Housing Benefit amount.

Do I have to adjust my Direct Debit mandate or Standing Order with my bank, or will you do this automatically for me?

If you pay by Direct Debit you will not have to do anything as they will be automatically adjusted by our finance team. You will be notified separately of the revised payment amounts.

However, if you pay your rent by Standing Order you will need to contact your bank to amend the payment to the new amount advised in your Rent Notice. Ensure your Standing Order is set-up for the correct amount as shown in your rent notice to prevent your rent account falling into arrears.

Where can I get some debt and budgeting advice from?

Colchester Borough Homes have a dedicated specialist team that work alongside the rent income team who are trained to ensure you have maximised your benefits, help you manage your finances and support you through changes in circumstances. More information is available from Colchester Borough Homes or you can email the team at FIT@cbhomes.org.uk.

Alternatively, there is advice and support available from independent services.

StepChange Debt Charity - Free expert debt advice

Debt and money - Citizens Advice

National Detline - Free debt advice

Money Advice Service - Free and impartial money advice, set up by government

Colchester Cap Debt Centre

Do you have to increase my rent?

No, we do not have to increase your rent. It is up to each local authority to decide if they want to implement the increases.

The increase in rent enables us to continue to deliver the high-quality services to tenants. If we did not increase the rents, we would have less money to invest in maintaining your home, the upkeep of the surrounding area and in developing new homes.

What will you spend the additional rental income on?

We would use the additional money we would have available as a result of the rent increases to deliver the objectives set out in the business plan which runs until 2043, including:

  • increasing affordable housing supply
  • providing healthy and safe homes
  • renewing kitchens and bathrooms
  • insulating and heating, including roofs and installing energy efficient boilers
  • adapting properties to meet tenants’ needs

We will keep you informed regularly on how we are performing against all our objectives.

Colchester Borough Home Annual Report 2019-20 (PDF, 1.08MB)

I pay a service charge, do the same increases apply?

There is the potential for services charges to increase but the formula we use to calculate rent increases will not be used. Service charge costs are set to cover the cost of providing the service to you. Any change in your service charge will be a direct result of whether the cost of providing the services has increased, decreased or stayed the same. We will provide you with a full breakdown of your service charges when we write to you with your Rent Notice in March.

What do I do if I cannot afford the increase?

Our priority is to support tenants to sustain their tenancies and we want to help prevent rent arrears occurring as much as you do. Colchester Borough Homes Community Housing Officers and Financial Inclusion Team are trained to ensure you have maximised your entitlement to welfare benefits, help you manage your finances and support you through changes in circumstances.

Please take advantage of this service to help you prepare for the rent increase. More information is available from Colchester Borough Homes or you can email the team at FIT@cbhomes.org.uk.

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